The Sketch – Why sketching?

This is about the sketch in the area of visual arts, more specifically drawing. So, what exactly is a sketch?

According to the literal meaning of the Italian word "schizzo", from which the term "sketch" derives, we talk about a "hasty jotted" drawing.
A sketch is a drawing which is intended to represent the characteristics of the subject or the model with just a few incisive strokes. It is drawn quickly, and so it lives by the freshness of the stroke and the immediacy of expression.

Sketch of an elk

The meaning of a sketch

A sketch can basically fulfill four functions:

  1. Depict impression & mood
  2. Orientation
  3. Emphasis on important characteristics
  4. Graphically study

1. A sketch depicts impression & mood

An important aspect of a sketch is the retention of the impression and mood of a certain moment. Both are not quite the same. The impression that a landscape leaves behind the viewer can be different from the mood.
Mood and impression can hardly be fixed in an elaborated drawing or painting. Both characteristics are much too fleeting, while the completion of a painting or drawing is usually too elaborate and protracted.

sketch of a lion
Snapshot - sketch of a lion in action

Sketch of a cityscape
Sketch of a cityscape (Munich, Odeonsplatz)

2. A sketch gives orientation

Using a sketch, the draftsman can learn how to find himself in a new, foreign space. With the sketch the artist exercises the representation of a motif and thereby learns how to draw the object.
A sketch is intended to describe the form and the object. The forms and structures can be confusing, especially in motifs that are painted for the first time. Through sketching you begin to orient yourself within the subject. The rough form and its proportions are depicted, followed by internal forms and structures. Thus, with the help of the sketch, the draftsman decrypts the geometry of the model.

Sketch with paints
Sketch with paints
sketching a still life
First design of a still life

3. Emphasis on important characteristics

Often a sketch is drawn in respect of a picture that you intend to paint later. Under this consideration, a sketch can also serve to elaborate the special features of the motif. That means that you will emphasizes in the sketch what appears to be important to you. It is also possible to determine whether this emphasis produces the desired optical effect.
In short, the idea of a picture is fixed with the sketch.

A sketch for holding an idea

create a picture by sketching
Sketching for the creation of a painting

4. Graphically study

A sketch can also correspond to a study - like it is often done when drawing animals. In the study, the model is examined by the artist. In this case you try to study ways and methods to draw a certain subject. That means, you simply test how you can represent the particular object.

Animal study
Animal study - jellyfish

Animal study sketch
Sketch of an octopus arm

More worth knowing about the sketch

Contrary to what one might think, the sketch is not drawn completely intuitively. Rather, it is so that the few lines you draw must be placed very consciously. Sketching therefore requires a great deal of attention and concentration. This circumstance presents a certain discrepancy for the expressive representation of a moment, an impression, and a mood to be realized by the sketch.
Whoever begins to draw will initially sketch rather than create elaborated drawings. And this is the right way because you learn through sketching simply how to draw. The drawing of sketches also helps to a conscious and accurate perception, since here the insubstantial details have to be omitted and thus the essential of the motif is expressed.

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