Skills of An Artist

The title here is a Homestar Runner reference.  Brownie points if you get it. 

While camping this weekend, I wanted to practice something I love but that I haven’t worked on in a long time: pencil sketching.  I wish I’d put more time into this; I think I could be pretty decent if I did.  As it is…well, the kids were impressed. 

Here’s a sketch I did of a scene from our campsite: some pine and evergreen branches in the foreground, a mountain face in the background, and a cloud.  I never know how to do something as detailed as the mountain face without making it look too “busy.”  True story: in a fourth grade art class, we had an hour to draw a scene.  At the end, I still had a mostly blank sheet of paper because I insisted on drawing each individual blade of grass at the bottom of the page.  So I’ve gotten over that. 

Still, my work strikes me as clumsy and sentimental (much like my writing).  The shading I use to indicate the late afternoon is desperate.  All that being said, though, I actually like this–the only really bad part is the branches coming in from the left side, which look like they could have been drawn by Napoleon Dynamite.  But it made me happy to do it, and I enjoy the rough, impressionistic style I’m developing (this would be more evident if you could see my jagged lines closer up).  When I opened the sketch book I use, which I hadn’t seen for over a year, and flipped through the other pages, I was delighted to see some pleasant other work I’ve done.  Now I think I should do some work in charcoal. 

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6 comments on “Skills of An Artist

  1. Wish I could remember where — NYTimes, maybe — I just read an article mentioning that sketching used to be part of everyone’s sightseeing practice, and how it helped people slow down and really see what they were looking at. We sometimes don’t even look at the thing we’ve come to see, but rather see it only through a camera’s viewfinder, to capture proof we were there, before we rush off to the next site.

    Anyway, I think this is a great idea. You probably really saw the contours of that mountain because you sketched it, instead of merely capturing an impressionistic awareness of “mountain.”

    Next time, suggest your kids do their own sketching.

  2. Severny, thanks for the compliment. I checked out your blog and enjoyed it. I hope to sketch as well as you do someday.

    Ardis, ever see any of Leonardo’s notebooks? We know him for the Mona Lisa, but I think he primarily considered himself a sketch artist, a pencil artist. Drawing Lessons From The Great Masters is one of my favorite art books. All of this supports the idea that sketching is natural and used to be more prevalent. I’m happy to report that my kids are motivated by my drawing–whenever I go through a drawing phase, they get in on it and sit down to doodle next to me. It’s very rewarding.

    Bohus, “that happened once!”

  3. Hey, those peasants and their cottages had it coming. Nobody talks smack about Sarah Palin on my watch and lives to tell about it.

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