Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Sketch Journal Follow-up


All sketches shown here are from memory.

Since it has been more than month since I started (or re-started) my sketch journal practice, I thought it would be a good time to report in and keep myself honest (not to blog readers but to myself). I’m pleased to say that I have kept it up, and so far, it remains enjoyable and not burdensome. In fact, I’ve found an angle on it that I think will keep me motivated, at least for a while.

As mentioned previously, I am using my daily-carry Uglybook (which used to be mainly for urban sketches during my walks) for sketches from memory or imagination. I am trying to focus on observations or experiences from the day. Pulling imaginative images straight out of my head is still a tough reach, but slightly easier is sketching from memory.

Two years ago when I committed to drawing from memory or imagination for my 100 Day Project, an exercise I devised for myself was to study an object for a certain length of time, then wait variable lengths of time before drawing it. I tried to retain as many details as possible. It was probably the single-most difficult (and often frustration) drawing exercise I had ever done. I learned plenty from it, but I often felt it was simply a mental exercise that would not have practical benefits to my overall drawing practice.

In my sketch journal, I am taking a more direct and possibly more beneficial approach. I simply observe a scene or object during my day with no more than the usual glance, but with a mental note that I will try to draw it later from memory. My focus is not at all on details but on simply capturing the gesture or scene. This works well during my walks or while driving: I don’t have much time to observe, but making the mental note that I will later draw what I see is enough to make me pay closer attention.

One trick I taught myself during my 100 Day exercise was to make observations by describing them to myself with words, which helped me to remember. For example, in my favorite sketch shown here (top of post), I was stopped at a signal light when I saw a man walking a dog. I said to myself, “The white dog has a long tail waving above him as he pees on a bush to the left. The dog’s ears do not stick up; they fold down [a detail I am paying more attention to lately as I draw dogs]. The man is standing to the dog’s right, holding the leash.”

My results have been mixed, but what I like about this exercise is the potential benefit to urban sketching: It would be very useful to retain the gesture of a person or vehicle that has left the scene and still be able to continue drawing. In that situation, I don’t need to recall all the details; I just want to capture the basic gesture.

Bonus benefit: I’m going through Uglybook pages much more quickly now! Surely that’s ample justification for getting some of their newest colors!

We all need more Ugliness in our lives!


  1. Great exercise. I do the opposite when I try to remember spoken or written word - I make it into a movie - then I retain some of what was said - espesh the juicy ones. You gotta live longer, Tina - with that much Ugliness waiting for you to Beautify. -Roy

    1. Thanks, Roy! This is how I ensure my longevity! ;-)


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