How learning to sketch has impacted my coloring.


Just over ten weeks ago I started a personal challenge to learn to sketch. The catalyst to do so was that I had enrolled in an online class for colored pencils. There was a prerequisite that you had to know how to draw. I thought that was such a strange requirement. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been coloring with colored pencils for about three years without being able to draw a stick figure (not that I hadn’t tried before and determined it just wasn’t in the stars for me) so I couldn’t see how it made any sense that I had to know how to draw.

Full disclosure, I took a drawing class in early 2016 and I did not pass. Of all the things we had to draw, the only one that I thought was okay was a sketch I did of some vintage bottles.

Well, guess what, after I started my challenge, I started to figure out the connection between sketching/drawing and coloring. You see, by focusing on my sketching with only graphite I must focus on creating “form”, like magically turning a simple rectangle into a cylinder. Then I have to concentrate on “value” when I start shading with my pencils.

Using only graphite to sketch and draw removes the confusion that color can cause for me and then interfere with my learning process. You see, without using color I am not starting with the preconceived notion of creating something pretty. I don’t spend time searching for the perfect color palette or thinking about what color to make something. I also don’t spend hours swatching for the perfect color either. Instead, I focus simply on the shapes I see in my subjects and try to recreate them as accurately on paper as I can. Then I pick up my pencils and I concentrate solely on shading my sketch.

Over the last ten weeks, I’ve also learned the value of “measuring” when I create my sketches. I probably don’t follow traditional methods as I am one who is relying on several online sources to help educate me. But if in the end I have a sketch that resembles what I am trying to draw, then I’m okay with that.

I kept the sketch of the vintage bottles I drew in 2016 (that I mentioned above) and I recently pulled it out of a notebook. It was time to see if my personal drawing challenge is showing any growth in my drawing abilities now that I am gaining an understanding of some art fundamentals that I didn’t have a clue about back in 2016. I am excited to see that my drawing skills have started to develop.

I’ve already had thoughts about whether I will continue to sketch. I’ve fallen in love with graphite. It reminds me of the beauty I see in black and white photos. But I decided to take a break from graphite and create something with my colored pencils, and that just made me yearn for more color. So, I guess I will be splitting my time moving forward using both.

Are you wondering if this has changed anything about my coloring? You bet it has. When I colored prior to starting my sketching challenge, I would look at reference photos to see where to color the light and dark areas within my image. I didn’t give it any thought as to why there were color changes, I just did what I saw in the photo. Now when I see color changes in my references, I can see color changes and decipher what has created it. I can now color realistically without having to have line art that is so detailed it looks like a paint by number pattern.

Learning to sketch has filled gaps in my understanding of some of the art techniques I’ve struggled with when coloring. By example, when I was trying to figure out how to create cast shadows for a drawing I really struggled. My husband tried to help me understand what I was doing wrong. I will never forget when he asked me, “don’t you see that in 3D”? I was so frustrated. I mean, what the heck do you mean, of course I don’t see that in 3D. I was more confused than ever.

But that is another thing that sketching, and drawing has finally helped make sense of. I wasn’t seeing in 3-D, I only saw the front surface of things. Now I look through objects to visualize all sides of them. Hard to explain here, but it sure makes sense to me and it has translated into better shaping and shading in my art.

Time is a funny thing. I probably read or heard about many of these art fundamentals and they just didn’t resonate or make sense . . . until now. That is something I really like about art. It’s always changing, or is it me that is always changing?

I think I will go draw something now. How about you?

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