The Benefits of Going Small
Small drawings are a great format to use as they can support you create the space you need to practise and discover your personal style. Following on from an article I posted earlier on how to start a sketchbook and the daunting prospect of filling a first blank page, the small sketchbook is a great medium to take the pressure off!
I want to stop and think a little about the concept of the pressure we put ourselves under when you draw. How many obstacles do we put in our way before we event start to create anything? Perfectionism, fear of creating something we don’t like, not knowing where to start, fear of the blank page…and so on! All of these things reduce us to not getting started with ANYTHING!
Added to this, if you are a beginner, chances are you might spend a lot of time watching demo tutorials but still come away feeling slightly stuck. You watch and then copy what you have seen being drawn. This does not, however, absolve you from still getting frustrated that what you produce doesn’t quite have the zing of the artist you are looking at.
What lies at the heart of this frustration is that you have yet to uncover your personal style and personal confidence as well as the practical knowledge to start drawing.
How can a small sketchbook support you to do this?
Working small or smaller is a great way to become familiar with keeping a sketchbook. It allows you more freedoms than a larger sketchbook can. If you are stretched for time, for example, but have pledged to sketch, here is the format you should look to try. You can make mistakes more liberally (if you allow yourself too). When one sketch does not work, try it again over the course of the next few pages. Working smaller means you may be less invested in a sketch in comparison to working in a larger book.
I now carry an accompanying small sketchbook alongside my larger notebooks to quickly practise or use it to check colour swatches.
Fill it Faster!
One of the things I advocate in the success of keeping a sketchbook is this notion of momentum. Having a small sketchbook to hand that you make a concerted effort to draw in will encourage you when you notice the momentum you can generate with simple effective drawings.
By focusing in on something in more detail but with less space you can be forced to capture the very essence of an image. By this I mean the strokes of line that describes movement, or a particular shape. You will find that your definitions become more defined.
I also think there is something liberating about setting yourself a challenge of just getting something down on paper in the space of two to five minutes. Imagine that no one need ever see the picture you are sketching ever again. Imagine that there is no wrong or right answer to the technique you adopt. Allow yourself to become less inhibited on the page.
Develop your Personal Creative Style!
This is the area I get most excited about. As you are drawing smaller you are forced to simplify what you include in your drawing. You can’t possibly include every piece of information that you might in a larger drawing.
And yet, you still get the basic premise down on the paper.
This is the first step in discovering your personal style. Think about it. Basic lines on paper. How will you delineate the lines you set down on the page for the objects, things, people you come across on a small scale? Will you like using a pen or pencil or paint or all three or just one. What about the shapes you produce? Is there a consistent pattern that emerges to your work? One of my favourite things to try is colour. Many artists have unique and distinctive approaches to using colour. What might yours be? All of these factors can be scoped out much much faster in a smaller sketchbook. Rather than obsess too much about a larger drawing that will take you time to build in stages, the smaller sketch allows you to get straight to the point quickly.
As mentioned above treat your sketchbook as a little bit of a playground where psychologically you discard the perfectionist.
What strikes you about what you enjoy during this process?
The practise and the knowledge with which you do this will transcribe neatly to the larger scale drawing. The confidence you discover drawing small in your style will give you the impetus and confidence to draw larger.
Make Mistakes Easier
One of our largest failings as creatives is the need to attain perfectionism. Perfectionism inhibits growth and even stops us still in our tracks, leaving us wishing we could be like others, frustrated at our own attempts. We are terrified of messing up a page. I keep a small sketchbook for this purpose. Wouldn’t it be great to have a sketchbook to fall back on and make mistakes in and encourage it as its purpose? Except that no mistake is a mistake. It’s an experiment.
I now actually enjoy picking up the small sketchbook as I have come to associate it with creating art that comes with no pressure to be perfect or get it right.
The ability to see how a sketch evolves without my perfectionist head meddling underpins the very foundations of how we develop our creative identities.
Perfect for Beginners!
When you start to learn to draw you are naturally tentative and a little inhibited, if not shy. You will work with smaller strokes and may lack confidence in your hands to draw more confident and larger lines. Even the way in which you hold your pencil will evolve from the starter phase. You will also tend to look at your paper more than you do your subject. Starting small is the perfect place to start you on your drawing process and support you build confidence.
As you start to learn in the pages of a small sketchbook you will begin to pay attention to the marks you make on the page.
Try New Themes
You can dedicate your small sketchbook to set themes. I have a range of them that I use for different purposes dependent on what I am doing. Do you have a passion or passions that you love to sketch and want to expand upon. Perhaps it is teacups, landscapes, birds, or houses. I currently have 3 themed sketchbooks on the go as I am keen to develop my drawing skills in figure drawing, landscapes, and fast sketches where I don’t review them just keep moving forward to chart my development and progress.