This is my first sketch. It’s of a spaniel called Benji
Benji — Day One

Five Lessons learned midway into 100 days of sketching

In a bid to improve my technique, and get into the habit of drawing every day, I challenged myself to 100 days of sketching. As a natural doodler I also love to draw given free time. Covid has certainly provided plenty of that. Here are five lessons I’ve learned so far.

Lesson One — I knead my eraser!

We recently moved house and it appears I lost my awesome kneadable eraser in the transition. As we live a little way out of the city it took about a week for me to replace it. I felt my sketches were heavy and needed the delicate and precise kneadable eraser to make eyes twinkle and sunlight catch. As soon as I used my new eraser noticed an overall improvement in my sketches. I feel it provides an edge that was previously missing. I use it to add the finishing touches on all my drawings.

Lesson Two — Intentional smudging.

It was probably at school when I learnt the art of smudging pencil work with a tissue (or more likely my finger back then) to give a smooth greyscale sheen. Smudging removes the detail of pencil strokes and allows light and dark to blend. I remembered this technique at the end of my first week into the challenge, using it to smooth out the coat of a horse with a consistent tone of grey and no distracting pencil lines. I’ve since refined my technique of smudging, using it earlier in the sketch to provide a quick base, which I then layer with pencil strokes to give the drawing more depth and detail. Art shops even sell blending stumps, which is yet another step up from using a tissue! After watching a few YouTube Tutorials I’m seeing how having the proper tool might be useful, and save us money on tissues.

Lesson Three — Using different pencils in the same sketch.

In the second week of the challenge I was referring to a drawing book for how to draw curly fur (I still haven’t nailed it). While I was there, I read about the graphite scale of pencils HB, 2B etc. The book suggested to start sketching with a harder pencil, perhaps even a mechanical pencil if I had one. It also suggested using a range of pencils in a single sketch. Surprisingly, this had never occurred to me. My pencils ranged from HB with nice clean, crisp lines, to 8B with thick, heavy lines. Now I start my sketch outlines with my hard mechanical pencil as the lines are light and clear, then I move on to my favourite 2B which gives me a thicker and slightly darker shade to reinforce my outlines and fill lighter areas. My 5B comes out for the regions I want to boldly stand out, or which need darker shading. The 8B is very rarely used but is available if I want to add depth to an already dark section. I bring the mechanical pencil back out at the end to add the finer details.

Lesson Four — My little finger is lazy.

Try as I might to avoid it, my little finger smudges graphite while I’m focussed on drawing. I attempt to keep my hand off the paper, but I guess my little finger is heavy or lazy. One of the last processes of every drawing is erasing all the blurry areas my hand has added. They’re quick to undo with a block eraser, but this habit is surely avoidable. I’ll do some research on fixing this bad habit before I embark on days 51 to 100.

Lesson Five — I spend more time looking for a subject than sketching it.

In the beginning I had a swag of subjects to draw. I love animals so I started sketching friends’ pets. Then I moved onto the animals I help at the local animal shelter and discovered I have a bit of a knack for horses and donkeys, and a weakness with curly fur. Every nine days or so I run out of models and do a shout out to friends for more pet pics, or trawl through all our photos. Again. I’ve even resorted to sketching a couple of children, but they tend to become unintentional caricatures. Animals have become my comfort blanket to hide beneath. Fortunately, I don’t have the patience to carry on trawling for animal photos, so the last 50 days sketches will be far more diverse.

To see my progress, check out my ‘Sketches’ folder on https://www.facebook.com/AnandasArts

If you have found a way to stop your little finger smudging your drawing, or have mastered the art of sketching curly fur, please leave comments!

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Heidi Baker

Principal Test Consultant of Squirrels Rock in New Zealand. Also, a massive fan of writing documentation and process improvement.