Mini-lesson: The Ten Minute Sketch

It wasn’t that long ago I was teaching in a classroom 40 hours a week in a subject matter that was unrelated to fine art. The simple reality for a lot of creative people is that a great deal of our days are spent doing things other than create art to pay our bills. So, with that in mind, the single greatest block on an artist’s creativity can be the simplest of stumbling blocks: “Do I have time for this?”

With this in mind I thought about ways that creative non-professionals and even professional artists can kick-start their process. I’m calling this example the “ten minute sketch.” It involves sectioning a piece of standard 8 x 11 1/2 sketch paper in your sketch book into four sections (the sections will be roughly the size of 4 x 6 note cards I was taught in high school to use to take notes for research papers).

Generally, I have encouraged my past students to “scale up” (ie: increase the size of their drawings and art) and to use a full sheet of paper for each piece. However, –this time around and in the interest of time– the idea is to create a smaller image that can be done more quickly as it will require less detail. Since this is meant for a sketch book exercise, it’s ideal for pencil or charcoal. Those who wish to may choose to work in color, but if you want to keep to the time limit (a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule by any means) you will simplify your drawing by working in one color, or with a limited palette.

Here is my example from last evening:

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My partner, Muse. Pencil on paper, 3” by 5”, from my sketch book.

Bare in mind, this is an exercise designed to help get the blood flowing. You need not agonize about small works not intended for sale. With the small size you will want to keep your details simplified.

I choose portraiture for the topic of this sketch. The planes of the face are generally simple enough to sketch in this small a size. Subjects that are more intricate and have a great deal of detail might take a great deal more time.

Whether or not you work in areas unrelated to your art, the most important key to being happy creatively is good time management. Set time aside each day to be creative. Whether your ten minute sketch is done in ten minutes or not is not important. The important piece of doing this exercise is getting over the notion of being “too busy” or, “not having time” to be creative. This is a mental trick more than anything else.

Get out there, have fun and create!

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