Daily Life Sketching (January 2014 DWCM)

Daily Life Sketching: January 2014 DWCM

As promised, I'm starting off my Daily Week-long Challenge of the Month (#DWCM14) this week, from 20th to 26th January.

It took me a while to commit to this month's topic for the challenge, as I tend to be a bit commitment-phobic with these daily challenges. A few failed attempts at daily challenges can do that to one's psyche, I suppose. 😉

But, yes, I've done it. I've committed to a week-long daily challenge of Life Sketching.

This is one of those daily habits that I wish I can develop in the long-term: sketching from life on a regular basis.

However, much as I enjoy doing it, and I know it doesn't need to take long to do, I still don't sketch from life often enough. Yes, even if I know it benefits me in more ways than one. Silly, huh?

That's why I thought I'd start off this project with this topic.

What, exactly, does life sketching mean?

Some of you might ask.

Well, basically, it's just sketching a subject matter (a person, a scene, an item, a creature, etc) from real life. As in, not from a photo/video or from imagination.

Sketching is also meant to be just a study of that subject matter. So, it doesn't have to be anything too realistic or elaborate. It's meant to be completed in just a few minutes. Sometimes, even just a few seconds (if you have a quick moving subject).

Sketches, of course, can later be used as a reference to become drawings or paintings.

Sketching can be done anywhere - from your desk, around your house, during a walk, whilst sitting in a cafe or library, at the airport, in the train, etc. And yes, I've done sketches from all of those places (and more).

I often read that sketching is meant to be more powerful than a photograph. We remember that scene, that moment... more. Because we took the time to see, observe, and commit to paper. When I look at some of my old sketches, I must admit that I often experience a stronger sense of memory than when I look at some photos and videos that I took. Sometimes, I even remember the smells, sounds, and emotions I've felt.

That's why I know that I often wish I can sketch more. Even if they seem so imperfect and hurried.

It's still all good.

Sketching Tools

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to tools to use for sketching. I've used different things - pens, pencils, markers, inks, paints... I've even done the typical ballpoint pen on napkin sketches.

So, yeah, pretty much, the basic rule is: Use whatever's on hand!

Sometimes, though, it's best to limit our tools so that we don't get overwhelmed with choices. That's why right now, my favourite sketching tools are:

  • Pencil - Usually, I use a 2B pencil, but lately, I've started using mechanical pencils more often. I must admit that I wasn't a fan of mechanical pencils before, but now, I've started to like them. I just use cheap ones that I found from a department store.
  • Black Felt-tip Pens - I like the waterproof variety, so that they don't bleed easily. I love using them when I want to emphasise outlines or when I want to avoid the temptation to erase. Some folks actually insist on using this more than pencils.
  • Sketchbook - Any old sketchbook would do, in different sizes. My favourite is usually just a spiral-bound A4-sized sketchbook that you can buy from just about anywhere where you can get stationery supplies (mmm... stationery!). This week, I'm planning on using my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. Just because I've had it for ages and I keep on putting off using it often because I want to 'save' it for more special moments. Yes, it's a weird quirk of mine. But, I thought I'll just get on with it and sketch away this week with it.

For the most part, that's all we'd ever need for sketching. But, there are days when I feel the need to do something else. During those days, I might end up using:

  • Ballpoint Pens - I don't like sketching with these all that much, but sometimes, I don't have much of a choice. So, I use a ballpoint pen. Often, I end up using them when I'm in a meeting or at a conference, sketching while listening to someone else speaking/presenting. Great way to remember things (and avoid falling sleep)!
  • Watercolours - Particularly, the pan variety. I love them because they're easy and quick. They're great when I feel like adding colour to my sketches. Especially useful when trying to translate the sketch into a painting.
  • Waterbrush pens - When using watercolours outside the house (when travel sketching), I've recently found out the advantage of using these great tools. It's a brush that holds water, that you can then use to squeeze out when sketching on the go.

Other tools: erasers (I try not to use these when I'm sketching but occasionally do), pastels, and coloured pencils.

I've also done sketching using digital tools (laptop or tablet).

Sketching Inspiration

I gather inspiration from everywhere - from the day-to-day stuff and travels to looking at other people's work and seeing/reading books. Blogs, websites, and social networks are great for inspiration too.

Some sketchers I discovered recently:

Dan Price's How To Make A Journal of Your Life* and Natalie Goldberg's Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World* are just two books that have inspired me to try sketching from life more.

So, who else is sketching from life this week?

If you are, please share links to your pics. And, if you're on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc, would love it if you add the #DWCM14 hashtag on your posts. I'd love to see them!

*Note: Affiliate Links

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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