Here are 5 things you can do in your sketchbook to help improve your skills and to make you more visually aware.
1. Do drawings of some of the great masters of painting. I recently went to the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and was able to do a couple of sketchbook studies of Rembrandt’s paintings. If you can’t get to a gallery or museum, draw from your art books. You can see some of my studies above of John Singer Sargent portraits.
2. Make sure you carry your sketchbook (I recommend the Moleskine brand) and something to draw with at all times, so that if you’ve time to kill, you can quickly draw whatever is around you. Drawing from life will sharpen ones technical ability in terms of being able to draw and will increase visual awareness.
3. Try to paint a sky a day (or even just one a week). At the end of the year you will have 52 –365 studies that will capture different seasons and times of day that you can refer back to for ideas when painting landscapes, seascapes or cityscapes. It will also help you to see cloud shapes and the effects of light as washes of colour.
4. Instead of using a pencil, try drawing with a brush and paint with one colour. You will achieve an interesting quality of line and you will become more confident about handling a brush.
5. If you are struggling to find someone to draw, then try a self portrait in front of a mirror. Then use the mirror to check on the accuracy of your study by holding up the sketch in front of the mirror alongside your face. You will be surprised how the reflection shows up any errors.
To finish with, a quote from John Singer Sargent:
“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh”.