Rabbit from imagination.

Yes, You Too Can Draw! – Ch 5 — The Magic Sketch Pad

Welcome back to a new chapter of Yes, You Too Can Draw! In today’s lesson, we’re going to talk about one of the most important tools you’ll ever use, your sketch pad. Before we get too deep into the use of a sketch pad, let’s review our previous chapter

Review Time

In the last chapter, we learned all about image transferring:

  • A brief overview of image transferring.
  • How to prepare a photo without destroying it.
  • How to crop out one aspect of the photo.
  • Worked through the process of breaking down our image.
  • A step-by-step demonstration of creating a similar grid on a blank piece of paper.
  • An understanding of why we broke down our image into segments and drew each segment, one at a time.

Why you Should Buy a Sketch Pad Today

So Now What Mr. Ego?! Have you been practicing your drawing lately? Have you at least doodled?

If not I have a cheap and easy solution that every artist and doodler should have. It’s called a sketch pad/book. (And the eyes roll here.) They come in all sizes, in different page counts, different types of paper, and in a wide price range. You can practically find them in almost any store.

I’ve used Target’s cheapest sketch pad. I think it was $2 USD. The paper’s pretty decent, but whoever made them used a really cheap glue, so the pages fall out. (Nothing that a staple gun couldn’t fix.) But it’s small, and I can take it anywhere. With a mechanical pencil and a Sharpie marker, I can sketch, doodle, and flesh-out ideas to my heart’s content.

Places to Take your Sketch Pad…

You can and should take your sketch pad everywhere. You’ll never know when that latest spark of inspiration will strike. Some ideal places would be the mall, a park, or a college campus. Drive downtown, to a theme park, or any other place you’d find interesting subjects. Potential subjects will be anywhere you look.

Potential Subjects for your Sketch Book

Ideally, you’ll consider drawing people first. The trouble with people is that they have the tendency to move, walk around, or look at you strangely like you’re some pervert. (We’ll get into that later.) If you do choose to draw people, be prepared to sketch rapidly, and leave some flexibility in your sketch in case your muse turns his/her head or shifts a limb. I know some of us to have photographic memories, but for the rest of us, this is not easy.

After a while, your mind will be able to grab most of the major details so your sketch will actually look like a person. Sketching folks in public will also build up your drawing skills and help you learn about the human anatomy. Your proportions will become more and more accurate. You’ll also learn how to draw clothing and develop a better idea of how different fabrics drape over the human body

Sketches of people from one of my sketch pads.
Sketches of people from one of my sketch pads.

Now we need to discuss a topic or problem that you’ll likely run into. This reminds me of the debate I heard about in a college photography class about whether or not it’s right to take pictures of people in public places without their consent. When your sketching people, I’ll assume you won’t go to everyone you see and ask them if it’s okay if you draw them for a few seconds.

From my experiences, whenever I make it too obvious that I’m observing them (regardless if they can tell if I’m sketching them or not) I’ll get dirty or awkward looks. This can lead to a possible guilt trip since it’ll be an awkward moment and you’re not trying to be a weirdo. My best advice would be to be as discreet as possible and train your eyes to scan for the most important details of your subject. After you’re able to capture the most important details on paper, if possible, then you’ll look for the next layer of details to capture. Sketching strangers in public is in itself an art form. After a while, you’ll pick up your own habits and tricks.

Sketches from out in the field.
Sketches from out in the field.

The Magic of Inanimate Objects

Luckily while you’re out and about in the world, you won’t be just drawing people. You can draw all sorts of inanimate objects such as trees, cars, buildings, benches, etc. The nice thing about inanimate objects is that they don’t move (so you can take your time), they can’t complain, and the experience is usually a bit more enjoyable. Also consider drawing common objects around the house: your coffee cup, tv, chair, etc. These will most likely be things that you’ll commonly draw in any of your more serious works.

Sketching Animals in a Sketch Pad

Much like humans, animals will have the tendency to move around. And depending upon the temperament and personality of the animal, you may or may not be able to sketch it. For example, if you own a pretty hyper dog, you’ll most likely spend your time messing with it rather than drawing it. A calmer animal like a cat or horse will prove to be a better opportunity.

A possible consideration is to sketch your animal from a photograph. I know this isn’t the same as sketching it out in the wild, plus you’ll run into some distortions (mainly involving light) by the camera. If you’re struggling to find a critter that can stay still long enough to sketch, you may want to consider doing an image search in Google or Bing.

Keeping in mind the issue of copyrights, which you should always respect, I find it’s perfectly fine to sketch photos from the web given the fact that you’re doing this as a form of practice. My rule of thumb is unless you’re making a profit or undermining the value of the creator’s work (since you’re doing this as practice) you’re not harming anyone. Now if you’re planning on publicly displaying any of your sketches (possibly online), do try to provide credit to the original creator or the owner of the copyright.

Horse study from sketch pad
Horse study from a sketch pad.

Drawing from the Imagination

That’s right. That deep, dark place you hardly ever visit, let alone use. I know some of us upfront will have trouble with this. it’s extremely important to draw from your imagination. It’s a form of mental exercise. Just like how you need exercise to keep your body fit, you also need to exercise your mind to keep it fit.

One of the parts of the mind you need to work out is the imagination. This is the place where your ideas form. The imagination is also one of the places where you can work out those ideals.

Sketching from your imagination lets you get your ideas in your sketch pad so you can see if they’ll actually work or not. Getting stuff out of your mind and onto your sketch pad is a way of playing around with your ideas and solving those problems that seem impossible to wrap your mind around. At least you can get them out in front of your eyes in the visual world. The stuff you could be sketching from your imagination could be variations of a new character, a concept you’ve been tinkering within your head, or a visual solution you’ve been working on.

Rabbit from imagination on a sketch pad
Rabbit from imagination. Click to enlarge.

Girl and Girl heads on a sketch pad
Girl and Girl heads. Click to enlarge.

Have Fun with Your Sketch Pad!

This is the most important rule. If you’re not enjoying yourself, then why even waste your time? You don’t just have to use a pencil with your sketch pad. Try using a pen, marker, stick of charcoal, or a color pencil. Experiment as much as possible. Keep your work exciting and your motivation will just grow.

Today’s Sketch Book Assignment:

Buy a sketchbook [Amazon] and something to draw with.

• Find a place to sketch and draw.

© 2013, 2022 Chris Hilbig