If You Don’t Get Loose

Sketching As a Starting Point

The Dancers by Patricia Hannaway, charcoal drawing.
The Dancers by Patricia Hannaway, charcoal drawing.

It’s tricky when an activity involves technique but is actually done best when you just get loose and let things happen naturally and effortlessly. Dancing is that way, and learning how to draw and sketching are, in part, that way too.

There are a lot of things you can analyze in drawing. But in the end, you have to take all the lessons you’ve learned and kind of put them to the side and just go with it in a physical way.

That can be hard for me. I like to go over things again and again until I get them “right.” That’s why I am more inclined to pencil sketch rather than do any kind of formal drawing.

Sketching is something you can do almost meditatively, repeatedly going over curves and lines in anatomy sketches. You can work through several iterations of a loose gesture drawing, or do do dozens of quick drawings when sketching faces of people around you.

It’s OK to Be Sketchy — When Drawing

Sketching with a loose gesture is definitely worth a few minutes of warm up.
Sketching with a loose gesture is definitely worth a few minutes of warm up.

Sketch drawing is casual and offhand. You can do it in an almost unconscious way. That sets me at ease when I pick up a pencil, yet I still like to feel a focus or purpose when I sketch.

That’s why I love sketching as a starting point for any studio time. I have dozens of exercise I do just to loosen up. I have filled sketchbooks and sketchbooks with warm-ups like drawing a star without lifting my pencil, as I trace it over and over. I do the same exercise with circles or figure eights. Or, I’ll connect two dots with a line, warming up my hand with my eye, or draw circles within circles that don’t touch–or circles that touch along a line.

There are probably hundreds of these kinds of warm ups, and I haven’t met one I didn’t enjoy doing. And for me, it really helps. I have seen the differences in my own work–drawings that seem more stilted and tensed up versus those that have loose and flowing lines.

And, when I take on more complicated subjects like the human body, the difference is even more pronounced! So give yourself time to loosen up if you jump right in to a drawing and find that you aren’t getting the results you want.

Repetitive motion exercises really help later when drawing the human form.
Repetitive motion exercises really help later when drawing the human form.

When you are indeed ready to take on drawings of anatomy and the human form, let Figure Drawing Studio be your guide. You will glean how to draw the body fluidly and sketch mindfully.

Concepts of a good, expressive drawing are broken down in a time-honored way, so you can learn to sketch by focusing on rhythm, line quality, and form shapes, in a way that never gets old.

Likewise, other sketching lessons bubble up in this resource, too! They stick in my mind like the seeds of a good idea that I’ll be ready to sow once I put pencil to paper. This book really points me in the right direction in terms of taking what I love about sketching into an arena where I have purpose and draw the human figure with intent. So let go and let draw! Enjoy!



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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

3 thoughts on “If You Don’t Get Loose

  1. Courtney,
    You just gave me a wonderful Christmas Gift!!!! I downloaded the Pencil sketch Drawing Lessons and was delighted to find they were by my “Drawing Hero” Dan Gheno!
    Please, please consider having all of his articles collected into a book.
    I subscribe to Drawing, but my issues just go back to 2006. And you no longer have the special issue of his earlier articles published in 2007 available.
    Is there ANY way I can purchase copies of his earlier articles?
    Again, thanks so much for this wonderful download.
    Elsie Hickey Wilson

  2. Courtney,
    I’m retired. I started seriously sketching and painting (watercolors and oils (especially water miscible oils) when we moved nearly four years ago. I think your columns are the most interesting things I read every week. Your work ethic is amazing and you certainly help me become better at appreciating and executing on art. Have you written any books yet? Or would getting all the copyright permissions drive you crazy?

    1. Bill! That made my day! Thank you! I am passionate to a fault about this stuff! I am so glad to hear how it is going with you. Are you on social media? Would love to see you post your work if and when you are ready! Talk soon and I’ll keep it coming!