I’ve only been an urban sketcher. Yes, I’ve drawn stuffed animals and a few flowers but mostly I go out somewhere, sit down and draw what’s in front of me, on location. I like this because I don’t have to make stuff up. I can see the objects ‘in the flesh’ and from all angles. Drawing from photos is boring and, somehow incomplete.
But there’s a downside to urban sketching. You’re always faced with cluttered, complex landscapes. Drawn verbatim, you end up with confused, messy sketches. Everyone says “simplify,” but in my opinion, this is the hardest thing to do in art. What to leave out, what to leave in. Where should the border of the sketch be> How do you treat those edges? Do you zoom in or out to capture a subject? Too many decisions… too many choices.
I went with Yvan to draw boats. Specifically we wanted to draw some of the tugboats that are moored in the Quebec City harbor. I found a place out of the wind and set up to draw a tugboat on the other side of the harbor. I had this view.
I’m not a master of composition but even I know this is a cluttered view and that having a big rope cutting across a drawing with no reason isn’t a good idea. So, “simplify” is what I’m told so that’s what I do.
Even so, it was going to be hard to make that tugboat the star of my sketch if I drew it from that far away. So, the solution was to zoom in, forcing the tugboat onto center stage. I also decided to greatly simplify the background. And I started to draw my tugboat.
I was happy with this result but zooming in did present a new problem. If the boat is drawn that large, don’tcha want to see a lot of detail? Of course, but because the boat is actually so far away, you can’t see the details. Some details are faked as a set of textural marks. Others are left out completely. It’s a balance I guess. A balance that makes me realize just how much I still need to learn about sketching.