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Sketching or Drawing?

October 15, 2008

Yesterday I got together with Ronell to do some drawing.  We’ve both been feeling that over the summer we have gotten into the habit of doing lots of quick sketches, and it’s become difficult to slow down, put in more detail, work on correcting angles, etc.

So we decided to concentrate on a still life and draw it in black and white (pencil for me, charcoal for Ronell).  We worked for 2 hours, which was quite enough for both of us yesterday.  Ronell wasn’t well, but I have no excuse except a maxed-out attention span.

And then we got into a discussion about whether or not we’ve made progress in our drawings in the last year, and what constitutes a drawing as opposed to a sketch, and other earth-shaking issues.

It feels good to spend a little more time on a subject,  but I suspect this is still in the sketch category. Interestingly, I actually prefer the results I get with just a few lines.  I feel that my drawing has, in fact, improved a tiny bit in the past year, just because I seem to get where I want to go with less stress.  That doesn’t mean I don’t put down some very wrong lines when I start though.  In Ronell’s work, I thought I could see a distinct affirmation of her artistic personality compared to drawings done a couple of years ago, but she wasn’t quite sure she agreed with me.

Here’s my still life – done with a 2B pencil.  I went in this morning with a 4B to reinforce some of the very darkest bits.  I realize that it’s sort of lacking in personality, but it’s just an exercise.

I’m also getting motivated to work on some more large-scale portraits.  I find that it’s helpful to do preliminary sketches first.  This one is from a photo taken by my husband of a random person watching the tall ships in Rouen this summer. This is definitely a sketch, because it’s sole purpose is to help me understand where I want to go with this.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 2:28 pm

    I really love your drawing Casey. I don’t find it at all lacking in personality, on the contrary! Andyour sailor(he’s got the whole look!) is really good, he’s chuckling about his good life… I don’t think a “drawing” could be better than this sketch…it is already a drawing, no?

  2. October 15, 2008 3:22 pm

    OMG, THESE ARE GORGEOUS CASEY!! I love quick sketches but its true we do get too much in the habit. Thanks for the step back.

  3. October 15, 2008 4:08 pm

    Love the sketch of your husband and other figures in the previous entry and then read this post. .. so thought Id comment about both at the same time. Isnt it strange when we try to do ‘real’ work we tighten up and when we call it a sketch we are so free. Lovely composition on the tray. As you dont feel completely happy with this pencil drawing, may I suggest you might like to add variety with a little cross hatching among your tonal shading when working in graphite and create tonal difference in your line by using linear pressure when drawing . Hope you dont think I have a cheek in suggesting these ideas to play with. It might bring that added zest you are looking for.

  4. October 15, 2008 5:20 pm

    Excellent, Casey! It is so interesting to see the difference in your loose work and these, which are more precisely executed. I like them both. This displays your technical expertise, but I do love the spontaneity and passion that exudes from your loose style. Really nice. And that portrait is full of life!

  5. annie permalink
    October 15, 2008 5:55 pm

    I’m late, posting, and have nothing new to add to the comments here except to say I agree completely that you personality comes through. As a
    beginner, I get too uptight no matter what I am attempting to do, so I sure
    enough know that feeling and how it can interfere with more spontaneous marks.

  6. October 15, 2008 6:40 pm

    Fabulous – especially the portrait. I wish I had Michel to take randomers for me!

  7. sandy permalink
    October 15, 2008 7:20 pm

    Yowsa, amazing work by such an amazing talent, sketch or drawings or whatever you want to call it – a rose is still a rose.

  8. October 15, 2008 8:51 pm

    Beautiful and interesting!

  9. October 15, 2008 11:26 pm

    Fascinating to read about you and Ronel discussing–sketch or finished drawing? I recently took two of my 9×11 floral watercolor “paintings” to a critique hosted by a local art association and was told…. “but these are just sketches….you should work larger and do a finished painting” . I feel tight and stiff just thinking about it! Personally, I’d much rather have a spontaneous “sketch” hanging in my home, too. But, it did get me to thinking about sticking with one idea and following it through.
    Both your “sketches” are totally super!!!

  10. October 16, 2008 9:05 pm

    Wonderful drawings Casey. And what an interesting discussion between you and Ronell about drawing vs sketching.
    And how in the world did you ever find such a fantastic character for a portrait?? Wow!

  11. October 17, 2008 8:24 pm

    Lovely, Casey – and the pot of spoons is beautiful. So fast or slow – which do you prefer?

    I can’t wait to see another big portrait, and this one promises to be a beauty.

  12. October 18, 2008 11:41 am

    I just love your portrait work and those objects!! Just so satisfying to look at! I admire your dedication to figure drawing. You have such a light, fluid line in your figures. Great stuffl

  13. October 20, 2008 4:09 pm

    Hi Casey,
    I just commented on Ronell’s blog about sketching and drawing. I absolutely love ‘sketchy’ drawings, and they are still valuable drawings in my book. A drawing is basically marks on a surface – simple as that – so you can call anything a drawing. I love the liveliness of your quick on-the-spot drawings. I don’t think something has to be carefully and painstakingly rendered in loads of detail in order to be called a drawing. If it did, I would never draw again!
    by the way, I love the portrait and to me that is definitely a drawing in its own right!

  14. October 22, 2008 5:21 am

    I read your thoughts with interest as I’ve never tried to determine the difference between a drawing and a sketch before. I wonder if it has to do with the intent. I was struck by how much personality is captured in the looser drawing of the man, and how the careful drawing of cannisters (?) seems to have less personality. It made me wonder what could have been added or subtracted to give that drawing more interest (since that’s something I’ve been thinking about in my own work lately). Maybe it’s that all of the items have the same amount of detail and focus. If one were jazzed up a bit with some dark active lines maybe that would do the trick. It’s a good drawing and doesn’t actually need anything at all. It’s just a good exercise for me to think about since I find it nearly impossible to see what my own work needs!


  1. Drawing with Ronell « rue Manuel bis

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