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  • Writer's pictureAcademic Warriors

The World of Sketching by Luke Malizzo (Age: 16)

What is sketching? What is drawing? What is coloring? How do all of these vary? How are they all the same? Any person taking a moment to ask these questions can easily be mistaken to what is what, within the world of sketching. A common question I get when sketching something, is "What are you coloring?" This question should be rephrased as, "What are you sketching?" Why? Why does that matter? Well there is a very large difference between sketching and coloring, among other smaller reasons.

Firstly, coloring is what one is doing when they have a picture which they are coloring in with more than just gray lead, to better render the picture. Color is used to show where things end, and others begin. Color is used to amplify the bright, or dark areas in a picture. Color can create, or kill, a picture. Whereas in sketching, little to no color is used. Sketching is putting ideas on paper, usually in a quick and unrefined way. Usually sketching is done with a couple pencils, all of which are lead gray.

Now here's where this gets tricky. The difference between sketching, and drawing. Drawing is sort of like a second stage to sketching. Where sketching shows the idea, drawing shows a final, or more detailed outcome to an artwork. Drawing is more or less the next step to creating a final rendering of something. Let’s say I have an awesome idea of creating a new world in a sketchbook. I think I’ll create my world from knee height view. I think you will be looking straight ahead, but slightly upward. You can see some of the canopy above you, as well as the ‘planty’ green forest floor below. There will also be a waterfall and cliff face ahead of you, through the trees. Now that I really like the world I have in my mind, I need to translate it onto the paper.

Sketching, The Translation Between The Idea I Have in Mind, and The Piece I Am Starting.

So, I begin to sketch. Now this is the phase where I decide a couple of things. Where is my light source coming from? What is the darkest, and lightest area. Now I can see that my idea of seeing the cliff face won't work, because I have dark areas down below in the forest floor, I can’t also have dark cliffs. Luckily I have taken the time to use my dull sketching phase, to catch this potential error. If I had jumped into drawing, I would have been kicking myself for having too much dark. But now I have a big decision. What do I put in the place of my cliffs? I think a snow-capped mountain, with a misty haze at the base will work. Yes, I have lost my waterfall, but have gained this great mountain idea. I practice sketching each component in my piece separately. I sketch the mountain, trees, forest floor, and the sky peeking through. Once I love what I have come up with, I move onto the drawing process.

Drawing, The Transition From a Messy Idea, Into a Refined Outline.

This is the stage where, using my practice and idea, move into the most fun part of this whole process. Here, I can use an eraser, and a couple different leads varying in line weight, to create the beginning of the final piece. This is where my idea becomes an area I can see, not just think about. I can see myself standing in the forest now. I can see the mountain, and bushes. This is a very slow, and detailed process. The best word used to describe this step, is, refining.


With everything cleaned up, and in place, I can now add color to accentuate the piece. Now I bring this world to life, adding the happy greens of the leaves, and bushes. The dark of the forest floor, and trunks of the trees. The blues, and whites of the mountain in the distance. My world is complete. With everything done, the last step is to sign it, and step back.

Now all three of these steps mean different things to different artists, and are not always used in the same way, or order. I have seen some artists sketch, then draw a small portion of the piece and finish it with color before they continue sketching. My preferred method, is to go one step at a time, making sure everything is in its place.

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