Type of Drawing: Definition, History.

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Madonna and Child (Albertina, Vienna)
Black chalk and pen sketch.
By Raphael.

Types, Characteristics, Famous Sketches


What Is Sketching?
Personal Type of Drawing
Modern Sketching Methods
Types of Sketches/Sketching Techniques
Sketches By Famous Artists
- Raphael (1483-1520)
- Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
- Michelangelo (1475-1564)
- Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
- Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
- Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Software Programs to Help You Sketch

Sketch of a Flying Machine
Pen & Brown Ink sketch by Leonardo.

Vincent's Bedroom in Arles (1888)
Pen and Ink Sketch.
By Van Gogh.

What Is Sketching? Definition and Characteristics

Sketching traditionally refers to a preliminary rough type of drawing that an artist might make in preparation for either a painting or a more formal drawing (like a study). A sketch is less detailed than a study - a study may be a highly detailed rendition of something to be used in a large composition. Of course sketching is also a form of doodling that a person may do to pass time with no end goal in mind. Formally however it is a useful way for an artist to capture a fleeting impression of a scene or person before it changes. For this purpose, it is typically executed rapidly and with little concern for accuracy. Not unlike caricature art, sketching is often about capturing a mood or key feature of the subject.

Personal Type of Drawing

Sketching is perhaps when an artist is most free because you can’t make a 'mistake'. It is not about drawing an accurate likeness, but rather about capturing the essence of a person or object. To do this, you need to be loose, bold and not afraid to make mistakes. It essentially allows the inner you to come out. For this reason sketches are conceptually unique and highly individual. They portray the inner identity of the artist and are more difficult sometimes to copy as a result than a finished work. It was this realisation that prompted art historians to re-evaluate sketches and even led to the situation where sketches by the English landscape artist John Constable came to be valued as finished works alongside his paintings. The same can be said for chalk and pen sketches by High Renaissance artists Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci which are continually being exhibited in the best art museums around the world.

Queen Marie Antoinette (1792)
Pen and Ink sketch
By Jacques-Louis David.

Art Education
For more about drawing, see:
How to Appreciate Art
How to Appreciate Paintings.

History of Sketching

In Classical Antiquity, artists used a metal stylus to sketch on papyrus. During the era of Renaissance art (1400-1530), the stylus was employed with a variety of metal alloys to create other dry media like metalpoint and silverpoint. Apprentice artists and young pupils were usually given an empty stylus with which to practice sketching by making easily removable linear marks on wax tablets. See also: Venetian Drawing (1500-1600).

However, artists kept sketches for their own inspiration; they were not viewed as a proper form of fine art, to be sold in their own right. However by the 18th and 19th century sketching became an independent type of art, even acquiring the additional sense of a stand-alone artwork. It coincided with a time when there was a surge in naturalism and tourists started carrying sketchbooks with them to capture impressions of daytrips to the countryside or tours abroad. They sketched landscapes, animals, new cities, vegetation and flowers. It became a popular hobby enjoyed by both amateur and professional artists alike and was a useful tool for retaining memories at a time before photography was invented. Popular mediums for sketching were similar to those for drawing, and included pencil and crayon, as well as pen-and-ink and charcoal. Even pastel drawings were made.

Modern Sketching Methods

Today, with the development of new types of art (notably computer art), technology offers numerous alternatives to traditional sketching techniques like pencil and paper. There are numerous software programs available such as SketchBook Pro and Corel Painter Sketch Pad to help produce professional artworks. And of course with the easy access we have to cameras and video equipment, it is possible to capture impressions without the need for sketching anymore. Despite this, sketching in the traditional sense with pen and paper still remains popular. In the commercial field, courtroom sketchers are still in demand for high profile court cases where cameras are not allowed into proceedings, while in the world of design, sketching is second nature to many product designers, architects and other creative departments.


Types of Sketches/Sketching Techniques

At the time of the Renaissance successful Master artists who had their own studio handed sketches over to their apprentices for turning into a finished painting. (See: Best Renaissance Drawings: 1400-1550.) There were 3 main types of sketches:

1. Croquis
A croquis was intended to remind the artist of some person or scene he wished to remember in a more permanent form - they were not necessarily for a finished product. Today fashion designers use the term croquis to indicate a quick sketch of a live model. It is even possible to download croquis templates (outlines of the body in different positions) to use in a computer program like Adobe Illustrator.

2. Pochade
Artists use colour to record a scene's atmospheric effect and to capture the fleeting effect of light for a planned landscape painting. Where croquis is a quick sketch using lines to record an event or person, pochade is a quick colour sketch to capture atmosphere. Many artists use pochade when painting plein air and return with their sketches to the studio to use them in planning large-scale landscape paintings. Impressionists like Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Edouard Manet (1832-83) took this even further turning their pochades into an end product. The same could be said of Vincent Van Gogh who would take his canvas outdoor, sketch directly onto it and then continue to paint until the end product was achieved (usually within a few hours).

3. Portrait Sketch
This is used in portrait art to record moments where a person's character is momentarily revealed, a mischievous twinkle in the eye or a sour smile. Sketching was also used to draw the sitter from different angles before deciding which angle was best for the main project. These sketches - whether made with oil paint, watercolour, charcoal or acrylics - typically had a dynamic rhythmic flow which made them worthy stand-alone artworks.



