I have always stressed the importance of keeping a sketchbook. My studio at home is jam-packed full of sketchbooks – big ones, small ones, skinny ones, fat ones, (yes, this is sounding like a Dr. Seuss book…)
Karen Elaine’s idea of nano sketching, though. I admit I fell in love with this idea as soon as I read about it! Sketchbooks, minified! Sort of like flash fiction, only for art. And like flash fiction does for writing, nano sketching condenses your art into a small, confined area, which helps to tighten skills and sharpen focus.
So, what is a nano sketch?
Nano sketches are quick gesture drawings done with a pencil (no erasing) keeping the lines loose light and free.
Sounds pretty simple. We used to do exercises like this in art school. Sometimes we would have to look only at the subject and never down at the paper – you know, if you want to take this to an even more advanced level. Or are a bit of a masochist. Either way.
Nano sketches are quick and usually done in a public place.
Since the journals themselves tend to be so small, this makes sense. Think of the possibilities! I would love to take one of these on vacation with me and do sort of a sketch-journal about my experiences!
A real useful trick is to photograph your subject first so you have an image to refer to when things change (and they always do) and if you want to complete the sketch at a later time.
I love the above piece of advice. I almost never finish a sketch in time — and when I am drawing active scenes, it’s great to grab a shot of the instance for future reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of difficult for me to sketch someone jumping in mid-air in the nanosecond it takes them to jump up and then hit the ground again.
If you can do that, you must be some sort of superhero, and you should be out fighting crime instead of sketching.
Making time for nano sketches every day is a quick and easy way to practice drawing and painting skills and to observe the world in an entirely different way.
Seriously, though, I have been trying to make it a goal to draw something daily. Even more so, to draw things I actually see (as opposed to things from my crazy ADHD mind) to help hone and refine my skills. Art is kind of like riding a bike. If you stop riding, you start to lose the basics and you don’t ride nearly as well as if you had ridden daily.
Or something like that. I’m bad at metaphors.
Anyway, I highly recommend you check this guest post out at Doodlewash! Karen goes into much more detail, and her sketches are lovely! (I mean, just look at that cat. So adorable!)
Scroll down to the end of the post for the link to the full article. And, enjoy!
Greetings, my name is Karen Elaine and I am an artist, author and teacher living in the mountains near Sedona, Arizona living with my husband and cat (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I’m the author of Origami Card Craft and The Art of Kumomi as well as other books on paper crafting […]
via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Nano-Sketching by Karen Elaine — Doodlewash
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
The importance of sketching: artists hear it all the time. (No? Just me?) We should sketch every chance we get, they say.
Well, they’re not wrong.
Think of sketching like riding a bike. It takes practice to gain enough skill to stay on the bike, even more so to get it to move forward. We must practice to learn to stop. We must practice to do wheelies. When we don’t practice, we lose the skills we have learned. They grow rusty. Harder to perform.
So, yes, sketching is important, and below I’ve outlined my top seven reasons to keep a sketchbook with you at all times and practice, practice, practice! (Why seven? Because I’m a rebel like that. Take that, number ten! I do what I want!)
Sketchbooks are snapshots in time
Think of a sketchbook as a type of journal. Each time you sketch something in it, you are capturing – immortalizing – a moment in time. Journals do the same, just with words.
Sketching reduces stress
I can’t speak for everyone, but when I start drawing, I tend to get lost in my own world. Everything around me fades. My worries melt away. I fall into a zen-like state where nothing exists but that very moment. And, when I finish, I feel at ease and I am filled with satisfaction.
Sketching improves skill
Sketching, as mentioned above, allows us to practice and improve our skills. By sketching the things around us, we see the world with an artistic eye and a different perspective.
Sketching fights boredom
Before the time of smart phones, I never left home without a book (or two or three), a sketchbook, and my pencils. Waiting at the doctor, standing in a line, waiting for class to start (though that one was a quite a while ago…), you would see me with my nose in a book or else feverishly drawing something in my sketchbook. The time always passed much quicker, then – and unlike with smart phones, I actually had something to show for it at the end. 🙂
Sketchbooks store thoughts and ideas
I’ve actually got what I call a scratch-book in my purse at all times. It is sort of a sketchbook on steroids. I sketch, jot down ideas, mind-map (more on that at a later date). It helps me better organize my scatterbrained ideas.
