Starting a Sketch in Pencil

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Duration:   20  mins

Artist Stuart Loughridge demonstrates the beginning of an imagined sketch outdoors. He clips the watercolor or printmaking paper down in his sketchbook. Before he begins, he thinks for a few minutes, planning the sketch out. Then he scaffolds in the drawing within a frame. He suggests focusing on the basic shapes, not their specific individuality at first. How do the lines of the shapes and topography interact? You might want to draw a circle and arrow for the direction of sunlight so you know where the shadows and glare on the water is. You might also adjust your frame as you work.

When drawing water, remember that water always sits flat, so you can design the water bank as a visual flat line for the viewer.

Stuart thinks a lot about the background, middle ground, and foreground—the background being the sky, middle ground being some land, and the foreground being the closest to the viewer. He tries to simplify all of them first before finding the nuances in between. He designs all of them so the eye can move around.

What you want in a pencil drawing is a clear line framework so that you can lay in the shadows afterward.

You can push the trees and landscape backward and forward to create depth. You don’t need to draw everything, just some notes of what is to be painted. Try to avoid pattern and symmetry.

If you find a strong curve in your design, try to counter it with a different curve. Now you can find some distinctions of who is in front of who, and find the rhythms of how all of the curves of the landscape work together. You can flesh out a little more detail in the foreground—leaves, grass, rocks, stems. You can start to refine the outline, but remember it is a painting, not a photograph, so don’t refine too much. You want to make sure the viewer knows what is happening when cleaning up the outline. As you draw clouds, try to think about the arc of the space.

Stuart doesn’t shade in his pencil sketch because as he does the watercolor wash, he wants the maximum refraction of light off of the paper instead of off of the pencil lead.

Continue to work around from foreground, to middle ground, to background until you’re ready to move onto your washes of color.

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