How to Create Loose and Energetic Sketches and Paintings

Sapa VietnamLocals chatting during breakfast in Sapa, Vietnam

Recently, an artist commented that my sketches were loose and energetic. She said that she likes to sketch but often get caught up with perfection rather than capturing a moment.

I told her to sketch with a pen. Once she use it, she will realize that the marks she make will (obviously!) be permanent. Her brain will force the eyes to see better in order to express better. She will learn to appreciate the wobbly line that adds character to the picture. She will savour the moment more. Perfection won’t be the focus as she starts to enjoy the process of creating. She will begin to notice the little details and nuances of life. The inked sketches will enable her to relive the experience.

Pizza Buccheta from Calabrisella PizzaPizza Bruchetta

Tips on how to create loose and energetic sketches and paintings…

  1. Use a pen. Get a waterproof pen if you wish to paint with watercolor later. Choose the one with archival quality so that the ink won’t fade over time. I use Sakura Pigma Micron pen. Of course you can use any pen you have on hand.
  2. Observe and ask questions. Take the time to actually see the subject really close or from a distance. Observe with your senses. Ask yourself questions like: where does the line begin and end; where is the light coming from; how high is that building compare to the other one?
  3. Express creatively. It is not about trying to render something as accurately as possible. As an artist, aren’t we called to NOT copy everything we see? Add your own artistic style and personality in your work! I love what Fred Lynch said: “If we don’t follow our own interests, but rather, do what’s expected, or familiar,  we end up creating drawings of drawings or pictures of pictures. Sure, we can draw famous things – they’re famous for a reason- but we should try to add something new to what is said about it – something personal, and thus, memorable. We can’t just show things, we have to say things. Try to stand apart from the crowd.”
  4. Enjoy the learning process. Made a mistake? Turn it into something wonderful! Made a “really terrible” mistake? Turn the page and start anew. Every time you make a mistake, ask yourself what you can learn from it and how you can improve and become a better artist.
  5. Try alternative blind contour. This is my own version of using the blind contour method except that I don’t use a single line and I will sometimes look at the paper. For example, I look at the object I’m sketching and start to sketch its contour (edges) while still fixing my eyes on the subject. Then I will quickly look on the paper to check the accuracy like the distance and placement of details. Then my eyes will go back to the object as my hand moves. This technique is a great warm up to create loose sketches.
  6. Paint wet on wet. This technique in watercolor is the most exciting because of how the colors spread like fireworks, creating wonderful blending and transition. While the paper is wet (not flooded), drop in one color after another. Tilt the paper to allow the flow or just let it be.

rekindlememories photo

To put the above into practice, I am excited to share about #RekindleMemories! It is about remembering and appreciating–the details, thoughts, feelings–of a place, person, thing and moment by sketching and painting our lives on-location wherever we are in the world!

Every first week of the month, we will all share one (or as many!) sketches/paintings of our lives that has captured our interest. We will tag our artworks with #rekindlememories and the country where you’re from (i.e. #singapore). You can either post your artwork on Instagram, Pen and Watercolor Workshop Facebook group or Rekindle Memories group in Doodlewash or anywhere you wish in social media. Please don’t forget the hashtags so I can easily find your work!

A gallery will be created to celebrate the inspiration of art made from around the world! We will start from 1st until 7th of July 2017–just in time for World Watercolor Month! Please come and join in the fun! :)

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Sketch Your Life Wherever You Are!

A free ebook that helps you create expressive sketches of your life in pen and watercolor.

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