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Sketching and Drawing Part 1

Q: Do you find sketching or drawing useful?

How much should I do? 

Bottom line: If you can’t find the time to be carving, then at least sketch and draw. You cannot do enough!

I have yet to meet a competent carver who is not also competent with a pencil.

But let’s start by being clear about what we are talking about. ‘Sketching’ and ‘drawing’ easily merge but in general terms:

Sketching - Light, quick work; creative, roughing out ideas; outlines, big picture etc. Often thrown away.

Drawing - More stand-alone, finished work; exploratory; shader, more solidly 3D etc. Often kept.

In neither case is the result a woodcarving. Obviously. However, both sketching and drawing can be a means to this end: the woodcarving. 

It’s the same need carvers have when they make a model in clay [ref clay blog]: information. You need to know what you are carving, where you are going. If I want to carve an Oak leaf, say, then I need to know what one looks like—or enough to carve one successfully. 

And if I don’t know ‘enough’? First port of call is my pencil, sketching and drawing. 


How much do you need to do of either to help you with your carving? 

It depends on what it takes for you to feel confident enough to start and succeed with your carving.

A quick, simple, pen sketch of an Oak leaf? A detailed drawing? Even that clay model?

Do whatever needs to be done.


For the carver, the benefits of drawing/sketching cannot be overestimated.  

Here's a quick list from the top of my head: 

1. Catching and recording ideas and designs: Your own or those of others; getting the creative juices going. 

2. Working out and refining designs: From nebulous ideas to something carvable. 

3. For clients: to get ideas across and agree the go-ahead.

4. Planning material use and dimensions.

5. Developing one's artistic side, by giving your imagination free reign. 

6. Developing hand and eye: learning to 'see', to appreciate line, form positive and negative space, and a sense of three-dimensionality etc. Both drawing and modelling open your mind's eye. Every art school recognises this.


Don’t make these drawing/sketching ‘mistakes’:

1. A mistake for any woodcarver is to worry about the quality of their drawing work either in the context of 'art' or someone else’s drawings. 

2. Another mistake is to be fooled into thinking you can't draw at all because you have never been taught. All you need be is a 'good enough' sketcher. 

3. Perhaps the worst mistake of all is to think that drawing or sketching can't or won't help enough to invest time in it. It can - whatever time you manage - and will. Always! 


Perhaps you can't manage to get to the carving bench, but you can far more easily get to a pencil and paper. You might even be able to get to a piece of clay.


Part 2: March 2021 - Practical Advice on Sketching & Drawing 

Click here to read...

Iris sketch


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