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Drawing, Sketching and Scribbling

There is a wonderful satisfaction in the simple act of making marks on a piece of paper. Whether it’s a detailed study of an interesting object, a quick sketch to solve a practical problem  or a mindless doodle while talking on the phone - there is great satisfaction in the way the eye, the brain and the hand work together.


In this article we will look  at the importance of drawing and its interrelationship with painting.


A common misconception is that drawing and painting are independent disciplines. For me drawing doesn’t stop where painting begins. The whole painting process relies heavily on the discipline of drawing, from big expressive brush marks, charcoal and pen lines, to fine, calligraphic rigger lines - the success of these marks rely more on the ability to draw than the ability to paint.

Watercolor sketch of a small mountain cabin

In this small demonstration painting drawing plays a large part in, not only the fine lines but also many of the larger calligraphic marks made with a ½ inch bristle brush.

Detail of Watercolor sketch of a small mountain cabin

This detail shows fine ink and rigger lines, charcoal pencil lines and heavy dark shadows in the doorway and under the eaves - all applied as simple drawn strokes.


One of the most important aspects of drawing is confidence. Make your marks with conviction and don't be too concerned with accuracy. It is much better to have a clean, confident mark in the wrong place than a timid, overworked line in the right place. Avoid using an erasure - if a line is not right, just redraw it in the right place.

pencil sketch of village street

In this thumbnail sketch most lines have been adjusted, duplicated or redrawn. I find it adds an honesty to the drawing - the drawing has evolved, the multiple lines are seen more as adjustments rather than mistakes.

Drawing requires a different approach to writing. It is much more physical and requires big arm movements rather than tiny finger movements. A more relaxed grip on the pencil helps too.

hand drawing with a charcoal pencil

Holding the pencil as if you just picked it up from the table will force you to make definite, confident strokes. It will free up your drawing and force you to use your arm rather than your wrist or fingers.

This approach may feel cumbersome at first, but once you get used to it, it will make all the difference to your drawing


Like anything - the more you do it the better you become at it. Drawing practice shouldn’t be a chore, just a habit. I always have a number of sketch books on the go. Small ones for travelling, big ones for drawing, some just to work stuff out. I have trouble visualising things. I find it much easier to scribble some lines down and actually see what I’m thinking about.

Pile of artists sketchbooks and journals

Sketch books make you draw - they are not for producing masterpieces, more for shuffling ideas around and clarifying what goes on inside your head. The more often you use them the more confident and spontaneous your drawing becomes. This confidence will carry over into your paintings too.

industrial sketches

Not all drawing has to be artistic or aesthetic, sometimes working out practical problems can be done with a pencil and paper. The more pages you fill and pencils you wear down, the more your skill develops. 

Travel sketches are a lot of fun. This group was done with various fibre tip pens (Black and White) and Black and White Gouache. They are a great way to kill time on a long flight or, if the traveling gets too hectic, a good way to spend 10 minutes catching your breath.

Try and make drawing an everyday part of your life. It's a lot of fun, there is no pressure to produce great art, and the cumulative benefit of all that scribbling will really benefit all your painting.

Author: John Lovett

See Also:  Drawing

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