I’m a big fan of small drawings!
The first time I started to think about them was when I was visiting Vienna and I came across Koloman Moser’s design for the Austrian Jubilee Postage Stamp. He had managed to sketch the view of the Hosburg in Vienna into the scene. I was so fascinated by the concept of creating postage stamp designs that I started to explore the small sketch format as part of my sketching technique.
I carry a small square sketchbook with me everywhere I go in order to collect small easy drawing ideas. I’m busy, don’t necessarily have masses of time to dedicate to drawing every day but still love the idea of whipping out paper and pencil to draw small, either in the moment, or for future use in other drawings.
It somehow feels less daunting than a big blank piece of paper which we can sometimes feel pressured to fill. One of the biggest reasons people fail in being able to maintain a sketching habit is invariably down to a) not having enough time in the day b) getting discouraged with what they are drawing c) starting a few pages of their sketchbook and losing momentum because of the daunting task ahead of filling it.
I’m a passionate advocate of supporting people maintain a sketchbook habit and seek out ways in which to support them do so. The small sketchbook format is way up there on the list as one of my favourite ways to do so.
There are some BIG reasons why the small drawing format make things easy to sketch.
- Its fast. If like me you are busy but want to squeeze some time into your day drawing, reach for that small sketchbook. Even better is if you break up your small sketchbook page further like I’ve done into postage square stamps. I challenge you to be able to fill the page with drawings. Choose a theme for the day….kitchen objects or breakfast things, pairs of shoes, flowers, (my personal favourite!) front doors and so on.
- More controllable. When you draw small you tend not to need to focus on too much in depth detail. You focus on getting edges as succinctly onto the small piece of the page as opposed to the minute detail. This can be a great way to practise some basic techniques. If you have a mapped out a (i.e into a grid or box format) this too enables you to focus on what you place inside each grid.
- You build a page of sketches in no time. If I need a sketching “pick me up,” the small sketchbook has got to be it! It can act as a place to practise smaller sketches of a bigger sketch piece. For example, if you’re drawing a human figure and need to practise smaller pieces of anatomy like hands for example, or zooming in on specific objects the small sketchbook can support this practise.
- It builds confidence. The small sketchbook can make complicated techniques simpler as you are working to smaller sizing. For example perspective and foreshortening are easier to grapple with.
- A small sketchbook is portable. I carry mine around everywhere with me so that I never miss a sketching opportunity. Its a great collector of ideas if I am out and about and together with taking a picture I will sometimes translate what I sketch in my small sketchbook into larger pieces of artwork.
- I love playing with colour in my small sketchbooks too! Sometimes its not about the drawing technique at all but about colour and other design features. Thumbnail tiles of colour in fact that can be opposite to one another or different shades of the same colour. It somehow adds to the charm of the thing. You can also use this format to explore design and patterning in a new way. You might not even want to particularly sketch at all!
- Small drawings are excellent for kids too! My children have a little sketchbook in which they draw miniature show reels of their day, their stuffed toys, how they are feeling. Small hands create smaller drawings!
A great read if you are interested in pursuing the subject further is Matilda Tristram’s book, “A Year in Small Drawings.” The whole process of developing small thumbnail sketches takes the pressure off having to produce perfect artwork.
If you love to sketch I would recommend adding a small sketchbook to your portfolio!