Sketching makes us think
Sketching opens me up to whole new ways of thinking. When I start drawing, I look at things in a different perspective and in a new light. I ask questions. These questions lead to ideas. I jot the ideas down on paper and sketch them out. So the cycle continues.
Sketching allows us to truly experience the world around us
We have multiple senses for a reason. Use them. Never assume that because drawings and paintings are a visual medium that other senses don’t come into play. On the contrary. They evoke memory and personal experience. While a person may not actually smell a drawing of the sea, a well-done artwork will evoke a strong memory that transports the viewer into the scene. That is the power of experience.
What reasons do you have for keeping a sketchbook? Or, if you don’t draw, what sorts of tools do you use to experience the world around you? I’d love to hear them, so be sure to post them in the comments below!
We all have those moments when inspiration disappears into a black hole of drudgery. “I’ve got writer’s block,” we say. Or, “My muse has left me!”
Whatever we may call it, the dry spell that comes every so often in every creative’s life is nothing to laugh about. For many of us, the act of creating is akin to the act of breathing. It is vital to our survival.
The inevitable always happens. When it does, what can we do to keep the creative oxygen flowing? I have compiled a list of tricks that I have found over the years to keep me creating, even when I have no creativity left. (Most of these will be geared more toward visual art, but almost all of them can be interchangeable to different types of creative avenues).
Keep an ideas journal. Recently, I have started jotting down ideas as they come to me into a sort of scratch-pad journal. This is great for a couple of reasons: A) I don’t forget ideas that I have (because, let’s face it, I’m a total scatterbrain); and B) I can reference those ideas during times when I can’t think of a good idea to save my life.
Look at art/writing prompts. Illustration Friday is a wonderful resource for artists and illustrators! Each Friday, they post a word, and thousands of artists create something to illustrate that word. There are also many posts on Pinterest for writing and art prompts. You can do a search, or follow me to see things I’ve pinned already.
Read abook. Research a particular subject matter. Start reading through books of a similar genre. Whatever the type, just read! I often get ideas in the middle of reading a really good story. And, you could take it a step further and expand on the type of entertainment. Movies, TV, plays, concerts — all of these are great avenues to foster creativity.
Immerse yourself in learning something new. Do you prefer writing fiction? Try your hand at poetry. Do you draw people really well? Try drawing animals or machines. Take a class. Learn a new technique or medium. The opportunities are endless!
Change your location. Even if inspiration has not struck, the simple act of stepping outside of familiar settings with a sketchpad in hand can be beneficial. There is never a shortage of things to draw, both inside and outside.
Look at things from a different perspective. I mean this literally and figuratively. Even if you have drawn it a thousand times before…draw it again! Try a different view. Use different colors. Try different times of day. I guarantee you will learn something new every time.
Learn from others. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” (Charles Caleb Colton.) So, go out and imitate! Write fan fiction. Sketch some of your favorite characters. Watch biographies of your mentors. Not everything you create has to be 100% absolutely unique (and there’s a pretty good chance it’s not, anyway. Only five plots and all that jazz). The important thing is to make it yours.
Try philosophy. Sort of. I just mean, ask questions. Hard questions. Make yourself think. Things like, “What would happen if I___?” or “What does it mean to___?” Often just asking questions opens up a whole new world full of possibilities.
Listen to music. There have been so many times that I will be staring at a blank page in horror, with no earthly idea how to manifest something from nothing. Those times, I often turn to music. Whatever mood I am trying to convey, that is the genre I choose. It usually doesn’t take long for things to take shape in my mind once the music starts flowing.
Take a mini break from life. I will be the first to admit that stress stifles creativity. Sometimes, in order to break through a dry spell, we must get away from the things that cause us stress. Whether a stay-cation, vacation, excavation (okay, maybe not that), do something you enjoy and leave work at work.
“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”
Those are my favorite things to try when I am struggling to find inspiration. I would love to hear your thoughts! What sort of things to you do to tap into your creativity?
I am a professional artist who specializes in pop art, illustration, and graphic design. My work includes both digital and a mix of traditional wet media. (Check out my art gallery to view my work!) I find inspiration from animation (e.g. Disney and Japanese anime), fantasy, fairy tales, and those magical little moments in everyday life.