Fear of sketching

Sketch from Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass festival. While I was sketching, the woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation, and told me how much she enjoyed watching me draw!
Sketch from Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass festival. While I was sketching, the woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation, and told me how much she enjoyed watching me draw!

WordPress somehow keeps track of search terms folks used to get to my blog. One of the most frequently searched terms is fear of sketching in public.

I’ve written about being afraid to sketch in public before. I am constantly trying to overcome this fear, and apparently, I’m not the only person shy about public sketching.

I’ve been working on solving this problem, because one of the things I really want to be able to do before I die is sketch freely in public, with no shame. If that’s your goal too, here are some suggestions that have helped me.

  • Take some classes to improve your skills. This is top of the list. I’ve studied figure drawing with Rob Anderson at the Atelier School of Classical Realism for 3 years. It’s improved my skill level to the point where I can sketch people and have them look like people. That has allayed my fears incredibly.
  • Plan your sketch trip as if it were an expedition to an exotic country. Expeditions are hard. They are arduous. They can be dangerous. They are adventure that takes a lot of effort, so think ahead. Select your materials with care. Decide where you’re going (make a map if it helps you). Know how you’ll provide for your basic needs (what you’ll eat, where you’ll be able to go to the bathroom.) Once you’re on your expedition, be curious, look around you, document the expedition with sketches to describe the customs of the natives.
  • Choose places where you can sketch in obscurity. At first, it helped me to sketch in large public places like parks, where I could sit on a hillside with my back against some bushes (so no one could creep behind me and look over my shoulder at my drawing). I drew people who were far away, so they didn’t get self conscious that I was drawing them. I could have been drawing them, the view, anything. And I did draw them, the view, anything.
  • Pretend you’ve got no choice. When I went to the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass festival, I pretended that I was on assignment for a brutal editor and had to come away with ten sketches. I just didn’t have any choice. I had to do it. The sketches didn’t have to be particularly good, but there had to be 10. That worked for me, as I’m used to deadlines and assignments.
  • BassplayerKeep it simple. Don’t try to create a masterpiece. That’s way too much pressure. Draw stick figures if you must. Anyone can draw a stick figure. Try just to get the action or composition down using stick men as shorthand. Stick figures are amusing, and a low commitment for the artist. Later you can hang skin and clothes on the little figures in a place where no one can look over your shoulder and criticize. Same with a landscape. Just try to get the bones of the landscape. Don’t worry about drawing every bush, tree, or leaf.
  • Remember that people don’t see your work the way you do. We artists tend to be our worst critics. We see flaws; others see beauty, or effort, or the coolness factor that you’re an artist.  They may even be thinking, “gee, I wish I had the courage to do that.”

3 thoughts on “Fear of sketching

  1. hmm, not sure if I commented on your blog before but I read a WP blog that mentioned a similiar issue of “sketching in public”. I guess it was more about having people watch the process of the sketch, which I’ve never felt comfortable about anyway. I always thought that your drawing/sketching time should be personal between you and the subject. So, a fear of sketching in public isn`t that big of a deal since , as you said, people see YOUR art different than you see it.

    However, you had some valid points there and I hope that it helps to some degree.

  2. This is a great post. i’ve been trying to sketch in public but i’m still really intimidated by it. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jensy. I find that the more I sketch in public, the easier it becomes. Getting out the sketchbook and pencils is the hardest part! Keep drawing.

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