I recently bought what I fondly refer to as my stalker camera. It is lighter than my phone and has a 24 times optical zoom (which I still can’t quite believe!). And yes, I do use it when I’m sketching.
With my recent decision to pursue the creative path of sketching people in their everyday lives also came the decision to throw out any ‘rules’ I had about it. (I have a feeling it is all those ‘rules’ that have kept me from this path all these years.) I’m just back from a visit to the growers market again. I’ve got a full bag of locally grown organic vegies and a page of scribbled sketches in my book. I didn’t take my camera this time and it’s made me think.
When I first began art classes I learned incredibly valuable skills from a fantastic teacher. I realise now there were also some less valuable ‘rules’ I picked up at the same time. I never questioned these rules, given that the rest of what I learned was so good.
We only ever drew or painted from life. There were many discussions about the results and how they could be improved. Scattered throughout these discussions were comments about how the results from a photo would be different to our from-life drawings (and by ‘different’ our teacher meant ‘inferior’). There were some in our group who wanted to try drawing from photos and the negative comments from the teacher continued to pepper our learning until those people either converted to ‘our’ side or gave up and went away. Since then I’ve been a very harsh critic of any photography based drawing or painting.
But there is so much to be gained from both techniques!
5 reasons to sketch from life:
- Sketching from life trains your eye in a way nothing else can.
- The sketches have a spontaneity and life that can only be achieved this way.
- The details captured are rarely things that could have been emphasised if the drawing was from a photo.
- What I call the human ‘geo-tagging’ phenomenon. Looking at a sketch brings back the memories of the people, the place, sounds, smells and even taste, far more than a photo can. When I look at my travel sketches I even remember what I was thinking about at the time! Nothing holds a memory like a sketch.
- You get to fully experience the place in that moment, something we rarely take time to do.
Yet, now I have my camera I am learning a whole range of new lessons.
5 reasons to sketch from photos:
- I love looking at several photos from the same location and mixing and matching the people and scenes into my sketches.
- It’s a great way to capture gestures in your sketches. Now with my camera, I am practicing heads at strange angles, slouches and the way the weight is distributed through the limbs. I am learning so much I could never learn from a constantly moving subject.
- It’s a great way to practice seeing tones and shadows. You do need to remember not to get bogged down in detail though. Simplify!
- No time pressure means you can relax and immerse yourself in the sketching process in a whole new way.
- Fleeting moments can be captured with more visual authenticity. I’m loving it!
I am still having to remind myself that I now don’t believe in ‘rules’. I’m getting better at it though! Do you have rules you want to forget? Maybe you have some you love? What are your thoughts on creative ‘rules’?
I did this sketch at a the Coffs Harbour Growers Market. It’s in a sketchbook I made myself. The books has lots of different types and sized papers in it. I love an eclectic book! The paper on the right is another of the ‘inherited’ paper pages. My father-in-law was an artist and when he died I got a lovely stack of water colour papers. (Artline, watercolour.)