For years I've been trying to refine my field sketching skills. Anyone who's
followed my blog for a while will know that I keep coming back to that topic.
One of the most difficult aspects of field sketching is being able to quickly
and accurately describe what you're looking at, especially when the key elements
before you may be elusive and fleeting, such as a certain quality of light or
shadow, drifting clouds, animals, or groups of people. Developing fast sketching
techniques can also be helpful when you're travelling with others who may not
be as interested as you are in twenty minute stops to sketch a scene!
Over this past summer I returned to practising speed sketching faces in charcoal
pencil. I kept the portraits small, usually 8/10 cm square, which allowed me
room to create enough detail to be descriptive without getting too fussy. In
the beginning I used TV as reference, mostly for convenience, and because the
images could be paused for extra time to work while I improved on my speed.
At first rendering a quick, decent likeness took way longer than I would have
liked, often six or seven minutes.
I was happy with the line work and shading, but it needed to be much faster if I
wanted to sketch in real time. I kept practising for speed, but I admit I was
seduced by the tools – a medium charcoal stick, a graphite crayon and a large
blending stick – which made some terrific lines and shadows and were great fun
to use. The portraits became much more refined, though not any quicker to execute.
Gradually the process became faster as I became more accustomed to quickly measuring
the distance of facial features, the angle of the head, and light and shadow.
©2017 Jennifer Georgeadis.
Not all of the sketches were successful, especially when I thought too much
about fine rendering and not enough about basic shapes and light. The advantage
of increasing the speed of my sketching is that if I'm doing it right, there
isn't time to think too much! My plan is to take this practice out into the
field (where there's no pause button!) and continue to develop my skills in real time.