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Sketching Essence & Colour

Sketch like an Impressionist!

"Impressionism" is based on the practice of painting out of doors and spontaneously 'on the spot' rather than in a studio from sketches. It was a move away from a more

realistic style that aspired to perfectly 

smooth, blended canvases and accurate

representations. The artist's mark, line or

brushstroke is a part of the art!

• Use short, loose, visible marks;

• Working quickly; aiming for essence - not details.

• Paying attention to movement and play of

light; trying to capture it. 


Practicing sketching in this way helps us to:

1. create more interesting marks for our designs

2. "loosen up" and sketch ideas more readily and easily

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1. Try the "wrong" way:

Newsprint & fineliner/pencil. 5 min

• Find a "view" - decide on an area to draw

• Two-minute sketch

• One minute sketch.

It's hard to capture essence and energy with a fine tool, right?

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Having not done any real sketching for quite a while, certainly no timed pieces since my degree this was quite a shock! I was really out of practice. My proportions were off, this it made it hard to pick the key features to give the essence of the subject with the minimal information I had time to do. The thin lines were also an impairment when short on time, I couldn't do thick gestural sweeps.

The one minute piece was even harder, despite having just had 2 minutes to learn what did and didn't work, the was little to no time to improve on what i'd just done. In the first sketch you can see correction strokes, features starting to take shape, albeit badly but the second attempt was literally the placement of features, one shot right or wrong, no time to go back and re-think it. 

I need to reprogram my brain to actually look at what I am seeing not what I think I am seeing. I had made the eyes, noes and mouth far too big. On reflection I should have started on the outside and worked in, mapping the outline and constantly referring to where each feature is in relation to another. Not easy though in one/two minutes!

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2 minutes

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2 minutes

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1 minute

We decided to have another go at this task and it was really interesting, by the time i was doing the one minute sketch the lines were stronger and I feel the creature's essence had been captured far better than my first 2 minute attempt. I was more focused to achieve what I could in the time and I suppose the two 'practice' runs at 2 mins had given me the information I needed to whiz the same out in half the time, just bolder and more freely.


Claude Monet - Les Glacons (1880)

2. WARMUP Newsprint & Charcoal: Divide page in 8 and make marks in each section (no subject) 5 min.

Try to avoid "HAIRY" lines!! be deliberate.

Vary pressure: Press hard, press light.

Vary control: Hold it at the tip or the far end.

Vary line: Use the tip, use the side.

Shorter, longer, straight, curved lines.

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This was fun, could have filled up 2 more pages doing this. This didn't require too much thought, I just let my hand lead me where it wanted.

It would have be fun to try with a few different medium to see how the might compare, would I make the same marks and if i do how different would they look.

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3. Newsprint & Charcoal: 15 min

Change the "view" a little

Set a timer to do sketches for this long:

3 min, 1min 30, 45sec, 20sec, 10sec, 5sec, 2sec

You can capture more energy and essence with a bold tool. Compare the quality of the lines. Which are more interesting?

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I had warmed up by the time we did this exercise, I considered the subject in terms of having only a small amount of time in which to capture it's essence and I felt the mask might be a little easier, In fact I found it really satisfying as up to 5 secs I felt I did a reasonable job with the marks and even 2 seconds you can tell what it is.

Paul Cezanne - The Gulf of Marseilles (1885)

4. Newsprint & Charcoal : 20 min

Alter the view again.

Include people if you haven't yet.

Work at your own pace, do as many as you like - but stay impressionist!

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This was a fun but frustrating exercise, I was very out of practise with faces, but I really enjoyed Fran's jumper,  choosing which marks would suggest the large knit roll neck and cuffs, and the Breton striped long sleeve jersey  visible on her arms. I felt i was starting to capture the crease and feel of the clothing but missed the expression and personality of Fran in her face. More practice and more looking. I feel the boldness of the strokes were positive though.

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5. Cartridge Paper & Acrylic : 20 min

Using one colour only, experiment with line, pressure, control, then sketch quickly. We'll use paint next so this is just to get a feel for it. Work at your own pace, do as many as you like - but stay impressionist!

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My hares proportions were all wrong, the head was way too small, I started with the head and went from there and in hindsight I needed to mark everything out before committing to any definite stokes.

I followed this rule for my final piece and i do think this turned out much better, having everything in proportion does leave a lot more freedom for interpretive strokes to create that 'impression' and feeling of what you are drawing without being accurate to the detail.

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Damien Hirst - Veil of Love Everlasting (2017)

Optical Mixing

1. Creating secondary colours (10 min)

Draw 3 small boxes approx 3×3cm (doesn't need to be neat) Fill each with a secondary colour by using two 

primaries: put dots/short strokes of two primaries next to each other. No mixing!

Orange = Red + Yellow

Green = Yellow + Blue

Purple = Blue + Red

Squint at it / look from a distance - see how the colour mixes.

I expected this this to be easier than it was. We ran out of time in the workshop to complete anymore of the tasks in this section, I would really like to have more time to play around with optical mixing, a more cyan based blue for the purple and green, I think the blue we used was far too dark to achieve a good blend. I think the closer the tone the easier for them to blur. I would also liked to have been able to produce smaller dots, as it was I was rushing and didn't pick the best equipment but i think with a bit of patience I could have got a better result.

I was hoping to get some time to continue the exercises set in the class but haven't. I did, however, look at a little bit of the colour theory around colours and colour mixing and found this interesting article about warm and cool colours, click here to read

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