One of the delights of being a Travelsketcher is being immersed in a place, soaking up the sights and sounds of the people going by, the breeze blowing, while your sketchpad and paints connect you to the environment, actually making you a part of the action. Sketching on location is the superior experience. Yet there are times when it is not practical, see this blog on 3 Times not to Travelsketch. There are times when sketching from a photo make a lot of sense. As I write this many of us are under Le Confinement longing for other scenes to capture beyond the view from a window.
There are many that eschew sketching from photos at all costs, and are non-supportive of those of us that do. Sketching live is best, yet I would rather sketch from a photo than not sketch. Are there special challenges? Bien sur !
It is important to avoid, get over, stop trying to copy the photo you are sketching from. Approach sketching from a photo the same way you would if you were physically present. You would think about composition, pick the focal point or central interest. Think about where the eyesight line will go on your page, avoiding placing it in the center – one-third of the way from top or bottom works well. Do the same things when sketching from a photo.
Identify the key object, building, tree, flower, mountain, etc. and position it for good effect. The rule of thirds usually works – the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines dividing the page/scene into thirds. I often use the cropping function on my iPad to compose, it works as a viewfinder, blocking out extraneous and distracting objects, and allows me to position the key elements.
If you were actually there you might leave leave things out, quite all right to do that from a photo, and there is no obligation to getting the colors to exactly match. Capture the moment, Erin Hill says she paints the colors she wants, not concerned about matching.
One advantage to drawing from a photo is that you can get the angles right, and the lines in right proportions. One day I must do a blog on proportional dividers, they are a real help.
Pay attention to the dark areas, remember they are what makes art work. It is all about the contrasts of darks and lights. If you don’t emphasize the darks, your sketch will look flat. You may have to exaggerate shade and shadows on the sketch to make it work. (Shade is the dark side of a tree or building, shadow is the dark image that happens on the ground because the tree blocks the light).
Having said all this remember, the most important thing to being a sketcher is to sketch, often. Like any other skill it is about eye-hand coordination, and retaining muscle memory, training you hands to do what your eyes are telling them to do. So sketch, live when you can, from photos when you can’t.
Here are a few sketches from the last week