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PE: Sketches and sketchbooks

Sat Mar 8, 2014, 11:39 AM
PE 2010 stamp by projecteducate



Sketches and sketchbooks


Big, marvellous, elaborate, finished paintings and drawings you can see in various stunning galleries on dA and outside dA, while they require time and can occupy artist's workspace even for months, in a lot of cases make a small percentage of created pictures lying around the creator's desk. Sketches aren't just noted concepts or a stage in preparing an artwork - a couple of sketches a day can be the most influential source of improving your skills.

Sketchbooks by STelari

Keeping notes


You have probably been through this more than once - far from your room, you got struck with a brilliant idea. In diffrent circumstances you'd most likely rush to transfer it onto paper or canvas, but well, that might be not so easy in a classroom or on a bus. It can be difficult even if you're home - how about more than one idea at once? Using a sketchbook as a notepad for any concepts is by far my favourite use of it. Sometimes it takes months to get done with scheduled work, and for how long can you keep your idea fresh and with all the details in your head?

Planning your picture


Sitting more or less comfortably by your desk, with your sketchbook opened on one of your concepts... While unleashing pure art berserk over the paper and making your picture without planning is so entertaining, it may be not the best way to do it with every single work. That's where sketchbooks come in handy, after noting the ideas themselves. Planning. Setting the composition, adding or removing objects, trying out colour schemes. It can take quite a couple of sketches before you make everything in your future artpiece fit - and doesn't it sound better than wrinkling and getting your proper drawing paper dirty by adding and erasing uncertain lines here and there? Not to mention starting everything over again after an accident with colours.

Training


Sketchbooks are perfect for life studies, for any kind of reference drawing. You can take it around a city, sit anywhere and catch buildings, people, animals, cars. Spending a lot of time daily on a bus or train? Even when you get bored with drawing people around you, you may sketch your own hand. Never enough of that one, hands aren't the easiest to depict and every while is worth training it. Taking very fast, 5-second sketches of the views passing by is an excellent exercise as well. To read more about references, check out this article I wrote last December.

Close-up by STelari

So many kinds to choose from...

Sketchbooks come in various sizes and types.

:bulletblack: Binding - mostly you'll encounter sewn ones, glued or with a spiral binding.
    Sewn sketchbooks are the most durable, the pages hardly ever fall out, but it takes up twice as much space when opened, since bending the front cover behind may damage the spine and therefore is not recommended.
    Glued sketchbooks are the least durable when it comes to keeping them in once piece. They're rather designed to tear the pages out, so you'll need a nice briefcase to keep your sketches, which usually makes an unnecessary mess with organising.
    Spiral binded sketchbooks occupy half the space of the sewn ones and you can tear out the pages way easier, if needed. However, since this type of binding makes a rather loose assemblage, the pages tend to rub against each other (even if you're careful), and you end up with dirty, smudged pictures, so be sure to use fixative of hair spray.

:bulletblack: Sizes - while you may find sketchbooks in some really wild shapes and dimentions, often they're based on the ISO 216 system or similiar - this standard is not used in USA and Canada, but the diffrences aren't significant. Basically, the smaller the sketchbook, the more you're eager to make your sketches elaborate and detailed, while the big sketchbooks are more suitable for setting composition. The big ones are also recommended for reference drawing, especially life study, when it's all about avoiding small sketches - simply because it's not that easy to hide mistakes in larger pictures. That way you can spot and correct errors and learn more efficiently, and in effect, improve faster.

:bulletblack: Paper - choosing your sketchbook's paper should depend on what you want to sketch with. For pencil/graphite you don't need anything too fancy - it'll be most likely the thinnest paper without any strong texture. Charcoal and pastels go better with textured paper - you need a rougher surface to keep the pigments. For any mediums requiring water, such as ink or paint, you need thicker pages, otherwise the paper will wrinkle, rub off and even tear apart.

