Pencil Sketching Practice

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Pencil Sketching Practice

Pencil Sketching Practice has been rhapsodized for eons. But that doesn’t mean we all commit to a regular habit of sketching (right?)

When I practice sketching, I can count on several things happening at once; active skill building, a renewed appreciation for the importance of values, simplicity of tools (pencil & paper), and the satisfaction of my own approval. I’m doing something every artist *should* practice regularly. Good job, me!

Pencil sketching for practice’ sake alone rubs my need for productivity a little rough. I usually want to make something I can add to the inventory of art in my Etsy Shop. Sketching practice is meant for my eyes alone. My pencil sketches are usually a test for a painting or printmaking idea, tucked into a sketchpad. Pre-motor planning. But not for sale.

Sketching on the plane with elementary supplies: an Etchr Mixed Media Sketchbook, Uni Kurutoga Mechanical Artist’s Pencil and a Tombow Precision Mini Eraser (and a reference photo).
Sketching in the evening on the couch

Sketching to Get Better

Daily sketch practice injects a visible, tangibly potent shot of Better into our work. Lines are more relaxed and fluid. Shading is more sure-footed and subtle. Accuracy in rendering is improved. And the workhorse of representational art – values – salutes the eye of the viewer with a grin.

I suspect one of the roadblocks to a regular sketching practice is that no one sees the results. The reward for your effort is not as tangible as a reaction, or a transaction.

When you create for an exhibit or a blog post, or list it for sale, there is a potential for accolades. There may be an audience sprinkling praise, or a “Ding!” from the Etsy app notifying you of a sale.

But when you sketch every day to simply Get Better at it, the results are closed in a book on the shelf in the studio. Instead of an instant shot of applause, the return for daily sketching effort is a slow, internal build of your own improvement.

It’ll likely take time to see results from your sketch practice – an investment of pencil-miles. Don’t we all want to leapfrog towards Fabulous after a summer of occasional drawing? Maybe the closed feedback loop is one of the reasons we don’t pounce on the chance to practice more often? What say you on this theory?

Sketchbook on a pillow as a lap desk using fine point black pen.
Foot Warmer – pencil sketch on Etchr Mixed Media paper

Cheerleading Section

After a conversation with another artist just beginning their journey, I pondered what I’d tell my younger self about getting started in art with all the visuals of social media vying for my attention. I wrote this post of tips for beginner artists.

This is a beginner artist round-up (collection) of essays related to finishing paintings, getting more accuracy in your drawings, the many benefits of working small, and fighting the mean cousins – procrastination and uncertainty.

After I published this post, my friend Gerald Ruggiero reminded me that you can practice pencil sketching with no art supplies at all, by using a tablet and the Procreate app. He did a beautiful pencil sketch in the app of his dog napping on the couch. The app records your drawing process, so you can play it back and watch a movie of your sketch lines evolving into your finished drawing. See Ger’s drawing movie over on his Facebook page here.

I’m waving my pompoms at you, cheering for your sketch time – even if it’s in the margins of a grocery list.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. If you like drawing portraits, and you work well with prompts and community, check out the Sktchy challenge 30 Faces in 30 Days. They start new sessions all the time, and the community is fun, encouraging and loaded with a broad range of artistic skills.

Sketching on a mixed media paper block to prep for a watercolor painting later.

Art Quote

“As soon as possible” is a trap if you focus on soon instead of possible.

Seth Godin
a sea lion on a dock sitting upright and looking straight at the viewer with a speech bubble that says Making Art is Fun, right?
Visit Six Tips to Paint More often.

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4 thoughts on “Pencil Sketching Practice”

  1. Dear Belinda,
    Your blog posts are so energizing and truthful. I tell my workshop attendees all the time that PRACTICE is how you get to being comfortable with your drawing. Thank you for this entry – I will share with my senior art class and I know it will resonate. Your work is beautiful and your sketching skills so very skillful and evocative. May this last portion of 2022 be fruitful and successful for you.
    Mary Liz

    1. Dear Mary Liz, Thank you so much for your kind heart and encouraging comments. I’m so glad you agree with the notion of practice. I wish artists didn’t see this as such a chore. You and I will link arms and march forward to wave the flag and evangelize the simplicity of practice as a path to getting better at art!

  2. I love sketching, and then if the sketch deserves it, moving it forward into a full rendering. For me, the process is the purpose. I have a value-finder card that has been immensely helpful in creating accurate values.

    1. Hi Kirsten, I like what you said about the process being the purpose. Very wise, and inspiring, especially for folks who are productivity-junkies. 🙂 And the value finder card is a great tip too.

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