Saturday, November 10, 2012


11-9-12 Private Reserve Black Velvet ink
What does it mean to have a sketching “style,” and how do you know when you’ve found your own?
I think about that question now and then when I’m admiring the works of other sketchers. Looking at the blogs of some of my favorite urban sketchers – Gabi Campanario, Gail Wong, Steve Reddy, Liz Steel, Veronica Lawlor and Scott Wilson are just a few that come to mind – I see that each has a distinctive sketching “style” that is unmistakably identifiable and as unique as a signature. How did their styles come to be?
10/30/12 fountain pen, Diamine Grey ink, Zig marker, Stillman & Birn
I can’t remember his name now, but when one highly skilled draftsman and accomplished artist was asked how long he had been working when he established the style he was known for, his answer was something like “40 years.” Forty years?
Once in an art journal class, one of my students complained that she wished her art journal were less this and more that, and I said, “Well, but maybe this is just your style,” and she quickly retorted, “But I don’t like my style.”

9/3/12 Kuretake Brush Writers, Zig markers
As a lifelong journal keeper, I have seen my own journal evolve over the decades from a book of 100% handwritten text to its current mix of writing, collage, abstract painting and sketching, and all the stages in between. About 10 years ago when I first started making the transition from text to the addition of visual art, I looked at the art journal pages of many, many journal keepers online and in books, and I sometimes found myself feeling what my student had expressed. Vaguely dissatisfied with whatever my art journal looked like at the time, I’d say to myself, “I wish my journal were more like that,” and then I’d proceed to try different media or techniques to bring my art journal into alignment with whatever style I’d seen online or imagined would be somehow “better.” But after a few days or weeks of that, my journal would drift back to whatever came most naturally to me, and I was left with my own style again (however lacking I may have felt it was).
10/30/12 Omas Sepia ink, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn
When I look over my journals kept over a certain period, I see gradual changes in their format or content, and I realize that those changes came organically rather than as a result of any conscious effort. As much as I might like the look of other people’s journals, adopting their styles would never make them my own. I came to accept that my style is whatever my journal looks like today, which grew out of all the days and years that came before it.
In other words, I didn’t find my style; my style found me.
A little more than a year into sketching, I intuitively know that what I’ve learned from my journal-keeping process applies to drawing, too. I may be vaguely dissatisfied with my current sketching style, and I may look at other sketchers’ blogs and wish I could draw the way they do. But I’m pretty sure that I can’t go looking for my style; it’s got to find me. And I also know that the only way it’s going to find me is if I keep drawing, all the time, so that it knows where I am.


  1. I think we all sometimes look at other sketcher's journals and wish that ours was like theirs. They are probably doing the same thing. It is very difficult to adopt someone else's style of drawing or journaling. I guess we need to be happy with what we are doing. I like your journals and you do have a definite style. Keep it up!

    1. Thank you, Joan -- I appreciate your comments. It's always hardest to see one's own style because it's what we get used to seeing every day.

  2. These are very insightful thoughts. I agree completely. There are so many artists in Urban Sketchers whose work I admire. I sometimes think, I wish I could paint like that. But I look carefully at what they've done and just try to incorporate good technique in my sketches. You definitely have a style as I can always recognize your sketches in the pool before looking at the name.

  3. Thanks, Kate! I always think that of your sketches, too -- they're easily identifiable in the Flickr pool.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...