Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Developing a style, urban sketching, and other thoughts on drawing

This semester one of my favorite books to flip through has been The Art of Urban Sketching, a book comprised of sketches from artists in cities around the world. Included are annotations by the artists about their process of sketching and even what materials and strategies they recommend. I believe this is the webpage for a related drawing blog. Most of the drawings took artists between 15 minutes and three hours to sketch. Some are proefessional illustrators, architects, or simply enjoy sketching as a hobby. Their styles vary tremendously.

A standout quote from the book was, “Since the real world rarely looks like its made of fine, black and white lines the sketcher is constantly creating visual metaphor what he’s seeing” writes Walt Taylor (p. 270). This has been helpful quote to keep in mind during the course of Drawing 199. As I have recognized the power of one single line if contrast and juxtaposition are also applied in the drawing.

Top artist picks

There are a few artists that stood out to me while scanning through The Art of Urban Sketching. One of them is Ch’ng Kiah Kiean who draws urban landscapes of Penang, Malaysia. He includes a lot of texture and has a very distinctive style. The smudging of graphite next to short pricks help to give transitions to elements in the drawing. In his drawings I also notice how excluding some information about the urban scene can focus or guide the viewer on other elements.
From The Art of Urban Sketching

Another sketcher from New York, Danielle McManus, incorporates the impression of  movement in her artwork. In the the metropolitan museum of art. The vertical points of buildings are not drawn perpendicular to the page and there are, for instance, many lines representing one edge of a building. This style of sketching lends more movement and liveliness to the drawing. Experiencing the drawing does not feel like you are limited to one viewpoint. The drawings of Stuart Kerr also convey a sort of informality. He uses spots of color in strategic points in the drawing that make more incomplete, but also captivated effect. Another sketcher - Juliana Russo- suggests that you don’t think of the framing meticulously starting. Rather it is rewarding starting a sketch without knowing how the drawing will fill the page (93).

For all these artists the mediums they use to sketch are a foundation for their style. For instance I enjoy the effect that Pentel brush pen or the use of fountain pen. In The Art of Urban Sketching some artists note that they use brush pens to denote landscape and trees.

Developing a drawing style

Example of my sketches
The Duke Union offered a figure drawing that I attended this semester. It included short and fast paced sessions of drawing the human body. This workshop helped out my sketching ability. For developing a drawing style, short drawing time is helpful because the goal is to get as much information down on paper. Style seems to come naturally when there is no time to consider it. With longer drawing sessions I find that I spend less spend more and more time questioning drawing choices. This studio experience and working in my sketchbook has helped loosen up my drawing style and increased the efficiency of my drawing sessions.

While style and technique is important for drawing, observation is a skill I have found most challenging, but most rewarding to improve. Another student blogged earlier about how you have to go against instinct in order to measure what is there, not what you subjectively assume is there. Observation is key to understanding urban spaces. It is like a type of listening.

Final thoughts
So often I learn by looking at a screen. Especially for coursework in the Visual and Media Studies major, the focal point is digital forms; the powerpoint projection, the computer screen. I constantly discover with the aid of digital technology especially with software like AutoCAD, Photshop, Sketchup and even geospatial programs like ArcGIS. Drawing has offered a different experience. To absorb information by observing reality rather than its representation has been valuable, freeing, and has provided a foundation to digital forms of drawing like AutoCAD.

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