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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sketches, Studies, or Paintings?

VERY fast sketch of the pileated woodpecker that visited the other day...along with one of my "gratitude" lists...
And a much slower, more detailed study...admittedly, this one was from a photo!

People sometimes ask the difference between sketching and drawing or painting...but that's a pretty subjective difference, I find!

I sketch, a lot.  Especially when time is short, when I need to respond quickly, get something DOWN before it's gone.  Sometimes I just like to keep my hand in, improve my hand/eye coordination.  Celebrate, notice, capture the moment, pay attention.

(And of course sometimes when something really doesn't work, I tell myself "it's just a sketch"!)

That is not to say, really, that a sketch is somehow a lesser being, inferior...it's not.  Sometimes I like the sketch very much better than a finished painting; it captures more of the life, the excitement, a kind of truth that can get lost with a longer, more contrived piece.

A sketch is not a specific medium to the exclusion of another.  You can sketch in watercolor, acrylic, oil...

A study may be more of a detailed, attentive sketch...when I'm curious about something in nature...and when I have more time.  Recently I pulled a sapling from my garden and discovered it still had the walnut the squirrels buried attached; the root went down, the sprout went up, and the color was stunning!  I had more time, so I moved out onto the deck with my paints and took my time...

Generally speaking, a painting--for me--is something I might mat or frame, something I've spent more time on.  Sometimes larger, and generally on a separate sheet of paper or a watercolor block.  It's more formal--usually, but not always.  I sometimes sell them (and NEVER journal entries, unless it's a print.  My journal is my journal, after all!) 

I've also done what others might consider a painting, in my journal.  It depends on my mood, the subject, the amount of time I have...

See what I mean?  Very subjective!  I don't have a hard and fast answer...even for myself.  What do you think? 


  1. Cathy, I appreciate you articulating these differences. I sometimes keep small sheets of w/c paper in the back of my journal for those "frameable works"...


    1. And as I say, it's VERY subjective...sometimes there really aren't such clear differences!

    2. I couldn't agree more, Kate ! Every word you wrote looks so true for me !!

  2. The difference for me is in my own head -- "Sketch" takes the pressure off, is just for fun, no worries, and if I'm not wild about it, no problem, I'll do another tomorrow. "Painting" conjures up something formal and serious that is supposed to be good -- so even though that's a somewhat nonsensical definition, it changes the whole intent in my head. So I never "paint." I often sketch. With paint. :-)

  3. In school I was taught to always use the best paper possible because sometimes you don't know when a sketch or a study becomes "frame worthy". Not always practical to do, but I understand wonderful things do happen when you are simply sketching.

  4. A growing debate is about whether drawing/sketching on an iPad, photoshopping, or some other program is authentic. I say no. I cannot reconcile using those enhancements when using a brush/pencil commands one's creativity. You make your own enhancements. This is not to pooh-pooh graphic art that I know is computer driven. That is large scale and has many other characteristics than a sketch in the park.

  5. The growing debate is whether drawing/sketching on an iPad, photoshopping, or any other program is authentic. I say no. Using the enhancements provided on a computer cannot compare to making your own with a pen, pencil, or a brush. This is not to pooh-pooh graphic arts. I feel that is a much bigger scale than making a sketch in the park or by the seaside.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was wondering few days ago at what point does something moves from a sketch to a frame-able painting, so I found them interesting. I came to the similar conclusion as you - it's subjective and doesn't really matter, specially if worrying about it is preventing me from getting the paper out and painting/drawing.


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