Category: Sketching Blog

Action Sketching: How to develop your unique artistic style

There are several skills you need to master when seeking to develop your own style. The first is actually drawing “the thing,” whatever it is you want to focus on. The next is determining what tools and medium to use. And the third, how to use them. This article focuses on how to use your tools in order to develop your own style.

Developing Your Style

It is important to be aware of numerous artistic styles and try many of them yourself in order to find the one you like best. While you can do this by drawing many pictures, testing techniques as you go, it is more efficient to try different styles on a single subject so you can more easily compare them and determine which ones you enjoy the most.

To get started, very lightly sketch a subject of your choice. Next, scan or photograph the sketch, then print numerous copies. Below is an example of a very light pencil sketch based on a photo I took of a Shotgun House in New Orleans.

With prints now at hand, finish each one in a different style, such as by cross-hatching, shading, pen work, or even coloring.

The following provides brief examples on how to proceed.  The first, partially finished example was done with a micro Uni-Ball pen followed by a print partially finished using a BIC mechanical pencil.

Depending on the paper you use, you can also explore watercolors, acrylics, and even alcohol-based colored markers.

Develop ideas by studying other people’s drawings, then practice using their techniques. By trying numerous techniques on a single subject, you’ll identify which ones you more passionately like doing.

Paper:

The paper you choose is important. Paper with “tooth” is the best to use with a pencil, even inexpensive, mechanical pencils like BICs. The reason is that by repeatedly lightly rubbing over the same area leaves layers of graphite behind, thus developing increasingly dark shades. This cannot be done easily on printer paper, consequently, lines made on printer paper all appear gray, no matter how hard you press or many cross-hatchings you employ.

To save money, practice sketching on printer paper. As you explore new techniques, however, invest in papers more suitable to the tools you prefer using.

Multi-media paper can be used for pencil, pen, and some paints, but it doesn’t come in standard printer paper sizes. To easily solve the problem of transferring your basic sketch to it, without having to consult your printer’s measurement table, tape the multi-media sheet to printer paper, then hand-feed the “set” through your printer, making sure the tape is smoothly pressed down.

Links:

There are several online tutorials classified by medium (such as ink or pencil), technique (cross-hatching or shading), paint (watercolor or markers), and even “mixed medium” that combines many things.

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. March 23, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All other material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication or as noted in credits.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at Karen@littleviews.com.

Support Our Mission:

Products sold on Sketch-Views.com contain images exclusively created for Sketch-Views gift products by designer, Karen Little. Revenues support Littleviews’ mission to provide drawing tips and events.

Action Sketching: Changing the perspective of your human subject

Many of us can get good views of sports, but the perspective on how we see the players might not be the way we want to sketch them.

Indoor volleyball, for example, often causes a problem for illustrators because the view of players is from a balcony looking down, rather than seeing players straight on.

Reference photo of a woman serving a volleyball from Pixabay.com

In the example above, the volleyball server is seen from a balcony, with the focus on her right shoulder. If you wanted to illustrate aspects of this game, you might prefer action references from photos taken on the floor.

To correct reference shots from the wrong angle, or try to imagine a specific moment from a different view, use a fully-jointed mannequin to depict what you would like to see.

In the photo example below, I set up a mannequin to duplicate the stance of the server. Next, I took multiple photos of the mannequin from straight-on, turning it for each shot.

Three poses of a mannequin that references a volleyball serve

In the following example, I chose the third pose for my quick sketch as it was the direct opposite of the first.

Sketch by Karen Little showing how to see a reference image from a different stance

Could you have used your imagination to sketch a pose directly opposite of the photo reference? Possibly, but for most people, that would be difficult, especially leg placement and body bend.

Working with a Mannequin:

Fully-jointed mannequins are delicate and fall apart easily. To guard against that:

  • Loosen joints before bending by heating them with a hair dryer.
  • When joints become too loose, tighten them with a tiny screwdriver, like the type used to tighten eyeglass stem joints.
  • If joints cannot be tightened (or parts are falling off), reattach them using standard modeling clay.

Links:

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. March 12, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All other material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication or as noted in credits.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at Karen@littleviews.com.

Support Our Mission:

Products sold on Sketch-Views.com contain images exclusively created for Sketch-Views gift products by designer, Karen Little. Revenues support Littleviews’ mission to provide drawing tips and events.

Action Sketching: Using a simple, single-line grid to develop scenic relationships

The right proportions matter more in your finished sketch than your drawing or painting skills. Bad proportions are easily recognizable and when present, are possibly the main reason why people avoid drawing. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The two types of guides I use to achieve proportional relationships are a grid app on a computer (tablet, phone, or desktop) or a proportional divider. Whether in the field or working at home, neither interferes with your drawing style, loose or tight. There only purpose is to provide relational guidance.

As an example of this technique, below is the finished sketch I began in “Action Sketching: How to draw landscapes and buildings by using a grid.”

Final product using a "single-line grid" to create scenic relationships

To summarize that article, a grid app creates a transparent grid to place on top of a photo.

Example of using a grid app over a photo

Each unit in the grid frames a small portion of the subject. Because there is less information in a grid unit than in the entire subject, reproducing a grid unit, unit-by-unit, results in a highly accurate drawing.

. . . but managing a multitude of grid units is a lot of work and is not much fun!

Single Line Technique:

A simplified version of using a grid to help sketch proportional relationships uses a grid app or a proportional divider in relationship with a single straight line.

To create a single reference line on your sketch paper, mark where you want your main subject to appear from its base to its top.

