Developing a Sketching Habit

Once you've read the book and learned the method, it's time to put it to practice. Below are some suggestions to help kick-start you on developing a sketching habit.

15 Minutes a Day, No Matter What

Commit for the first 30 days to sketch for 15 minutes each and every day, no matter what. Either sketch first thing in the morning, before you get caught up in the demands of the day, or do it during your lunch break. Try not to put it off until the evening. I've found that people who wait until the evening to practice are less likely to do it. In 30 days, it will become a habit. At that point, you can continue sketching for 15 minutes each day, or increase the time.

Keep it Simple

Don't fret over finding a perfect, picturesque subject matter, or producing a masterpiece in your sketchbook. Select simple subjects around you, such as those described in Chapter One of the book. Crawl, walk, and then run. Leave the sketch of the urban street scene in two-point perspective for later in the learning process.

You Don't Need to Finish

Sketch what you can in fifteen minutes. Don't concern yourself with finishing a sketch (unless you have more than 15 minutes of available time). You will benefit far more from thoughtfully working through a sketch that is left incomplete than rushing through a sketch to finish it.

Limit Your Focus

When you're first learning to sketch, focus on accuracy (applying the method learned in Part One of the book). As you gain experience and confidence, resist the temptation to move on to sketching more complicated subjects. Instead, continue sketching simple subjects, adding additional layers of observation. Study and sketch the edges and tonal values (applying the method learned in Part Three of the book). You can then study subjects as compositions by producing thumbnail sketches of different subject matters (as learned in Parts Two and Three of the book).

Have Fun

Approach sketching like you would approach solving a fun puzzle (applying the method learned in Chapter Six). Enjoy yourself or don't do it. Keep in mind that what is produced in the sketchbook is not the main point of the practice. The purpose is the changes that will occur inside you: greater awareness, improved skills, and an increased capacity to focus. These are the real benefits of practice.

Repetition is the Greatest Teacher

As you sketch, refer back to the lessons in the book each week. Students who refer back to the lessons as they practice tend to experience a more enriched understanding than those who go through the lessons only once.

My Current Sketching Toolkit

To sketch, all you need is something to sketch with and something to sketch on. A pencil or pen and sketchbook are all that are necessary. How much practice you put in matters far more than the tools you use. That said, I'm often asked about which tools I prefer. Below is a listing of the sketchbook, pencils, pens, and other materials that I currently sketch with, as seen in the photograph above (listed from left to right).

Sketchbook - Strathmore Drawing Pad, 400 series, 6" x 8" (or any other available size)

Pencils - Staedtler Mars Technico 780 2mm Lead Holder (I prefer the 4B or 6B refills), and Faber-Castell Polychromos Black Colored Pencil

Pencil Sharpener - Kum Automatic Long Point (I don't know why they call this "automatic" since it's a manual sharpener). If you can't find this brand, any sharpener will do.

Battery-Powered Eraser - Staedtler Battery Operated Eraser (great for adding small highlights when sketching with pencil)

Kneaded Eraser - Any available brand Felt-Tip Pens - Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, sizes XS and S

Ballpoint Pens - Pentel Rolling Writer, and Foray Liquid Ink Rollerball Pen, 0.5mm (this pen works great for sketching on napkins)

Fountain Pen - Namiki Falcon Fountain Pen Fine Paint Brush - any available brand

White Gouache - Winsor Newton White Gouache (shown in contact lens storage container - I keep a dab of gouache in one reservoir, and a little water in the other reservoir)

Copic Sketch Markers - Colorless Blender, Neutral Gray No. 3, Neutral Gray No. 6, Neutral Gray No. 8, and Special Black (I use these markers on the tracing paper specified below. When used on tracing paper, the tonal values of these specific markers match the value scales in Chapter 8 of the book). Be sure to purchase the "sketch" Copic Markers, not the regular Copic markers.

Tracing Paper - Seth Cole #58 16lb. Heavy Weight Tracing Paper (not shown in the above photograph, for use with the Copic Sketch Markers). If you can't find Seth Cole Tracing paper, any tracing paper will do.

Many of these items can be purchased at your local art supply store, or can be purchased from the following online sources:

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