On Sketching... and Other Passtimes

I spent about four hours today sketching.

Not drawing, mind you. Sketching. In fact, I would say that today, I learned the difference between the two, and I am here to tell you: sketching is harder than drawing.

This is, of course, counter-intuitive. One would think that the rapid nature of sketching loans itself to greater sloppiness, and therefore the results are less prone to overt error. I can't exactly say that "the opposite is true", but close enough! In drawing, you are rendering what you see. I'm reasonably capable of doing that. In sketching, you're trying to... I don't really know... capture... or interpret what you see.

Truth be told, I'm working from a book called "Life Drawing", which, in addition to being a suitable substitute for soft porn, seems to be an excellent guide to learning the art of sketching. The very first exercise (apart from making lines on the paper to "get a feel for it", uh-huh) is something they call "rhythm and curve". I spent about two hours on that one alone... and each attempt is supposed to take three minutes. (Granted, I made about 20 attempts, but I was obviously still going over.) The idea is to capture a figure in as few curves (no S-curves) as possible.

This is much (much) harder than it sounds! I finally got it "right" after much tribulation. The bad news, aside from the time it took, is that it got me... frustrated. I was literally growling and rolling my eyes and heaving big sighs and coming this --> <-- close to snapping at family members for no good reason.

I have noticed that my response to frustration is one of two things: walk away and never think about it again, or dig a trench and refuse to leave until the problem is solved. I (clearly) chose the latter... and in this case (indeed, most cases), I am glad I did. I cannot claim that anything I ended up drawing was worth keeping (thus, no link to flickr or the like)... The second exercise, which I was all to happy to switch to, was "circling"... reducing everything to the most basic shapes (usually circles), just to get the placement and proportions right. That I did much better at, and rather enjoyed... though I must admit, I'm more of a "tone" guy than a "line" guy, and often found myself circling areas of shadow rather than shapes, which the exercise called for.

After that, I took a moment to browse back through my older stuff. Instead of seeming "somehow wrong", the errors seemed much clearer: the eye in this profile was too far forward and too small; the left side of that face was drawn too wide... things like that.

All this definitely put me in a drawing mood, and I spent the remainder of the day attempting to make sketches of whatever possible, wherever possible. ...Most of them while finishing off Season 2 of Star Gate: SG1. And there I have another observation: trying to sketch from television is really hard. The whole "MTV" thing is too prevalent: it is very, very, very difficult to get enough usable information about a subject in a second or less... even if they keep cutting back to it periodically--the other shots interfere with one's memory. This didn't keep me from trying, however... and nothing good (visually) came of it. But I can say that I was enjoying myself at that point. As with going through old sketches, I could "see" what was wrong, and had at least some idea of how to correct them--often failing at that, but it still felt like I was making progress.

...And when the missus stepped out to go to the bathroom, the 'pause' allowed me to do some longer (albeit "short", in the vocabulary of sketching--3 minutes, tops) studies. And those tended to suck far less.

The most significant thing to come out of this is that I feel like I've tripped some switch in my head: it feels to me like becoming "an artist", whatever that means, is now inevitable. I'm seeing things differently, and drawing (sketching?) is no longer arduous, but intriguing. Almost addictive.

That, and I burned through probably 40 pages of sketchbooks, and dulled four pencils at least three times each. : )

Drawing is not my only obsesssion at the moment. On Thursday (I was home sick), I wrote a new Rails application for my role-playing game. That was fun. And today I watched a video on RSpec for test-driven development, which I feel like I will be adopting this month, painful as that will be. In my spare time, I'm learning "Contact Sign", which is like a watered-down version of American Sign Language, and I am really enjoying that. I've tried to learn sign at least three times before, but this time it seems to really be clicking. ...I also picked up some audio courses for Spanish (it's about time to learn the damn language, which I actually have some hope of using around here)... AND I've written two new songs. ...Well... one new song, and some scaffolding for a second, which needs major revision. Lastly, I've ripped through more than half of the "Psytrance" collection I recently acquired... several days worth of music, in all: I'm trying to whittle it down to the 1/8th that doesn't suck. : )

In short, keeping very busy. ...But really enjoying myself, on the whole.

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