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Capturing the essence

Posted by Koosje Koene in ArtJournal, Draw Tip, sketchbook on January 5, 2018

You don’t need to draw the whole scene to capture the essence of it.


Drawing is a matter of practice. If you do it a lot, you get better at it. We all would really like to get shortcuts to learning faster and get better. I’m pretty sure you have bought a certain art tool just because you believed it would make you draw better. I certainly have. More than once. And even though I know it’s not about the tool, I keep tricking myself into it. Maybe that’s also because buying new art tools is SO MUCH FUN and in a way, it can be inspiring and motivating too.

So even though I believe there are no shortcuts when learning, this might be one.

When you’re drawing on location, or even just simply at home, you might want to capture a scene. Like for example the room you’re in, the bar your sitting at, the street corner you’re on. Try drawing your view and it’s quite likely that you feel overwhelmed or don’t even know where to start. Or maybe you feel discouraged because there’s just too much to capture.

Instead, take a breath and look around you again. What are the things that speak to you or that are characteristic of the scene? Isolate them from the whole scene, and start drawing the things separately. Sketch things one by one and put them on the page randomly. You can even play with size and draw small things very large for example. This way you’re kind of creating a ‘sketch collage’.

You won’t believe how liberating it can be to let go of the idea of having to draw your whole view. By picking certain items or parts of the scene, you’re actually creating a much more personal page and translate a place through your eyes and experience.

I learned this from Miguel ‘freekhand’ Herranz last summer, and since then I use this technique very often. Even if I just draw small bits and pieces of what I see around me, it always becomes a whole. By filling the white space with watercolor or with black, the seemingly random drawings get connected and the drawings pop out of the page.

So here are a few pages that I’ve done like that.

Koosje Koene

Hi I'm Koosje. I'm an illustrator and art teacher in Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. I went to school to study graphic design, then worked for ten years as an award-winning professional photographer. But eventually my love of drawing and painting took over and I became an illustrator. My illustrations have been published in many Dutch magazines and in 2011, I began blogging and started developing and teaching online art classes. In 2014 I founded Sketchbook Skool, which is a flourishing community of artists from around the world of all skill levels.