The Poetry of Speed Sketching

By Barbara Weeks

A Japanese poetry form, haiku, focuses on moments in the environment and connects them to the human condition. They are concise, using only the number of syllables that can be said in one breath. They are expressive, capturing those fleeting moments for us to appreciate. Sounds like Urban Sketching to me!

Many of us urban sketchers carry a small sketchbook with us wherever we go. We capture fleeting moments of our days while waiting in line, catching a quick cup of coffee, on the train or bus. Whenever and wherever we can, we draw our connection with the world around us. There is a need to be fast and concise!

HOW?

1. Think Small – about the size of a credit card or smaller.

This is a 2.25” x 2” sketch of the view from Starbucks in the Presidio in San Francisco. It’s the Place of Fine Arts. I scribbled a few lines while I waited in line and threw on the color when I got back to my car. Pencil and watercolor. Total Time: 3 minutes

2. Keep It Simple – avoid details and the need for perfection. Think simple shapes and values.

This is a 3” x 4.5” (a little bigger than a credit card) sketch expressing a bitter cold evening at Navy Pier in Chicago. Simple shapes and 3 values. Pencil and watercolor. Time: 5 minutes

3. Focus – what catches your attention? Pin point your subject.

About 1” x 2.5” sketches done during a long airport wait for a rental car. Continuous line drawing–I filtered out the chaos all around me and focused on the disgruntled and bored people sitting across from me. Gray, fine point Sharpie. Time: 1.5 minutes each

Hint: If you spend more than five minutes on these small sketches you may be putting in too much detail.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SPEED SKETCHING?

1. Focus

2. Improved drawing skills

3. Increased spontaneity and freshness in your sketches

4. Rapid planning of ideas for larger sketches or future paintings

5. Great for fast travel sketching, especially when traveling with non-sketchers

6. Confidence

7. They’re fun

About 2.5” wide sketches done in the car on a road trip to Ohio. Continuous line, 4 values, simple shapes, watercolor and pencil. Time: I don’t remember but they helped make the long ride go quickly!

Poetry of speed sketching –capturing fleeting moments in time and recording a reaction to them. I call them Tone Poems.

This article was originally posted on Urban Sketchers Chicago.



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