Turning a "Glance" Sketch Into a "Stare" Drawing

Recently I have been sketching on the train and in the train station. It took me quite a while to get up the courage to do it, and so far it is going well, though the process is different than when I am drawing in class. When I sketch in the train station at least, I just look around and see something that I am attracted to, like a blue suitcase with a weathered purse sitting on top of it, and I capture the object of my gaze in a few lines. Formal drawing is different–a more thoughtful process than when I am just doing quick sketches to capture the gesture or motion of a subject. I think of drawing versus sketching as the difference between a stare and a glance.

A sketch drawing by Monica Bean.
A sketch drawing by Monica Bean.

As the stare reference suggests, I approach drawing much more methodically and with more focus. I think about what it is I am going to draw. I ask myself questions. Pencil or charcoal or pen and ink? What kind of paper? What kind of toning of the paper, if any? Is this line or mass or both? I think more carefully and deliberately about my subject matter. I take lighting into consideration as well as the relationships of values and contrast.

One thing drawing and sketch drawing are good for is that they both allow you to prepare for creating a more complex piece. For example, the charcoal drawing at right, done on moonstone Canson paper by Monica Bean, is part of a series of drawings she is doing. I love this one, a complete artwork in its own right, but actually done as a portrait sketch value study.

Monica’s original intent was to paint the model after she had completed the sketch drawing. She was going to set up the model with the same lighting as in the drawing and do a painting, this time guided by the values she had already discovered in doing  the portrait sketch.

This wouldn’t have meant she couldn’t modify the values she found in the drawing or, for that matter, make any changes she thought made sense, but if she were to do a painting of the model in the same pose and in the same lighting conditions she would then have a head start in getting the values, and thus the color in the painting, to relate to one another. She also would have a head start in getting the form to turn properly, making the three-dimensionality of her sitter more believable.

Luckily  for us, Monica decided to take this particular drawing to a higher finish, so we will be following the drawing as she works on it over the next month or so, and see the changes she makes, and discuss why she made them–turning a “glance” sketch into a “stare” drawing. Stay tuned for Monica’s progress, and more about portrait drawing.


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4 thoughts on “Turning a "Glance" Sketch Into a "Stare" Drawing

  1. I completely agree with you. I used to spend a lot of time concentrating on every detail so I suppose I was ‘stare drawing’, but now I have learnt to be a bit looser and I’m really pleased with the results! It seems that a lot more character and vitality can be captured when drawing faster and it doesn’t matter that the result is a bit rough around the edges. Thanks for a great post!