Sketches By Famous Artists

Raphael (1483-1520)
One of the most famous painters of the High Renaissance, Raphael is also known as Il Divino (The Divine One). He is famous for his spatial geometry drawing as well as his paintings of the Sistine Madonna (1513, Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) and The Transfiguration (1519, Vatican Museum). During a stay in Florence Raphael came into contact with da Vinci whose style greatly influenced his figure drawing technique. Raphael frequently sketched ideas on paper, some were intended for specific paintings, others perhaps simply for the joy of capturing a fleeting moment. Examples include:

- Madonna and Child (Albertina, Vienna) black chalk and pen sketch.
- Madonna and Child w. John the Baptist (Albertina, Vienna) Pen/brown ink.
- Head and shoulders of a Young Woman (British Museum) Pen/brown ink.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
Painter, sculptor, architect and scientist, Leonardo has to be one of the most gifted humans of all time. His most famous works include his drawing Vitruvian Man (1492, Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice), his portrait of The Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre, Paris) and his fresco The Last Supper (1495, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan). Sadly, much of Leonardo's graphic art has been lost. Luckily, a number of his sketchbooks have survived, most of which are crammed with examples of scientific diagrams and figure studies rivaled only by Michelangelo. Examples of famous sketches by Da Vinci include:

- Sketch of a Flying Machine (Helical Air Screw, 1493), an early version of a modern helicopter which Da Vinci did not actually build or test.
- Design for a Flying Machine (1488).
- Stretching Device for a Barrel Spring (c. 1498).
- Designs for a Boat (c. 1485-7).

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
Born in Florence in 1475, Michelangelo remains one of the greatest draftsmen in the history of art. The embodiment of disegno, he produced awe-inspiring sketches, drawings, paintings and sculptures. His most famous works include the two Sistine Chapel frescoes in the Vatican, (The Genesis fresco, and The Last Judgment fresco), and his marble statues Pieta (1500) and David (1501-4). Most of Michelangelo's sketches and doodles were never intended for public display, and no doubt he would be horrified by the crowds they draw when exhibited in our museums today. In fact, he destroyed a large number before his death to avoid such an event happening. Perhaps he wished to hide how much preparation work went into his final artworks. Historically, artists only placed importance on finished products. Michelangelo, for instance, would fold his sketches and use them as notepaper on which he wrote shopping lists and kept a note of his expenses. He had no idea how collectable his sketches would become in the future: in 2002, for instance, a quick chalk drawing by the artist was 'discovered' neglected and forgotten in a box in the store room of New York's National Design Museum. It was created in about 1530 and is estimated to be worth about $10 million dollars.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Preliminary sketches were extremely important to the great Baroque painter Rubens, especially when delegating a significant part of a painting to his assistants. When painting portraits, first he would typically produce a quick sketch, usually drawn and washed in brown ink. Next he would make a more detailed oil sketch, to be submitted to the client for approval or comment. After this, other anatomical detail would be produced in the form of additional sketches. Only after these various sketches were completed, would he focus on the painting itself.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Van Gogh was one of the most influential artists of the Post-Impressionism movement. Although he failed to sell a single painting in his lifetime, today his works fetch millions. Some of his most famous works include The Potato-Eaters (1885, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Twelve Sunflowers in a Vase (1888, Neue Pinakothek, Munich), Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London) and Starry Night (1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York). He was also well known for his letter sketches (133 in total) - these were letters he wrote to friends (including his brother Theo and fellow-artist Paul Gauguin), wherein he sketched outlines of the paintings he was planning. Examples include:

- Vincent's Bedroom in Arles (1888).
- Couple Out for a Stroll (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).
- Chair (1890, Van Gogh Museum).
- Garden of the Asylum (1889, Van Gogh Museum).
- Harvest Landscape (1888, National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.).
- Peasant, Digging Up Potatoes (1885, Private Collection).

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
A key figure in French painting, Degas was one of the leading exponents of Impressionism, although he never really reconciled himself with such a label, preferring to be thought of as a Realist, based on his Academic education. He was particularly impressed by the Italian Masters and on a trip to Italy in 1850 he sketched many of their paintings and frescoes in his notebooks. He became particularly interested in sketching ballet dancers, milliners and laundresses in Paris and thousands of his drawings (in pencil and pastel) survive today. During his lifetime, the artist filled 38 sketchbooks which provide art historians first hand evidence of his working methods. He kept his books to record artworks he had seen, people he observed, to visualize fictional scenes he had read or to experiment with new concepts.

Software Programs To Help You Sketch

Most designers use computer programs to help them create professional looking illustrations and sketches. Traditionally art professionals use a MAC computer for this purpose and design programs are usually created first for the MAC (although some are available for Windows). Popular programs include:

For The MAC Computer:

Sketching programs for Macs include:

- Sketch Mac
- VectorDesigner
- Artboard
- SketchBook Pro
- OmniGraffle
- Intaglio
- EazyDraw
- Sketsa SVG Editor

For Windows:

Sketching software for PCs includes:

- Xara Photo & Graphic Designer
- DrawPlus
- Real-Draw Pro
- Autodesk SketchBook Pro
- Sketsa SVG Editor

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