24 The sketch

PAINTING can be a complicated process with many steps leading to a great painting. One important step for most painters is the preliminary sketch. Some of my favorite painters used a preliminary sketch so I followed their footsteps even though I didn’t fully understand why. There were times when I felt the sketch was repetitive and sapped energy from the finished work. But I persisted and finally came to realize the importance of this step.

Basically in the sketching phase you should be exploring options and clarifying your thinking. Thumbnails are best for exploring options as they are fast. Sometimes I get caught up in detail and the small size of a thumbnail sketch helps me keep things simple. Do as many sketches as you need to resolve the questions you have. One reason I didn’t know the uses of a good sketch was I was unaware of which qualities of a sketch would translate into a good painting. Occasionally you will fall in love with a complex, linear sketch that won’t lead to a good painting. The act of discernment will improve as you practice the process.

If you make a larger sketch be sure not to invest too much time or make it too precious. You want a working document that you can change without reservation. Remember to start with generalities and work toward details. I like to stop short of including too many details as I find that finishing the sketch exhausts my enthusiasm and I want to preserve as much spontaneity as possible.

As you practice this aspect of painting you will find that getting a useful sketch will be a great help in achieving the success you desire.

Brad Teare © 2009

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Updated: 3rd February 2023
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