A5, A4, A3 by STelari
Click the picture to see links to finished pictures based on these sketches


Saving your sketches


Obviously, the most common tool is a pencil. But whether you use graphite, charcoal, coloured pencils or any other dry media, you'll eventually notice that the pages rub against each other and smudge your pictures. It can get awfully messy, doesn't matter how careful you are. The first step in avoiding that is not sketching on pages facing each other, which means 1 sketch per sheet, see the photo above. Usually, sketching on the page on the left is also rather uncomfortable, especially at the start of the sketchbook. This step isn't essential as long as you carry fixative with you everywhere... but who does? Much more important is spraying every sketch with the mentioned fixative. Remember to follow the instructions you will find on the can and don't breathe it in! You can also use nice substitute, hair spray. It's usually way cheaper, doesn't smell so awful and is just as effective (actually, I spotted one brand that does the job better than fancy, expensive fixative...).

Sketching + sketching = improving


I do get a lot of comments asking for advice how to get better at drawing. And it's all pretty much about heedful observation and tons of sketches. It might feel useless and seem to be a waste of time at the beginning. But it's like with anything new you try - once you get into it and practise daily, you'll notice a development in your skills. Reference and still life sketches in most cases will prove seriously boring, but it really is brilliant to learn shading, proportions, perspective, anatomy and anything else you need to get better. Try making 5 such sketches daily for a month, and then look back at the start. You can be sure you'll notice at least a tiny bit of improvement.



Written for the Traditional Art Week at projecteducate.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconwillika:
willika Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
wow, that gave me some inspiration :) it's really nice to read such detailed articles. I also got some information that I didn't knew before (about spraying hairspray) thanks :heart:
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Good to hear! Thank you for reading (:
Reply
:icondarkallegiance666:
darkallegiance666 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014
Very educative & informative - thank you for writing this!!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you for reading, Renee!
Reply
:iconbear48:
bear48 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2014  Professional
cool
Reply
:iconj0w3x:
J0W3x Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Really useful :D thanks a lot !
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for reading! (:
Reply
:iconj0w3x:
J0W3x Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
it's a pleasure :)
Reply
:iconyuuza:
Yuuza Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
after drawing digital art almost exclusively for 3 years and coming back to traditional, i notice just how limiting digital art really is. Digital art gives endless possibilities in one aspect while restraining your talent in a very subtle and hidden way. I had a very hard time drawing good proportions and keeping a style digitally, and when on paper everything seems to come together, i no longer have problems with the proportions of the face and human body, everything comes naturally and fast, it's so damn faster than digital art. So diital art is cool and all but i think drawing only digital limits an artist's potential.
I didn't know this until i experienced it on my own skin, and i'm sure there are people who are different than me, this is my experience, and i after realizing this, i will continue drawing digitally but i will never stop drawing traditionally as well.
Reply
:iconoutsidelogic:
outsidelogic Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey I enjoyed reading this comment, especially coming from someone who is such an accomplished digital artist.  I too have switched back to traditional art and I find it very liberating.  Sort of like sketching in pen, there's no pressure to go back and make something perfect, so the lines and the ideas flow more freely.  Also, you sometimes get some accidental brilliance that appears on the paper.

