When sketching on location, one has to learn to work fast. People move, weather changes, your subject walks away, people are waiting for you, or cars pull in front of your view. Over the years I have learned to work more quickly. You’re not trying to get the perfect sketch necessarily, you’re trying to capture a moment in time. And that moment can be fleeting. A few weeks ago, I attended a Sketch meet with Urban Sketchers Twin Cities. I had a limited time to sketch the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. An enormous place, lots to sketch, but I had a graduation party to attend and had about 90 minutes to stay. So instead of painting sculptures or an entire skyline, I chose ONE building, the Basilica. I liked the ornate decorations, windows, and ledges. As gray clouds lingered (signs of impending rain), I sketched very loosely, threw on some paint here and there, and suddenly, it was done. I had time to take some photos of fellow sketchers, say hello, wander around a little, with a fun little sketched tucked under my arm. By keeping things simple, I was able to work quickly.
Today I went to my neighborhood pool to sketch. Baking in 90 degree humid weather is not fun, so I worked very quickly. Snatching quick glances at people as I sat at a picnic table, I drew fast gestures of moms sitting around the pool. Hiding behind sunglasses also works wonders for grabbing quick sketches! I baked for about 30 minutes tops, then walked off with some fun memories in my book.
Finally, here is a sketch I did a few weeks ago. I was at a local Walmart parking lot, parked by a red Jeep with the garden center just beyond it. I was waiting for my son to get his vaccine in the pharmacy, so knew I had very little time to sketch. I rolled down my window and noticed the view of the car and the garden plants further behind it. I sketched the Jeep quickly and also noticed a woman come and lift up different pots in the plant area. I got a very quick sketch of her before she walked away. I also noticed that a few minutes into the sketch, the owner of the Jeep appeared, and drove it away. Good thing I got it sketched quickly! I later added color to my sketch at home, as my son appeared and was more than ready to head home!
Here are a few tips I use to work quickly:
-Work small, so you don’t have as much space on the paper to fill in
-Use lines and shapes to get the general impressions
-Use scribbles and uneven crooked lines, don’t try to make it perfectly straight. Loose wonky lines are fun, too.
-Estimate what could change and when– does that person look like they will stay awhile? Will the car drive away? Determine what should be sketched first.
-Add color later
-Be OK with an unfinished sketch. Many times I don’t estimate properly, and my subject leaves or changes position. That’s OK. I just add other things to the sketch (like extra pool moms).
-Keep paint loose, don’t paint everything, identify areas of focus.
-Above all, have fun!