Creating Sketches: “How do you do that?”

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It’s a pretty simple process really.

STEP 1: I start with an object (either from life or from one of my photos) and draw a rough sketch in light pencil.
STEP 2: Outline in pen. I keep the lines I like, change the ones I don’t. And add a little more detail. The most fulfilling part of this process is erasing those pencil-sketch lines. The drawing really pops then!
I use Micron pens (waterproof – that’s important!).
STEP3: Add a light wash of watercolor.
Note: one aspect of my process is very unusual. For these little sketches, I use a 5×7″ sketchpad – not watercolor paper (crazy!). The water soaks in fast so I work pretty quickly.
STEP4: Add background.
By the way, I only use 12 colors: the reds (alizarin crimson & windsor red), yellows (new gamboge & aureolin), blues (antwerp & ultramarine), and six colors I just really like (yellow ochre, burnt sienna, cobalt turquoise, sap green, payne’s grey and perylene violet)
STEP5: Layer in another round of color. Intensify some areas, add color details to others, emphasize shadows.
STEP6: Sign, scan, crop, and upload.

Each piece takes 1-4 hours to create, the majority of that is spent on STEP2 (inking).

One very important (and unseen) part of the process is practice. I’ve been learning, trying (messing up), and experimenting for almost 30 years now. While most people think learning how to use watercolors is the key, it’s not. Learning how to draw is the most valuable tool. Once you have that firm foundation, the rest is icing. Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “Creating Sketches: “How do you do that?”

  1. Thanks for showing (literally–love the animation) your process. Interesting the different ways one can approach making art. Unless I’m doing a pencil drawing, I prefer to just plunge right in with ink or paint. And I don’t often combine ink and watercolor; when I do I prefer to paint first, ink last. (K)

  2. Enjoyed reading about your process and seeing the animated sketches. Very effective. I’ve decided to allow most my journal sketches to be sort of wonky and I typically start in pen. Pencil if I want to be more exact. I agree with you that the drawing is key!

  3. Thanks for showing your process :-). Very interesting to see the watercolor layers. How did you animate your process? Is it a gif?

    I can’t visualize the watercolor layers in a scene. But I suppose I just need to try a few times and after that it will come more naturally. One of these days I will try watercolors (I just need to think about it for an excruciatingly long time first).

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