Improving sketches with focused practice

Today marks 100 days of creating some kind of art every day! On August 2, 2017, I decided to make a painting in my sketchbook every day. Shortly after, this idea evolved into a larger goal of becoming a professional artist and illustrator. I traded in the “daily painting” idea for a more structured, self-guided art education practice and prioritized developing the basic skills like drawing, value, color, and composition. Ultimately I’d like to grow to a point where daily paintings makes sense, but first I wanted to set a stronger foundation to build upon.

Since it’s a good time to reflect on my daily art mission, I’m selecting a new drawing goal. When I completed my self-assigned focused practice of making 100 gesture studies of animals, it felt like a huge accomplishment. I made quicker progress by doing 5-minute studies every day than if I had sat down once a week and sketched 2 or 3 with more time. After that experience, I set a similar goal with value studies, but was much more vague with my goal and strategy.

So taking what I learned from those two things, I decided to get more detailed with my next goal:

I want to make better sketches, faster. 

In order to make better sketches, there are a few things I’d like to address:

  • Drawing from life to strengthen my ability to analyze the subject, avoid lens distortion from the camera, set my own lighting and composition, and see values with my own eyes instead of what a camera lens interprets
  • Drawing accurate proportions by blocking in big shapes before addressing details
  • Developing a consistent language for expressing line and value

I’ll make 100 of these sketches, aiming to complete 2–4 in each 30-minutes session. I should complete the project in 25–50 days.

And for a fun change of pace, I’m using my newer Handbook Travelogue Journal because I love the ivory paper. I’m also trying out a different pencil technique by sharpening my drawing pencil with a blade, exposing more of the lead. This gives me greater variety in the types of lines and marks I can make, but I’m also trying to loosen up my drawing approach and using more of my arm instead of just the wrist. By changing the shape of the lead tip it will help me change my habits: instead of holding the pencil underneath like when writing, I held my pencil (more loosely) on top with my fingertips which feels very different and helps me put the pencil marks down differently.

Daily Art 11-9-17 still life sketch in graphite
Daily Art 11-9-17 still life sketch in graphite

For today’s sketches, I set up an egg on a white surface with a single light aimed at it. I never realized how interesting and captivating light and shadow on forms could be until I started looking at them more carefully!

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