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A Simple Trick for Planning a Sketch : Connect the Dots

June 22, 2014

14June22_USK MTL Botanical_01

Just back from sketching with Urban Sketchers Montreal. Here’s my morning drawing from the Chinese pavilion at Montreal’s Jardin Botanique.

This one turned out to be a useful example of what I call “Marking Extents”. How to design the page with small dots measuring the height and width of key objects, and their internal landmarks (doors, windows, floors, etc).

After the break – A few process shots that might explain:

14June22_USK MTL Botanical Process Shot 01

This is not a blank page. Zoom in and have a look.

All those small dots and dashes? These are measurements describing the two Chinese gazebos.

14June22_USK MTL Botanical Process Shot 01_annotated

I spent about 10 minutes making these small marks, so that when I begin drawing, I have a mental map to work from. My main goal – to avoid going off the top of the page. And you can see I’ve barely succeeded. The taller of the towers is going to get uncomfortably close to the top. But! This is an honest example of me sketching. I like to be reasonably accurate – but I’m not the type to allow measuring to slow me down. You can use this tactic with much more discipline – it’s possible to be perfect. Mostly I’m just ‘eyeballing’ so it’s close enough to keep me happy.

14June22_USK MTL Botanical Process Shot 03

Once I begin actually drawing – I can put it down very quickly – taking maybe another 10  minutes to finish the whole drawing. Maybe less – sorry, didn’t time myself this time :)

14June22_USK MTL Botanical Process Shot 05

So this is the ‘final’ drawing – just enough to begin with the color.  In the past I might have wanted to do a very precise under drawing in pencil. These days, I’m feeling I don’t need that support structure. I still recommend students try to get the best drawing possible – but when I’m having fun, drawing for enjoyment, this is how it’s turning out these days.

14June22_USK MTL Botanical_01



12 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    June 22, 2014 11:56 PM

    thankyou thankyou thankyou!!! i love seeing the ‘pros’ show us your methods, your oops, and the recovery… these really help me see the ‘process’. its never the destination. its always the journey. thank you again!!!

  2. June 23, 2014 4:16 AM

    I do think putting down dots is a v good way of making sure the picture stays within the paper area, unfortunately I still forget which dot is which – I just need more practice at it!

  3. June 23, 2014 4:37 AM

    Interesting – I’ll have to try it!

  4. Mit permalink
    June 23, 2014 9:07 AM

    Yeah, it makes sense with dots. Thanks for sharing your method with us. Your art work inspired me a great deal.

  5. anne permalink
    June 23, 2014 9:53 AM

    Yeah, thank you! Please keep this up.

  6. Linda permalink
    June 26, 2014 3:58 PM

    Thank you for generously sharing your advice! Much appreciated.

  7. August 16, 2014 8:09 AM

    I love your ‘style’ …. your pictures are a joy to look at and it’s making me want to paint again but I had to give up some years ago cos of age- related eyesight and arthritic problems. I’ve taken up photography instead !

    • August 16, 2014 10:09 AM

      Hey Eileen – sorry to hear about your arthritis etc. I’m glad you found photography. My wife is a photog, she loves it – the only person I know that can spend longer than me looking at an old church yard or some such:) Great these days what we can do with digital cameras.

  8. Joy Makon permalink
    September 14, 2014 6:20 PM

    Interesting, and I will give it a try the next plein air session. Thanks!


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