2019 Foundations Friday 11: Allowing a sketch to evolve

March 15, 2019 | Leave your thoughts

It’s hard to believe it, but we are at the last lesson of the Foundations course – with only the final review week left to go. It’s been just so great to go through these lessons again – not just because of all the fun I’ve had n the classroom, but also as revisiting these core concepts has really sharpened my visual thinking.

Lesson 11: Working from a focus explains an important distinctive of the way I like to sketch. For me sketching is all about spontaneously responding to scene rather than carefully planning out what I’m going to sketch. I like to start at the part of the scene which is the most interesting (the focus) and let the sketch evolve as I work outwards. Sometimes the story I am trying to tell changes mid-sketch and that is part of the fun!

This simple line sketch of the Westfield food court in town was done a few months ago and is an example of a switch in story. I started this sketch wanting to record the overlapping groups of people eating dinner, but as I started to draw some context I suddenly noticed that I was recording a series of curves. So the story changed to be about how the configuration of the people related to the architecture of the space. I absolutely love this type of mid-sketch discovery!

If I had done a thumbnail first, I would have noticed these curves before starting my sketch and maybe it would have change the way I composed my sketch. I have nothing at all against thumbnails (I use them in my teaching all the time as they are the best way to explain the mechanics of visual thinking) but the moment of discovery occurs in the rough sketch not the finished piece. For some reason, I have a greater attachment to my work when I have the excitement of discovery encoded into the process of the real sketch.

I was having dinner with Chris Haldane at the time and we had a great chat about my sketch and this process, and as a result I did a post-sketch thumbnail study to explore how I might have planned my sketch differently. (you can see this study in my colour ink drawing on the right side of the spread). It was such a great evening as I love discussing composition and design. (Is it the architect in me?)

And just for the record, these concepts will be included in my new upcoming online course SketchingNow Watercolour on Location. Anyone on the dedicated mailing list will get some free Intro Lessons over the next few months which will introduce some of the themes of the course.


I hope you have enjoyed this series and that, most of all, you have found them helpful. I hope you have been able to pick up some concepts which you can incorporate into your own work.

Due the the final preparation for and then filming of my next SketchingNow course – Watercolour On Location – I will be delaying the wrap up of the final review until early April. If you are doing the re-run, I will be selecting new examples to review so try and post your work before the end of the month.

Thanks for being a part of this Foundations Friday series!


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