You don’t have to look far to find some experienced artist telling you that the way to become good at sketching is to carry a sketchbook with you at all times and sketch whenever you have a few minutes. It’s a message that, sadly, seems to fall on deaf ears for most people.
I think I know why. We’ve all grown up thinking that “art” is something you hang on a wall. We’ve been taught that “do your best” is a good thing and when it comes to art this translates to “gotta do something significant” or some such sentiment. Whatever it is, this view causes most sketchers to sketch only “when they have time”, which translates directly into “not very darn often.”
And here’s the secret behind all the advice that experienced artist give about sketching constantly. That’s how they got good!!! Like it or not, you learn to draw by drawing. No class will make you good. No instructor can make you good. No fancy tools will make you good. The most these things can do is provide you with is help you get the most from that associate piece of advice – practice, practice, practice.
I thought I’d share a couple incidental sketches I did, where I was, and what I was doing as a practical example of how to fit sketching into a busy schedule. You see, I had an appointment to be interviewed as part of the Canadian citizenship process. Yep, I’m becoming Canadian (yippee!). Anyways, I arrived at the site of the interview about 15 minutes early. With nothing to do, I went into a coffee shop and ordered a cup. I could have just sat and drunk my coffee. I could have paged through innane Facebook posts on my cell phone. Or I could sketch.
Because I was traveling light, I had only the pen (Pilot Prera), a waterbrush with dilute brown ink, and small sketchbook I carry in my coat pocket. I got it out and started a quick sketch of the barista area of the coffee shop. I had less than 10 minutes before my interview which was on the 2nd floor of the building next door, and I had to drink my coffee too. Nevertheless, I did this small sketch of the area.
I had to stop sketching so I could get to the interview. When I arrived I found 50 or so people there ahead of me. Oh no…maybe an 8 AM appointment didn’t mean what I thought it meant. I sat down at the back of the room, a bit glum and expecting a long wait. Oh well, there were a bunch of sketching targets available so I got out my sketchbook. I started sketching a woman in the row in front of me. I was, maybe, a minute into this sketch…
…when a guy came out of a room. He read off a few names, including mine, and told everyone else to head into the “examination room.” All my potential sketching subjects got up and filed into the room to take an examination to see if they knew who the first Prime Minister was, who the current Prime Minister was, and whether they knew what the heck a constitutional monarchy was. You see, if you’re old, and filing for citizenship, they realize you’re not smart enough to be taking exams so I was exempted from that exercise.
I added a few lines to the sketch before a woman came out and called my name. I was being called for my interview. So, two sketches, done during time frames that most wouldn’t consider as a ‘sketching session.’ You’re right; these sketches are not great. But they were both fun and good practice. This is what all those experienced artists are talking about. Fill your hurry up and wait time with little sketching sessions and when you do get more time to sketch, you’ll be better at it because you did those little sketches.
And what have you got to lose – that you’ll never be bored waiting for an interview? Oh, and the interview went well. The only thing between me and citizenship is the swearing in ceremony. I even got to tell them that I was a sketcher (grin).