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Drawing: learning to sketch from life

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Making a drawing with just a few pencil strokes isn't magic, it's sketching! Because this exercise is an art of its own. So where and how do you sketch? Here are a few hints...

1. Where should you sketch

Try sketching both indoors and outdoors: the play of light is totally different. You'll be better off working on static subjects to begin with. You can move on to subjects in motion after a little practice.

  •   Examples of static subjects:
    sculptures in a museum or a park, a landscape, a building, somebody sleeping, people at a concert or a theater performance, etc.
  •   Examples of subjects in motion:
    animals at the zoo or an aquarium, children and joggers in a park, etc.

2. How do you do a sketch?

Here are some rules to follow:

  •  Time yourself. Set yourself a time limit (5 to 10 minutes) per sketch. The time pressure will help you be more efficient and select the most significant information.
  •  Don't push too hard! If a subject doesn't inspire you, try another one. Sketching requires spontaneity to keep your gesture flexible and spontaneous. If you ask yourself too many questions, you risk getting stuck.
  •  Don't limit yourself to just one sketch of your selected subject. Approach it from every angle. By changing positions, you'll spot new details: point of view, light areas, perspective, etc.

3. Creating a values sketch

Quick and easy, this method consists of just sketching light and dark areas, without drawing contours. It lets you work on contrasts and volumes at the same time.

  •  Work with charcoal or graphite lead, creating hatching with the instrument's tip or solid areas with its side.
  •  Start with the lightest area, then add gray to the areas surrounding it, exaggerating the contrasts, as you go along.
  •  Keep going until the juxtaposition of grays shapes the subject.

4. Combining sketch and color

You have several options for including color in your sketch:

  •  Quickly add a few colors with color pencils or pastels, once the subject is sketched. You can also use a small box of watercolors: Don't forget to bring a little jar of water.
  •  If you don't have anything to use to add color, make notes on your sketch by writing out the colors you will need and where to put them. Example: red-bench, green-lawn, etc.
  •  Always make sure to write down the shade as a keyword. Example: peony red, teal green, sunflower yellow, etc.