Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My No-Big-Deal Philosophy

3/26/14 pencil, Van Gogh watercolors,
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
The other day a blog reader who wanted to be an urban sketcher e-mailed me asking for tips on how to get started with drawing. Here’s an expanded version of my response:

  • Sketch every day. In addition to having the obvious benefit of regular practice – improvement sketching every day is what creates a habit. You don’t have to dither and hem and haw: Should I draw now? Well, maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow when I have more time, etc. Sketching every day also has the benefit of turning a potential confrontation with the Inner Critic into no big deal. If you don’t like the sketch you just did, so what – do another one tomorrow.

  • Carry a small sketchbook and pen or pencil with you at all times, no matter what, always. No exceptions. Even if you’re just running out to do an errand or fitness walking in your neighborhood – because you never know when a sketch opportunity will present itself. Case in point: A few weeks ago I had to go pick up our Chinese food takeout order. I was only going out to do that one errand, so all I grabbed was my wallet. When I got there, the restaurant was much busier than expected, so I ended up waiting for 15 minutes. They seated me at a small bar facing the kitchen, where the harried, bustling staff were stir-frying and chopping like mad men. You can imagine my regret that I didn’t have my sketchbook.
    3/4/14 Pentel brush pen, Stillman
    & Birn Alpha sketchbook

    That last point is also part of my “no big deal” philosophy: You don’t have to look for a block of time to “make art” – you can sketch while waiting for something else to happen (our days are full of that). Make it as easy as possible to sketch daily.

1/28/14 Tombow markers
  • Lower your standards about what is sketch-worthy. As an urban sketcher, I always want to get outdoors or just out of my house to find something to sketch. But the weather or other circumstances sometimes make that difficult. So if the day is almost done, and I haven’t sketched yet, I’ll randomly select a pen or vacuum cleaner or Pez dispenser in my range of view. Nothing beautiful or inspiring – just stuff. Again, it reduces opportunities for excuses and makes sketching no big deal.

    No big deal – but it all counts.
What do you do to support your sketching habit?


  1. Great philosophy and explanation!!! Do you mind if I share this with other people in my sketch group?

    1. Thanks, Joan! Please feel free to share with anyone!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to return my email. Your words of wisdom along with the gorgeous coloured inks used, inspire me. No big deal, right?

  3. You're welcome, Julie! Yup, no big deal -- just turn the page and make another one. :-)


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