I do think that working only in digital limits the development of pure drawing skills.  I guess you develop a different set of skills, but somehow it's not the same as being able to sit with pen/pencil and paper and create something that contains meaning and craft and beauty.
Reply
:iconyamcha-wolf:
Yamcha-Wolf Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I think the vast majority of this is common sense, but then again, I guess you'd be surprised. In my honest opinion, there's some solid information here, but nothing an artist wouldn't figure out as time goes on, so I could see this article as both advantageous and as a hindrance from letting artists learn from experience. Is it a good tool? Sure, it's a solid reference point for the ever-impatient modern artist and maybe I'm just too set in my D.I.Y ways. As far as a critique goes, I'd give this article 4/5 stars. Spelling is good for the most part, grammar is fine. Article is fairly well organized and though the proprietary information could be seen as common knowledge, small tidbits pertaining to fixative and book dimensions wind up making the article a worthwhile read.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
You can't teach advanced things without explaining basics, which makes a part of your comment pointless, really. People around here are on diffrent levels - I daresay, mostly far from advanced - and it's who you'd be surprised how many of them would never think of doing the simplest, fundamental things, just because they have noone around to learn this from. "Figuring out as the time goes on" is in majority consisted of learning from others and observation. Even if you call it "D.I.Y. ways", since yes, it's you who needs to notice things, it comes down to noticing these things in what other people do. And often they do it the wrong way. Like copying strongly stylised pictures of others.
Reply
:iconyamcha-wolf:
Yamcha-Wolf Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Hey, I appreciate the reply and I'm sorry you don't do very well with constructive criticism. I know you're probably frustrated, and you made a few digs against me in that diatribe of a reply, but let me be the first to say that it gets better. To be blantantly honest with you, I felt as though I was in a position to make such criticisms. Your only real mistake here was judging based on what I have on THIS account. If you haven't heard, from what I understand, hobby accounts where an artist posts different art than their usual fare, are relatively common. Insulting my fan art account is no skin off my nose, I know people do it better lol. I'm a professional and I've been to art school and I've done this and that and everything in between, and I'm proud to say that I make money off what I do and love it all the same. Whether you like it or not, and whether or not you think I have any skill in the matter, simply makes no difference.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I'm afraid, being whoever you are, you lack understanding that not only you can be a professional and know what you're writing about. Don't think too high about making an impact - compared to what I get daily, this was a funny comment, and I couldn't care less about someone making attempts at critiques on one article I wrote for one website on the internet.
Reply
:iconyamcha-wolf:
Yamcha-Wolf Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Lol. I highly doubt you've made more of an impact than myself, but okay. I'm glad I made your day better with my funny comment, that was clearly the apparent goal. I'm glad you couldn't care less, at least you've got that going for you. Thanks again for replying, glad you found replying to me lucrative.
Reply
:iconsummerisledog:
SummerisleDog Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014
Thank you for all of this wonderful information!
Reply
:iconwandereratheart:
WandererAtHeart Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014
Thanks for the hairspray tip, I never thought of that and ended up buying a can of fixative but in the future hairspray it is.
Reply
:iconkeinneb:
keinneb Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014
While hairspray is cheaper and alright for sketches and stuff, over time it an make the pages turn yellow, whereas fixative largely strives to avoid this. So perhaps just be careful to not use hairspray on anything too important?
Sorry for butting in, just a friendly tip :)
Reply
:iconwandereratheart:
WandererAtHeart Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014
No that's okay! I really only use it for my mini sketchbooks anyway because I draw on ALL of the pages and some come out nice, so I want them to stay clear until I redraw them larger and better.
Thanks for the clarification anyway before I go spray crazy on the good stuff haha
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Actually, with the fixatives I've had an opportunity to use, it's the opposite - my pictures with fixative are getting yellowish, the one with hairspray not. It just depends on the brand.
Reply
:iconsinematics:
Sinematics Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Właśnie sobie uświadomiłam że nie umiem angielskiego, skoro mam problem ze zrozumieniem niektórych rzeczy, które napisałaś, nie mówiąc już o napisaniu czegoś takiego samodzielnie. :<
Obiecuję sobie zacząć robić szkice już od dawna, oczywiście nie zaczęłam...
Reply
:iconworldwar-tori:
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014   General Artist
Awesome article!
I just got my first sketch book, so a lot of this is helpful.
Especially the smudging, it's been driving me insane and I never thought [or knew] to use anything to stop it, I've just been skipping pages and cleaning them up from time to time :lol:

