Foundations Friday 6: Minimal Setup

February 19, 2016 | Leave your thoughts


Next in my Foundations Friday series where I am revisiting the lessons from my SketchingNow Foundations online sketching course is Lesson 6: Minimal Setup.

Minimal setup is one of the biggest rules I sketch by. These days ‘minimal’ often means none at all! Although I have recently realised that starting with a paint shape is achieving the same purpose as a few preliminary lines – it is a safety net to help me just go for it! Rather than preliminary pencil lines slowing me down, they enable me to sketch with ink much faster and more confidently. If I sketch ink first I normally draw slower.


This week because of a number factors I didn’t achieve what I wanted. I left my iphone at home so couldn’t take a first step photo earlier in the week, and then this morning left my sketchbook at home. Sigh – what’s going on? Anyway, I hope that you can see in these photos from this morning that my initial lines are VERY loose (gestural). They are not intended to be perfect, but just to get the first response in lines on the page.


Earlier in the week, you can see one coffee sketch with turquoise setup lines and one with thinner red mechanical pencil lead. What I am quite pleased about these – especially the first one – is that I didn’t outline everything in ink. I am so much more interested in losing edges these days, and find that when I work more traditionally (pencil setup, ink then paint) I have a tendency to draw ink outlines around everything and lose my lost edges.


I also did a coffee sketch with paint first – can you see the difference? A little bit random with my use of collage and the placement of my latte… oh, well. Please remember that I feel much more alert after I have done the sketch and drunk that coffee – ha!


With yesterday’s beach sketches I used a very quick setup before I started. In this sketch at Palm Beach I did it so fast I forgot to take a photo… but I think that you can see the lines under the paint.


And finally, at Whale Beach, I did remember to take a photo. I often draw my first lines blind, so sometimes they are a little inaccurate – such as the headland – and I then just correct it on the fly when I am drawing with ink.


This was a very complex scene, with lots of movement (massive waves crashing against the rocks) and swimmers in the pool. The big issue for this sketch wasn’t so much getting an accurate setup (although that is important to describe the space – the depth of the pool and the beach and headland and distant headland beyond that) as it was to get the values and textures right. There was so much going on, that I would love to do this sketch again and do a quick value study first. I don’t normally do this, as although it is a good practice for painters, I am trying to develop my ability to do it mentally first and keep my sketches as spontaneous as possible.

I will be having a two week break from Foundations Friday as I am going to Melbourne next week, for a workshop and talk for the Victorian Watercolour Society and a 2-day Sketching Architecture workshop.

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