Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Quick Sketch, But Longer

4/20/16 ink, colored pencil

More than a year ago, I took a half-day class at Gage called The Quick Sketch. It was an introduction to Bill Evans’ longer course of the same title, but I thought 10 weeks was a bit too long, so I didnt take it. This quarter it was offered as a five-week class, and that seemed just right, so I signed up.

4/13/16 ballpoint pen
As I mentioned in my review last year, the instructor has made it his decades-long habit to make a dozen or so “quick sketches” every day (his favorite location for this practice is a neighborhood bar or park). Although he is a practicing studio artist, and some of his sketches might end up as studies for eventual paintings or sculptures, he believes strongly in the value of the sketch in its own right. Evans stresses that the goal of sketching is not to make good drawings; it’s to become good at drawing. The more you sketch, the better you will become at drawing.

4/13/16 charcoal
How long is a “quick” sketch? Usually taking no more than a few minutes each, Evans’ sketches are finished when they “start to go downhill,” he quipped. Because, of course, that’s the tricky part: knowing when to stop before the sketch becomes overworked and loses its spontaneity.

With an emphasis on life drawing (Evans’ favored on-location sketching subject), the course includes perspective, composition and other basic aspects of drawing. Last week after a lecture on head and face anatomy, the students sketched each other in pen or pencil. Yesterday Evans instructed us to use vine charcoal, again to draw each other. I detest using charcoal (I came prepared with nitrile gloves!), but I have to admit I love the result of using charcoal. It’s hard to beat that beautiful subtle shading – especially on the human face or form – that’s possible with charcoal.

Yesterday we also tried something I’d never done before: We drew two faces (once drawing the oval face contour first, then filling in features; the second time starting with features and working outward to the contour) completely from imagination. With as much life drawing I’ve done, it still felt strange to conjure up a generic face from my mind. I think the selfies I worked on over the winter helped more than anything.

4/20/16 charcoal (from imagination)
The best part of yesterday’s class came during the last half-hour: We got to sketch outdoors using the medium of our choice. It was our fourth consecutive record-breaking day of “summer,” and I was getting antsy sitting in a classroom with all that sunshine being wasted! The exercise was to practice a composition indicating depth by overlapping elements, varying the degrees of detail and using other perspective techniques (sketch at top of page). The lesson was all well and good, but the only thing I really cared about was being able to sketch outdoors.

4/13/16 graphite

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