Last week I went up to the Blue Mountains for a day – with family (my parents, my brother and his two eldest children) and friends from Scotland. I wasn’t sure how much sketching I would get done but I was pleased that I managed to do something at each lookout we visited. Not only that, I was very happy that I actually got my watercolour out on two occasions. Last July I visited the Blue Mountains with my brother and family and my sister and family. With six kids and very cold windy weather, it was extremely difficult to fit any sketches in (even with dry media), but on this occasion, I had a little more time.
Three thoughts were circulating in my mind during the outing:
1. The goal is just to get something (anything) on the page
When you are with a group it’s hard to gauge how much time you can take for sketching. I’m always worrying that I’m holding people up and therefore work extremely fast. Sometimes I could have taken a little more time but on all occasions, there wasn’t enough time for me to use my usual sketching technique and I certainly didn’t have time to think before I started. My Scottish friends wanted to watch me work but I was conscious that we had to keep moving so we visited all the spots and got back home at a reasonable hour.
And so my expectations are lower and I’m always happy if I can just manage anything!
2. It’s good to have a technique for fast sketches
This time I used different techniques for each of my four sketches.
- Coloured pencils, ink and watercolour,
- Ink (fude pen)
- Neocolor II, watercolour pencils and watercolour
- Ink, watercolour pencil (and watercolour back home)
Each one was a good choice. However I think that watercolour pencils are more forgiving than coloured pencils and so are marginally better for this type of super quick sketching. Once again I was very happy that I managed to get my watercolour out twice during the day. And on both occasions, it was because I realised that there was enough time to do so.
3. Creating ‘repeat sketches’
I’ve been sketching in the Blue Mountains a few times in the past 18 months and so my sketches from this particular visit felt as if they were a repeat of sketches that I have done before. The Boars Head one in particular is extremely similar to one I did in 2022 and the Govett’s Leap sketch is a development of one I did last year. My work last week was an example of reflex sketching – I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing – just a split-second decision about my first tool and then I worked intuitively for the rest of the sketch.
Whilst I’m happy with my sketches on this occasion (especially as the point of the day was social and not sketching) it did make me think about the value of research and development time, learning new things, trying new techniques etc so that you don’t simply repeat the same things over and over. Practice on its own is not enough to see improvement or development (it can, in fact, cement undesirable habits). Practice needs to be deliberate and have some degree of input, inspiration or instruction.
Okay, that’s enough musing for today. Here are the pages in full.
Do you ever sketch in situations like this – when you are with a group of people and have no dedicated sketching time? What techniques do you use to get something in your sketchbook?
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