July 19, 2010

guest blog: "sew-what" a micro-sketch morning

A couple of weeks ago Chantilly put the word out on Twitter that she was looking for a guest blogger. My Girl Thursday is one of those rare blogs that’s always got something interesting to read, see and learn from and I figured I’d offer my pen and pencil to the mix.

Now, I’m typically not a crafty person; I don’t sew or bake, although I am fascinated by the extreme levels of creativity I see in those things. I’m more of a sketch hobbyist

Who’s Got the Time?

I am a husband and father, and work as a creative director in the advertising market. Much of my day is spent behind a computer coming up with marketing plans for my clients. When I get home I have to be crafty with my time. I want to be able to spend quality time with my family and also find a few minutes to do some sketching. I give myself a set of amount of time, usually 30 to 60 minutes in the evenings. I focus in on a subject, working quickly to get a result. I call this method micro-sketching. Working this way helps me dissolve all of the reasons I can find to not sit down and create something.

Sew What?

After I offered to guest blog, I questioned whether my particular set of skills would be the right fit for MGT, but Chantilly expunged those worries and suggested that I do a breakdown of how I might work out drawing a sewing machine. I thought this was a great idea and it fit right in with my micro-sketch philosophy; just draw something.

I’m more partial to pen and ink sketching, but I’ve learned that in order to grow I should experiment with other mediums. That’s why I always add to my art supply set. By investing in new supplies a bit each month, I’ve slowly grown my tools without breaking my bank account


For this micro-sketch morning I wanted share a variety of sketching techniques that I use, trying to utilize a variety of papers and tools that I may apply during any given session.

I pulled out 5 papers for this project; Bristol Vellum, Newsprint, Canson Sketch, Bristol Smooth and Watercolor.

Newsprint & the General

I think it’s always a good idea to start with a few preliminary sketches before you work on a final piece. It warms up the fingers and gets your hand-eye coordination all synced up. Newsprint and Graphite Sketching Pencils work pretty good for this.

Newsprint tends to get a bit thin when I over render a drawing on it. It forces me to find my lines quickly.

Sketch Paper, Pens, Markers & the Claw

There are a lot of inexpensive sketch papers out there, and I usually keep a lot of it on hand. Sketch paper accepts pen and ink a lot better than newsprint. You’ll get a much smoother line with very little bleed. One of my favourite tools in my sketch-kit is my claw-grip drafting pencil. I am more comfortable doing breakdowns with this over any other pencil I have.

I do breakdowns for most of my drawings, then go back with pen and ink for a more finished look.

Vellum, Bamboo & Sepia

Vellum Paper is a bit thicker and has mild texture to it. I use this for a lot of pen and ink sketches, but it’s especially useful for experimenting with Bamboo Pens, Brushes and Colored Ink.

Drawing with Bamboo Pens and Brushes isn’t very precise (at least not in my hand), but it creates a really nice effect because of this variable. I don’t do a pencil breakdown for this type of sketch. Having any sort of guideline can make it a bit too stiff, which kills the point of doing it quickly. This exercise, more than any other, helps strengthen the coordination between hand and eye.

Smooth Dipping, Ochre & Red

This plays a bit on the technique used on the last one, but rather than using bamboo tools, I use more traditional dipping pens and brushes. A number 3 round Acrylic Brush works great for this.

I lay down a quick approximation of the image on Bristol Smooth Paper with the brush and ink. It’s good to keep a piece of scrap Bristol in your work area to test out the brush’s stroke. Once the India Ink is dry I use Dip Pens to scratch out the details of the subject.

Sable, Ink, Wash & Watercolour

I saved my favourite technique for last. I’ve always enjoyed sketching with a pencil, and then inking in the fine details with a number 3 Sable Brush. Since this piece would be watercoloured I used a really hard 3H Pencil for the breakdown. It erases easily and doesn’t leave a lot smudging.

After hacking out the details add 2 caps of clean water to a small cup, then 3 drops of India Ink to create a preliminary ink wash mixture. Basic Watercolor Brushes are really good for this. After the ink wash dries I typically add a few more drops of ink to the cup, creating a darker mixture. I repeat this method until I’m satisfied with the tones.

The India Ink is water-proof, and once it’s dry then there is no problem with the ink washing away when I start adding watercolour.

Now, , I’m not a well-developed watercolour artist, but it’s still a lot of fun. To keep things simple I usually purchase cheap sets that have a lot of colours.

Once the watercolor is good and dry I go back and hit some hi-lites with an opaque white acrylic ink. It’s a small touch, but it really does help bring out a few of the details that get lost in the watercolouring process.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little micro-sketch project as much as I have. It’s always nice to be able to share your hobbies and methods with other creative folks. That’s how we learn from each other and get motivated to try new things.

They key is to experiment and not take it to seriously. Grow your pool of supplies. Keep a variety of papers on hand. Don’t worry about perfection.

Take a break from the hustle every now and then and just draw something. You may be surprised by what you are capable of achieving. As always, the more you do it the better you will get.

I’d like to thank Chantilly for the opportunity, and for the great idea. This has been a tremendous joy for me. If you’re interested in learning more about the way I do things, or have questions, then add my blog, The Parker Brand Way, to your favourite RSS feed reader, or visit my website.

Keep it crafty. -OP

To download the unabridged version of this guest blog please click here.