Lately I’ve been having some fun by challenging myself to do some speed sketching, and I think it has a lot of benefits when it comes to learning art.
When I first started speed sketching last year, I challenged myself to sketch portraits in five minutes or less. Doing so really helped me learn how to break things down into shapes and represent features more simplistically. I feel as if this helped my overall understanding of portraiture.
Just recently, I challenged myself to draw some bunnies in 60 seconds, and it was a lot of fun. The next day I gave myself a time limit of 20 minutes, and tried to see how many fruits I could sketch during that time. I ended up sketching 34 fruits!
There are quite a few reasons why I’ve been challenging myself to do speed sketches, so here’s a list of those reasons:
1. It helps me let go of perfection.
One of the things that I struggle with most in art, is my own perfectionism.
I’ve been a perfectionist for a long time, ever since I was a child. I had difficulty accepting bad grades, and I had a high standard for what I considered to be a bad grade.
As I got older, my perfectionism streak got stronger, though I stopped caring about perfect grades and more about perfecting my art. Of course, it’s impossible to find perfection in art, but I wasn’t anywhere near a satisfactory skill level, so I got discouraged quickly.
But I’ve been trying really hard to let of my perfectionist tendencies, and speed sketching really helps with that. Because I have so little time to do the sketch I don’t have any time to worry about getting it perfect!
2. I find it challenging.
Speed sketching challenges me in a lot of ways; it challenges me to let go of perfectionism, see things in broad shapes and overall movement, and it obviously challenges me on speed.
And I love a good art challenge! Speed sketching is a very flexible challenge too. If 60 seconds to sketch something is too little time for you, you can increase the amount of time you have until it’s doable, but still out of your comfort zone.
3. It helps me with line efficiency.
Line efficiency is something important to me in art, as I find that having sketches with clean and minimal lines is what suits me best.
I love many pieces of work that have details built up with lots of lines, but I don’t feel as if it currently represents me when I’m doing my art, so I wanted to learn how to make my line usage more efficient.
Because of the time limit when speed sketching, I don’t have the time to build up lots of details using lines. Sometimes I can fit in a bit of hatching to show the light direction, but most of my time is spent making sure that the lines I do place down look good.
Speed sketching has really helped me find a middle ground that I like for line usage: Minimal enough to be easy cleaned up, detailed enough in some cases to show texture and shading.
4. There’s an improvement in my overall speed.
Speed is something I struggle with a lot in art, partially because of my perfectionist tendencies, and partially because I’m still new to art, so I have to spend time experimenting in order to get things to look good.
I find that speed sketching helps me get those experiments out of the way quickly. It gives me the opportunity to make lots of mistakes, and to learn from them, in a short amount of time.
Because I have the opportunity to do that, I can do less experimenting in my larger pieces, which helps me with speed.
Letting of my perfectionism also helps me with speed, as I’ve learned to go with the ‘finished, not perfect’ saying when evaluating my work. An illustration I do may not look perfect, but if it looks finished to me, then it’s good enough.
5. It helps me learn how to break things down into shapes.
A very important thing to do when sketching is to break things down into basic shapes. Anything and everything can be broken down into basic shapes, but when learning how to do art, a lot of the confusion comes from not knowing what to simplify.
While subjects that are commonly drawn, such as faces, have lots of tutorials online for breaking them down, I find that it’s a lot easier to learn if you also understand why something is done the way it is.
By doing speed sketching I was able to learn why certain shapes are broken down the way they are, and it also made the whole concept of building things out of simple shapes a lot more intuitive.
6. I get to focus less on detail, more on the overall gesture and movement.
As a young artist, I often find myself getting caught up in details, rather than the overall gesture and movement of what I’m trying to sketch.
This leads to some really stiff looking art, which is something that I’ve been trying to improve on, and speed sketching is helping. Because I can’t rely on detail to make something look realistic, I must pay attention to the overall gesture of an object, which I find helps my art look more organic.
7. It helps form a habit.
Habits can be difficult to form, but it’s a lot easier to tell myself that I can draw everyday if I know that I can do a lot (and learn a lot) in a short amount of time.
Even if I’m super tired and unmotivated, it’s still easy enough to tell myself that I’m just going to try drawing something for 60 seconds. Then I set a timer on my phone, and by the time that timer goes off, I’ve finished a sketch.
It might not be a very good sketch, and it’s probably pretty small too, but by the time I’m finished that sketch, I want to keep drawing. So I set another timer, and I work on another sketch.
And let’s say that after the first timer goes off, I’m still feeling really tired and unmotivated and I want to stop sketching. Then that’s okay, because at least I tried to sketch, and at least I got something done. I can then stop and rest, without the anxiety of knowing that I didn’t even try in the first place.
8. The sketches can be used as inspiration or starting points for larger pieces.
One of the lovely things about speed sketches is that those simple little sketches you do can be used as the inspiration for larger, more detailed illustrations. The sketches themselves could even be expanded upon and be made into the starting points for a more refined sketch.
Overall, I see a lot of benefits to speed sketching, and I have had, and continue to have, a lot of fun doing it. I suggest that you give it a try too!
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