Thursday, August 31, 2023

Sketch a Day


Back in May I talked about finishing a sketchbook, and how it was very rare for me to sketch at all. In fact, during June and July I didn't sketch at all, despite buying myself a very handsome new sketchbook, and being inspired by the fact that I had finished my old one. This would be the year that I started sketching for real! I was going to commit to it! And then I was busy reading another Gene Wolfe book, and busy playing lots of live music, and busy working on games. It's a classic tale. But it feels bad, and I felt frustrated with it, and I like to conduct little experiments on myself to try and build habits, develop practices, maintain little rituals in my day, and so I made a decision to try and do at least one sketchbook page per day for all of August.

August is a particularly good month to try this sort of thing - the weather is perfect for getting out and about in, there are usually very few music gigs for me to play, and there's the whole 'starting fresh' vibe that comes with the end of winter and start of spring that makes one want to turn over a new leaf. So I sharpened up my 6B pencil, and I started doing sketches.

Specifically, I started sketching character heads. One thing that frustrates me is that I'm not particularly good at just sketching out a character that I like in pencil on paper from imagination. I thought that if I could somehow develop a process for doing this, then the month would be a success. So I split my time between trying to do quick photo studies, quick sketches just constructing a head from scratch without reference and working out where to lay everything out, and trying to draw some actually interesting characters with expressions and props and identifying features. And it was good. Some of them came out very bad, both on the first day and on the very last day and plenty of times in between. On some of them I could feel myself working things out as I made particular choices, gaining small pieces of insight about what works well and what doesn't just by consistently making the same sort of marks every day, and discovering what I liked and didn't along the way.

I also got to break my tether to my PC and go and draw outside, which was most revitalizing. I spend so much of my creative time at the same desk, which is well set up for my needs, but gosh it's good to get out and about a bit, and draw amongst the flowers and trees and the singing birds.

In the end, I think what I mostly gained from the experience was some better confidence with my workflow for drawing with pencil (something that I had very little of before), a better approach to drawing character heads from a structural basis, and some confidence in my ability to use a sketchbook habitually. I also got a little more 'fit' for drawing on paper. Making marks is a physical activity, and the more one makes marks, the more experience one has to inform and guide all future mark making. I also had fun - some days I'd do multiple pages just because I felt like sketching some more, I was eager to try out new ideas. That feels great. I'll leave you with a photo of a few fun fantasy style characters I sketched out, completely free from any reference, and completely away from my desk, along with the stub of one of the pencils I was using on this project and the assurance that I plan to keep sketching much more regularly from now on.

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