Thursday, August 27, 2020

My Right Hand Goes Urban Sketching

8/19/20 Temporarily right-handed in Maple Leaf

As my non-dominant-hand drawing practice continues, I’ve been thinking about how a hand is probably one of the easier subjects to practice with: My brain is already familiar with its proportions and form from all my prior practice, and the soft, organic lines and shading are relatively easy to fudge. Impressed with my right-hand sketches, a friend said, “I can’t draw a straight line with my non-dominant hand,” and I doubted that I could, either! Softly curving fingers are one thing, but what about hard roof lines, cars and utility poles? It was time to take my right hand urban sketching!

My right hand’s speed has nearly caught up with my left, so I felt reasonably confident that I wouldn’t need too much additional time on the street. Feeling cocky one day during my walk, I took out a Field Notes Signature and my favorite Uni Pin brush pen for a couple of small street scenes (below). As I suspected, scribbly, organic trees were no problem, but the cars were much harder.

8/18/20 The date, time and location notations
are barely legible, even to me!
The brush pen was a good instrument for my right hand to use because it requires almost no pressure to make a strong mark. The ultimate test, of course, would be colored pencils, which require significant pressure as well as speed the way I like to use them in the field – quickly and aggressively. I didn’t know if my right hand was ready for that test, but there was only one way to find out.

I stood on a quiet dead-end street (top of page) where I could take my time if I needed it. As soon as I started blocking in the house, I realized that I was in the habit of starting on the right side of the page and moving left, which is natural for a lefty. Starting on the left would have been more natural for my right hand. As I’d feared, building up enough color was more difficult and took longer when I didn’t have enough muscle behind the pencil. And I had to restate the roof lines and utility pole multiple times to get them straight.

The biggest frustration was something I hadn’t anticipated at all: My bag, which I keep on my shoulder as I sketch, is set up for easy access to my left hand, not my right, which didn’t even know how to rummage through the bag properly! (Try it! Reach into your sketch kit with your other hand and grab a pencil or brush! Not so easy, is it?) Everything felt backwards.

I admit I allowed my left hand to assist with two tasks that were just too frustrating to put up with: Spritzing with my water sprayer (which requires strength to pump with one finger) and putting the tiny cap back onto my waterbrush (which apparently requires both accuracy and agility). Arrggh!

Speaking of the waterbrush, one of my most challenging right-hand tasks was activating the straight line of the utility pole. I missed twice, applying the water on either side of the pole! It’s true: I can’t draw a straight line.

If nothing better comes of this right-hand drawing practice, at least I will have learned never to take my left hand for granted.


  1. I wouldn't have thought of all the things that would be a little (or a lot) harder when using your non-dominant hand. It affects a lot more than just the pen or pencil on the paper.

    1. Yes, that's true! I never gave it much thought, either. I am sort of fascinated by this process that I can experience and observe!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...