Preliminary sketch by Karen Little demonstrating how to use a simple grid

Develop a preliminary sketch as follows:

  • Draw a “height” line that shows the top and bottom boundary of your main subject
  • Divide the line into quarters using light tick marks, shown here as red dots.

(Note: Quarters are appropriate for most sketchbooks. Depending on subject and size, however, you might want to divide line into a greater number of equal units.)

  • Using the length between the quarters as a “ruler” from tick to tick, place tick marks as needed to the left or right of those on the line, making a lightly marked grid unit.
  • Roughly draft your subject relative to your tick marks.

Preliminary sketch by Karen Little demonstrating how to use a simple grid

Just a few tick marks in strategic areas should give you enough information from which to establish proportional relationships in your preliminary sketch.

Keep your preliminary pencil lines light so they don’t interfere with your final composition. If they are too dark, dab them with a kneaded eraser. (Note that I boosted the line contrast in my example here so you can see them.)

You only need a few guidelines to handle proportions. After that, your eye, skill, and technique determines how your final sketch appears.

Other Proportional Marking Tools:

If you don’t feel comfortable using a grid app when on location, use a proportional divider to achieve the same thing. This works similarly to the artist’s “thumb” method but conveys more information.

When holding the proportional divider directly out in front of you, fit the points from one end to represent the size of the subject.

The points on the opposite side measure the related size that should appear on your paper. Use the single line method to proceed, rather than attempt to measure every small detail.

Another useful tool is a drawing caliper. In this tutorial, the distance between line quarters is used to mark related tick marks. You only need to set the distance between a caliper’s points once, then use its points to repeatedly mark new areas.

Picture of a proportional divider and artist's drawing caliper

Links:

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. March 1, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All other material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication or as noted in credits.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at Karen@littleviews.com.

Support Our Mission:

Products sold on Sketch-Views.com contain images exclusively created for Sketch-Views gift products by designer, Karen Little. Revenues support Littleviews’ mission to provide drawing tips and events.


Action Sketching: How to draw landscapes and buildings by using a grid

While it is easy to guess at what you see when drawing landscapes or architecture, you’ll create more realistic depictions when you use modern “sighting” tools, such as a notebook computer and grid app, combined with old fashion tools, such as a caliper, divider, or just your thumb.

Using sighting tools is very common among artists on all talent levels. What is here to help you today is the use of a computer tablet (or smartphone) outfitted as follows with a:

    • Camera
    • Drawing-grid app

The following picture I took in France from a parking lot overlooking a medieval village. When on location a few years ago, I drew the castle “by eye.” I wish I had thought of this technique at that time!

My goal was to draw the castle but because of distance, I could not easily see its details and guessed at proportions.  The box on the picture below marks my area of interest.

Drawing grid apps have several features, the most important of which:

    • Move and/or change size of the picture independently of the grid itself (very important!)
    • Easily change the size and shape of the grid (I like squares)
    • Change the size and color of the grid lines so you can see them on your photo
    • Lock the image in place so if you accidentally touch the screen (which is always an issue on a tablet), it won’t change
    • See the image without the app’s controls on it
    • Save your setup to your photo files

Example of Use

Here is how I should have tackled this scene had I had the right equipment.

Using your tablet (or smartphone), take a picture of the scene and bring it into a drawing grid app. Most of these apps let you take the picture from inside the app, so a two-step process is not needed.

Initially, your scene appears in its entirety, like shown below.

If needed, enlarge your image so the area of interest shows up. At this point, adjust the grid to a size that best helps you determine relationships between image elements.

I prefer square grids, so after grid size is set up, move your picture around until you find a logical presentation. For this example, I’m showing a lot of grid sections, but when I’m in the field, I use far less. The number of sections you use will depend on your drawing objectives, from highly detailed to more loosely interpreted.

When the display satisfies you, remove the grid app’s controls from sight.

I generally make preliminary sketches of complex compositions. Whether or not I use a grid, however, I always mark one set of cross centering lines (+) to help determine image relationships by quarter, rather than by the scene as a whole.

Many grid tutorials show sketchers slavishly reproducing each unit of the grid on paper, but when you get used to this method, you probably will not need that level of detail. Your final objectives determine the level of accuracy you need, and likewise, how many grid units you create for reference. (Google Search: How to Use Grids When Drawing.)

While in France, I sketched scenes like this using a simple caliper against cross centering lines to help plan relationships, resulting in a good depiction of what I saw. Using an actual grid, however, produces a more focused drawing.

Based on the photos shown here, my next article in this Action Sketching series will demonstrate ways to use a grid and caliper and why a preliminary sketch (or sketches) help you better see what you are looking at.

Drawing Grids on Tablet Computers

I own an iPad, so have access to numerous drawing grids provided through the Apple App Store. Prices range from free to $15, with many in the $10 range.

Demonstrated here was the “Drawing Grid by Brainga,” a $1 app. While it has a free trial period, you need to evaluate the “pro” version. When you click a feature that is locked, the app will prompt you to send your email in for a pass code. Do that! After the trial period, it will ask for payment. At $1, that’s very reasonable!

Note: Drawing grid apps also work on smartphones, although obviously, the image you see will be much smaller.

Links:

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. February 17, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

The photo used in this article was taken by Karen Little on a recent trip to France and it is copyright free for your use. All other material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at karen@littleviews.com.

Support Our Mission:

Products sold on Sketch-Views.com contain images exclusively created for Sketch-Views gift products. Revenues support Littleviews’ mission to provide drawing tips and events.