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03. More Sketches From Life

Do sketches from life all the time, regardless of painting. Do them on 4×6, or 3×5 note cards so you don’t entomb your wonderful creations in a dark sketchbook on the bookshelf. These artful beauties can be given away for gifts, sold, or sent as thank yous. This all helps spread your name in a positive work-ethic related way, as it should. The ones that do not work or the esoteric scribbles and doodles, all go bye bye forever. There’s absolutely no reason to use sketchbooks ever again. To further your understanding in the Visual Language Elements, here are some more sketching from life exercises, and ideas that isolate variables and really concentrate on certain aspects of one element or another. All of these exercises should be done following #2a-e process guidelines, if applicable.

3a. Outer Contour Lines of Form:
Do this exercise as often as you like, they’re quick, fun, and help formulate ideas. Just as in ‘2d,’ establish the Horizon Line. Then, sketch the outer contour lines of form in your scene as they overlap one another. It’s an exercise in simple flattening of form. Doing this well, later helps divide these outer contours, into the myriad of light and shadow shapes with greater accuracy. Practice this too, if you want. This is all part of the translating process, any practice here is good.

3b. Blind Outer Contour Lines:
This is exactly like “3a” but you can’t look at your paper while drawing, only the scene. You’re building hand-eye coordination, and the ability to put your hand on target without friction. Be the form…

3c. Only Light or Only Shadow Families:
Un-seeing things is the important skill to build on here. SEE the patterns of shapes of value, not trees, rocks, etc. Draw either the light or the shadow family shapes only, almost like each is a puzzle piece. Without form outlines to guide you, it’s very easy to get out of scale, and off target. Try only depicting the value family with the least amount of real estate in the scene. On black paper with white chalk, draw only the light family.

3d. Eliminating Values:
With markers, translate only using three values. You’ve got white of the paper, 40%, and 80%, or 80, 60, and white. Any Combination, but eliminating 3 of the 6 values.

3e. Increasing/Decreasing Contrast Relationships:
Separating or narrowing the range of value families is the purpose of this exercise. Sketching outside often increases the awareness of contrast. Try increasing this relationship by separating light and shadow families on the value scale further. This puts a strain on the usable values within the families, so decisions must be made into which family the visual interest is painted. To study the lower contrast, paint a scene under indirect, or ambient lighting where local color becomes more apparent.

3f. Traditional Notan Sketches.
Use only two values, white paper, and black. Figure that one out. It’s hard because you really are stretched in value. It’s great practice for editing and eliminating information, and for high contrast, very bright days. An excellent study in drawing. As a regular practice, I find it too limited.

3g. High Horizon Line, Looking Down:
It’s fun to find a high vantage point like a cliff, or high-rise building for this exercise, but looking down at sidewalk level will do.

3h. Low Horizon Line, Looking Up:
Look up or up-ish at something.

3i. 1 Point Perspective:
Define a level plane or a body of water with 1 point perspective. Creeks, lakes, pools, oceans, tabletops, level sidewalks, streets, etc.

3j. Engulfing:
Engulf objects inside cubes or spheres or other common forms to make planar information more readily apparent. Engulf an object that is skewed from being straight-on inside a cube form, forcing the understanding of multi-point perspective. Urban or man-made objects work well, also interiors.

3k. Disheveled scenes:
Flood debris, disaster debris, your bedroom, the kitchen sink full of dishes, organize the visual chaos of many materials, lusters, and shapes, into a viewable thing. Squint and tie much of the shapes together in one value or another.

3l. Different Times of Day:
Draw the same scene in different lighting or times of the day. This brings awareness as to how the Visual Language Elements vary minute to minute when outside.

3m. Sketches From Master Works:
Bring your Sketchbox to the local museum or even go through the art mags stacking up on the back of your toilet. While you’re there, find those paintings that speak to you. Do sketches of them, and get great insights into the compositional mindsets of these artists.