Thursday 7 November 2013

Sketching on Location: Some Hot Tips

I am away from home again, abandoning John for a whole week from first thing tomorrow morning. I am presenting at a couple of conferences and also have some school visits way over in Norfolk. I will tell you more about all that when I get back but, in the meantime, here is something to keep you going, especially if you are into sketching...

A student emailed me a little while ago, for advice: she was doing a project, drawing out on location. She made me stop and think about
what I know and what I can usefully pass on. It's tricky, because things become second nature over the years and it's also hard to shrink all my different thoughts down into something manageable. 

Despite that, here are some pointers I gave her, which I'm hoping might also give a few of you people out there the confidence to escape your comfort-zone and venture into the big world...

1) Try to travel light, rather than taking every bit of art gear you have. Conversely, a pencil is a bit limiting on its own: take the means to apply colour, even if it's just a couple of coloured pencils to help your drawing jump off the page:

2) Don't attempt photo-realism: it's impossible in the time you have, so be creative. You don't have to draw everything you see: you can focus in on details; you're also allowed to leave things out; or you can do a very minimal background to throw forwards what you are really interested in:

3) If your subject moves half way though, you can sometimes create a fun page by starting again and again. Different coloured lines can make the resulting confusion easier to see:

4) Be comfortable: take something to sit on, as there's seldom a chair when you need one. But you don't generally need to lug a stool - a little hiker's pad will fit into your bag, so you can sit on the ground anywhere.

5) Consider your sketchbook spread to be a piece of reportage, rather than just creating a drawing: play with different ways of filling the space: 

6) You can incorporate little notes in your sketch, or hand-drawn text, to record what you hear as well as what you see, or to note small activities which happen in the location while you are there. I sometimes incorporate snatches of conversation:

And finally...

7) It's easy to get anxious if people come up to you, but just chat to them. Consider them part of the overall 'I was there' experience (and try to remember - most onlookers are unlikely to be able to draw as well as you, no matter how disappointed you might be with your efforts).

Other stuff that might help:

I have written a post full of hot tips on drawing people in public, if that's something you fancy giving a try.

This post also gives you different techniques for drawing people: how to do speed-sketches for capturing poses. 

The same post also suggests an unusual approach to drawing buildings.

Sketches That Sing talks about different ways of looking, and  offers ideas to help you experiment.

Quick-on-the-Draw is a workshop I delivered last year, with techniques to help you to speed up your sketching.

Also, the short film, Lynne Chapman on Sketchbooks, explains how I got back into sketchbook keeping and talks a little about how I work.

You might get some inspiration by flicking through some of the sketches on my website. I scan them, partly because I am proud of them and want to show them off, but it's also because I remember how seeing other people's sketchbooks on the Urban Sketchers site re-lit my fire some years ago, and gave me lots of new ideas. If I can inspire others in turn, that would be great.

Finally, a bit of shameless self-promotion: I do have a PowerPoint lecture about location sketching, aimed at Art and Design students or fellow professionals. Let me know if this might be of interest.  


Mikel Quintana said...

Hi Lynne.
I just began sketching one year ago, and this post has been helpful for me. Thanks you very much

Anonymous said...

Lynne, this is absolutely wonderful advice. I will be having my 15 year old daughter read this. She's the art student I mentioned in another post. It looks like you used watercolor on some of you do that on location or later when you're home? It seems it would be too hard to take watercolor along on location for this kind of journal sketching. How did you do that? By the way, the hats are magnificent!!!

Pedro said...

Great post, Lynne.
It is a good reading and I am always learning from you!

Anonymous said...

After watching your video demo I realized it's a water brush you use with the watercolor pencils - which makes perfect sense being that it's all portable. Love the wrist band idea!!

Balaji Venugopal said...

Thank you. This post is a treasure trove of information and very useful tips. I can't wait to try some of them out.

Sandie said...

Thank you for sharing the great tips. Your hats art work is my favorite.

Cris Urdiales said...

Awesome post, Lynne! Thanks a lot for all the tips :)

Serena Lewis said...

Wonderful post, Lynne....thanks for the inspiration!

Lynne the Pencil said...

Thanks so much everyone. I'm really glad the tips have proved helpful.

I do use paint on-location and these days I very rarely add my colour later. If you look at my YouTube video, painting in the Limb Valley, you can see the cute little travelling set I have. It folds up for putting in a handbag and, in combo with a waterbrush and wristband, is really easy to use out and about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lynne, I'll watch that one!!

Unknown said...

As I mentioned on facebook a while ago did I only start sketching in a sketchbook because of your great sketches on fb. Reading posts like this give me that urge to go get out my sketchbook right away and to explore new things! Well done! :)

Unknown said...

Great post. It's good to be reminded some things and I like the thought it's a piece of reportage, which isn't a way I think.