Sketching the Wild Wilderness

If art was a place on the map, pencil sketching would be its somewhat lawless backcountry. Sketching is all about freedom from rules and learning how to sketch what's in front of you no matter how unexpected. That's why sketching seem like the perfect method for depicting landscapes that are a little wild and untamed.

Sandpit near Abinger, Surrey by George Price Boyce, watercolor painting, 1866-7.
Sandpit near Abinger, Surrey by George Price Boyce,
watercolor painting, 1866-7.

I grew up in the South. Kudzu and creeping vines covered almost everything if you let it. And while I've left home, my mind–and hand–still love to imitate the curling, meandering line of those vines. I think it is probably the same for a lot of the places we know–for every nice and tidy lawn there is also a landscape not so manicured and well tended just begging for your sketching time.

If you are interested in furthering your experience with pen or pencil and paper, seek out those wild places. They will be a sketching tutorial in themselves!

A) The lines you see will be varied, testing your eye to really "see."

B) The large shapes you make out won't fit into conventional molds–calling on your skills with composition to accentuate them to the best effect.

C) You will also learn how to sketch in ways that will show you what hatching, cross-hatching, and simple line can really do.

Thistles Along the Roadside by Vincent van Gogh, drawing, 1888.
Thistles Along the Roadside
by Vincent van Gogh, drawing, 1888.

This kind of exploration isn't about playing by the rules. It is about using your artistic muscles in new ways that will make them grow stronger, just like a hike that goes off the trail has you using muscles you might not have worked if you had stayed on the path.

I've come to realize what a changeling sketching can be by using it to draw those "lawless" places I've discovered–as well as seeing the works of other draftsmen in the resources in the Urban Sketcher Kit of the Month. Each guide shows artists working in different ways, and yet they are all connected because of the respect they give to mark making and using it to further their art, not keep them in the same comfortable place. I hope it is the same for you. Enjoy!

P.S. Tell me what wild places you've sketched or painted. Thanks!

Related Posts:


Artist Daily Blog
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 “Sketching the Wild Wilderness

  1. I learned to use my camelback as a small desk in the woods which I can balance a sketch pad on and holding a small box of pastels I have sketched the green mountain national forest in southern vermont on my backwoods skis. You have to work fast or you get cold but it better than trying to burn the images into your brain and draw them when you get home