Raise your hand if you haven’t heard this, or something similar said/written by someone in a sketching/art forum. In the writing world the questions that authors joke about is “Where do you get your ideas?” and the answers run from horribly snarky to absolutely hilarious – often it’s hard to tell which is which. But in the end, what authors explain is “Ideas are easy; it’s execution that is the hard part.”
And similarly, this “Where do you find good stuff to draw?” question should get a similar treatment in my view. I don’t mean the snarky part but the truth is, the best way to find good stuff to draw is to stop looking for good stuff to draw.
Just like a writer’s ideas, finding good stuff is the easy part; it’s the execution that is important. I think people spend so much time looking for the perfect scene because they believe that a ‘perfect scene’ does great art make. I say that’s not true, though I confess, I’m not much of an artist so maybe I’m wrong.
But I do know one thing for sure. Trying to do a drawing of the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon that doesn’t look like yet another picture of the Taj Mahal or Grand Canyon is MUCH harder than creating a meaningful drawing of something that the viewer hasn’t seen in a gazillion photos before they see your sketch. Don’tcha want to show people what they’re missing, not what they’ve already seen?
Think about the famous painters and what they found worthy of their time. Monet painted in Paris but instead of a steady stream of Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe paintings, he painted gardens, smoky railroad stations, fishing boats, and water lilies. Van Gogh painted peasants sitting around a table eating potatoes. He also painted sunflowers. Lots of sunflowers. What made Monet and Van Gogh memorable wasn’t their subject matter; it is what they did with it.
And so it goes with sketching. Everywhere, anywhere, and at any time, there are things to sketch available to anyone with a set of functioning eyes and a pencil. Personally, I’m drawn to the mundane, mostly because I never noticed any of this stuff before I became a sketcher. Once I became one I was amazed at how much personality fire hydrants, telephone poles, and lamp posts have and how, if one looks one can see ‘art’ in everything.
I’ve scattered several sketches of mundane, readily available subjects from my town. I never would have seen or sketched any of them if I’d been looking for the proverbial ‘great scene.’ So again I suggest, stop looking and instead sketch what is before you. If nothing else you’ll be sketching and it’s that process that is the key to the smiles you see on sketcher’s faces.