Thanks for writing this :la:
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Good luck with your sketches! (:
Reply
:iconworldwar-tori:
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014   General Artist
Thank you! :heart:
Reply
:iconkirstenrowe:
KirstenRowe Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What a great journal.  I've been telling myself I need to sketch more....
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
It's a good idea to listen to yourself (:
Reply
:icongillianivy:
GillianIvy Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I love sketches.  I never sketched as a younger artist.  Mostly I would try to make anything I drew be a 'masterpiece'!  lolols.  But the way to a masterpiece can be a sketch at first.  I still have a stubborn streak of not wanting to redraw things.  And I don't always do a sketch under a painting, but more wing it.  I like 'mistakes' and imperfections.  They give texture and interest to an artwork sometimes.  ;D  And sometimes, I like to go over old sketches and re-art them.  I'm in the process of re-arting and old sketchbook to make it an artbook instead.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
That sounds completely familiar. I didn't use to sketch for a looong time myself, and I was prepared to make every picture bloody elaborated. I agree on that.
Reply
:icongillianivy:
GillianIvy Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
hahaha :D
Reply
:iconbeltaneh:
Beltaneh Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014
Wonderful text. I tend to sketch on the same paper I'm painting later, but maybe this is a good advice :)
Thank you!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
The diffrence is enormous once you get into it (:
Reply
:iconryukios:
Ryukios Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Student Digital Artist
An excellent idea and piece of advice! I was surely do this now! Thanks!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Good luck!
Reply
:icondarkjanet:
DarkJanet Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have sketchbook. When I try Bleedman's style.
Reply
:iconmtn-man:
Mtn-Man Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Totally going to sketch a lot more! I've got tons of books, from big spiral bound, to small sewn ones, with some glued ones thrown in. I mostly work in pencil and ink, but only with my comics do I ever sketch out the layout to a piece before diving right in.
I did manage to grab a dA sketch book before the store closed. I think I'll start toting it around with me more often now.
Thank you for this wonderful journal.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Good luck! I'd certainly don't mind have such a supply of sketchbooks.
Reply
:iconduzetdaram:
duzetdaram Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
Excellent.   I love this project.  thank you for the great initiative.  We are always learning.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you for reading.
Reply
:iconnaseemk023:
naseemk023 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
helpful....:)
Reply
:icondepandblakang:
depandblakang Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
nice
Reply
:iconzage56:
Zage56 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
Interesting Journal! 

 Finding quality sewn books and paper can be frustrating here in the States.
 Sketchbooks are the ideal way to archive your artwork. I have been saving my art this way since the late 1970s. Very few of my ancient loose artwork and notes have survived over the years, but those books have. The sewn books have changed ALLOT here in the USA. Some books are advertised that they will take "all" mediums. They don't. I use pen and ink, and discovered, after I tried the ink on the paper, it bled like tissue.

 Recently, I discovered quality blank books by Stillman and Birn's. They have a wonderful variety of sewn books for various art mediums. The Epsilon series is awesome for ink. IF you are looking to purchase a blank book, look onto their materials. This might save you some time and money.

 IF anybody knows of other quality books, and paper, I would like to know about it. :D (Big Grin) 
Reply
:iconkaelycea:
Kaelycea Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014   Traditional Artist
I have had the same frustration with a variety of different sketchbooks, and have taken to making my own, though I have found a few which I find useful for the way I work. The Stillman and Birn's ones are very good quality, and there's a UK company, Pink Pig, which make good quality yet relatively cheap sketchbooks.

Still, I'd highly recommend finding some paper you like and making your own sketchbook. It's highly satisfying to draw in something you created for yourself.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Hm, that sounds interesting. Mostly the quality of sketchbooks that I can get around here - without ordering anything on the internet - is quite satisfying. I haven't bought any that would disappoint me. Brand that I usually purchase is Canson, French. Their paper is generally good, and not really expensive.
Reply
:iconzage56:
Zage56 Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014
 I may have to purchase my books from European suppliers. :D (Big Grin) 
Reply
:iconkaynyman:
KayNyman Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I really need to sketch more. Awesome journal post!!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Good luck!
Reply
:iconjane-beata:
jane-beata Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Absolutely wonderful!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
:heart:
Reply
:icondragongscales85:
Dragongscales85 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
Very nice post friend 
Reply
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