Building a Sketchbook

Field sketching has historically been one of the most valuable skills that an artist can have. There’s no better way to learn to capture the essence of your subject—and capture it quickly—than heading outdoors and sketching. So if you want to get the maximum benefit out of your efforts, follow these practical guidelines:

  • Keep a sketchbook with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll have the time to draw—or when you’ll run across an interesting subject.
  • Draw what you like. From the outset, you should develop the habit of drawing for the fun of it. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to choose subjects that interest you.
  • Draw what you know. Most people think that you have to travel to find something interesting to draw, but that isn’t true. There are interesting things in your own backyard, and you already know them well.
  • Take small bites. Just like physical exercise, you need to start simply, then build up to more challenging subjects. If you must choose a complex subject, focus on a single aspect of it at first.
  • Remember that sketchbook drawings don’t have to be complete. Don’t worry about fine detail or the finer points of composition.
  • Draw now, color later. Wait until you’re comfortable with quick sketching before you do full-color pieces.
  • Develop speed through repetition. The more time you spend sketching, the faster you’ll become. And you never know how much time you’re going to have to capture an image.
  • Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough. The idea behind the sketchbook is that it helps get you where you want to go.

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