On-Site Drawing – Try it!

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1. Know that you will be making a visual memory.  Don’t worry about making art. 

2. Beauty will come from your use of materials, and your personal viewpoint, that is, what details you wish to emphasize.  Don’t concern yourself with choosing a picturesque setting.  Start by drawing what you see from a comfortable seat. 

3. Choose smooth paper, of a size that can easily fit into your purse or backpack.  I like smooth because texture is something you can add yourself, in areas that make sense.

4. Loosen up your hand by scribbling on a piece of scrap paper.   Throw that away, and don’t do any more scribbling.   If you using a pencil, avoid erasing.  Keep going, perhaps making darker lines as you go.

5. Put in the details that interest you the most.  Ignore the details that don’t interest you as much.  Don’t be ‘sketchy’. Every line is important and should add information.

6. Try not to be overwhelmed by a busy scene.  You will be simplifying by choosing the details you like best. 

7. You have the choice of drawing a focal point, with less detail in other areas of the composition.  This is called a vignette.  Or, as I prefer, you can do an overall composition of details, similar to the look of a tapestry.

8. You can use one or two colors to tell the story, or many.  Perhaps one strong color will pique your interest in a scene, so you will emphasize that.

9. You can choose to draw shadows or ignore them.  I like to draw them if they help clarify something, and leave them out when they confuse the eye.

10. It is best to draw all subjects with equal enthusiasm. Draw plants, buildings, people, cars, traffic, signs, and animals.  Don’t avoid ‘hard’ things such as people or cars.  Everything is abstract shapes and fun to draw.  Nobody will arrest you if something is not 100%  accurate.

11. Date and sign your drawings and add notes as to place, time of day, weather.  Whatever seems appropriate.

12. I’ve been asked how I fit in drawing time, when traveling with other people who are not sketchers.  I draw before other people get up in the morning, and even more likely, when they are napping.  Draw while others are shopping, resting, having a coffee. 

13. Try to use quality materials.  The simplest material is a mechanical pencil, as it never needs sharpening. A Bic one will do.   I use three sets of materials beside a pencil.  Caran D’Ache Artist Crayons, either water soluble or wax.  Good quality colored pencils such as Prismacolor or Koh-I-Noor. Quality colored pencils are nice and creamy and produce dark areas easily.  Don’t use Sharpie Permanent pens.  They are not light fast and will fade.  A good pen is called Pigma Micron…I use # 2, #5 and #8.  To soften colors, I buff with a cloth, either dry or wet.

14. A good place to start is views out of windows. If you are traveling, this is an important memory.  Don’t worry what other people will think of your efforts.  Most people will admire your drawing.  If they don’t speak your language, they will give a thumbs up.  If they do speak your own language, most will mumble something about being only able to draw stick figures.  If you draw old houses, people will often invite you in. 

15. As a personal choice, I usually put on the color after I return home, or back to my hotel room.  I try to remember the important colors, and make up the rest.  I sometimes draw the colors on site if the scene is complex and I don’t think I can remember the colors.  Take a photo to remember the colors if you wish.  But don’t draw from the photo.  If you sense you will be too reliant on the photo, avoid taking one.  Your eye will see things so different from any camera.  Most people do the colors on site.  Sometimes I draw with water soluble colors on site, then later take a brush dipped in water to dissolve the pigments and make it into a watercolor effect.  

16. The best lens is in your eye.  There are huge advantages to drawing a scene compared to taking a photo.   If you practice drawing on site, you will see the world in a different way, and remember it in a more profound way.  Get started.