Every trip there are a handful of sketches that become the signature images from the trip. Despite the long and varied itinerary of my recent 8 week trip to Italy and the UK and the many sketches that I am happy with, there is one sketch that springs to mind – this sketch of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice.
I was extremely hot and tired at the time but yet the sketch just flowed out and appeared on the page. I was totally in the groove and was simply responding spontaneously to the building.
It was a wonderful feeling – but it’s one that I certainly don’t have every time I sketch!
I work extremely hard developing my eye hand coordination, trying different techniques that help me to be more spontaneous and I’m always pushing myself so that I get this feeling more often. I think a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m constantly testing out new strategies for getting the right balance between looseness and accuracy. (Note: I will be sharing a lot of the tricks I use to sketch architecture quickly in my upcoming SketchingNow Buildings online course – techniques that have taken years and many many sketches to develop.) So please don’t ever think that the speed and freedom of my sketches comes easy – I work very hard to make it look that way.
Please also don’t think that I never make a error when I am sketching.
When I sketch complex building my sketch records my initial exploration – so it contains a lot of minor adjustments as I make discoveries along the way.
Just for the record, I made two ‘big mistakes’ (speaking with my architect’s hat on) during this sketch – one I was able to correct as I worked and the other one I lived with. But ultimately as long as the end result is ‘accurate enough’ in the essential relationships, I am happy and the error in this sketch is hardly noticeable now – it was simply a proportional distortion.
I am more and more convinced that:
The sign of being an experienced artist is not that you don’t make mistakes but rather that you have strategies in place to respond when they occur.
Having a healthy attitude to mistakes – that they are an important part of improving and that they are a fun challenge – is critical to enjoying sketching.
So what’s your attitude to mistakes? And when was the last time you felt in the groove?