How To Sketch Faster

One of the biggest areas where I have struggled is how to sketch faster. Most art instructors insist that you should practice quick sketching to improve your artwork. And yet many of us avoid these exercises because we don't like how messy they look or that they are not praiseworthy enough.

When I landed my first job as an illustrator and 3D model designer, I struggled to finish an art piece within the deadline. The project producer had a stern chat with me about my slowness. I walked away, realising that others would readily take my coveted position if I did not get my act together.

I had to learn to let go of my perfectionist attitude and learn to get the job done on time.

Here are some of the reasons you need to learn how to draw faster.

Doing quick drawings helps turn off the more critical side of our minds. We learn to see the overall picture rather than getting caught in our self-criticism. Therefore, we won't be so quick to label our drawings as good or bad. We get to see them as learning experiences that we can carry into our next piece.

Draw faster by avoiding details.

If you find that you get stuck and your drawings are too stiff, try sketching quickly. While doing quick drawings, we focus on areas other than details and accuracy. We can concentrate on the rhythm, tempo and energy, lending it to more dynamic artwork.

Some of us get into the bad habit of adding details too quickly. We might try to beautify our work by shading without focusing on the structure of the drawing. This can ruin our artwork because we might fail to see the overall picture, leading to a disjointed feeling.

Drawing different things often will help you to examine your skills more frequently. You need to push yourself to work faster with intent and review often to make progress. This mindset will encourage you to try new things, get feedback and try it again.

So, how can we sketch faster?



Try timed drawings

As a drawing warm-up exercise, you could try gesture drawing. Set a timer and draw within 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes and half an hour.

Practice timed drawings.

In a shorter time, you will be able to capture lesser information, just the form and perhaps some gesture lines. Here, we try to express the rhythm and flow of the subject. For longer sketches, you can add some shading and tone without getting bogged down by details. But make sure to stick to the time limit.

Let go of perfection

Quick drawings are meant to be messy and imperfect. Sketching quickly forces us to be objective about the decisions about lines, shapes and forms. It gives you the permission to make mistakes and do 'bad drawings'.

For a recovering perfectionist such as myself, this has been very freeing. Since I have so little time, I cannot worry about my drawings being perfect.



Focus on the overall

Our drawings can turn out stiff and unnatural when we jump into the details prematurely. We need to learn how to see our artwork as a whole rather than as disjointed pieces.

As artists, we should try to capture the energy of a moment rather than just the accuracy. We create organic and natural shapes and rhythms when we focus on the overall artwork.

Are you excited to try sketching quickly and are stumped on what to draw? Download my list of drawing prompts to avoid running out of ideas. Print them at home and mark the ones that you have completed.

Break things down

If you are a beginner, use basic shapes to create the scaffolding over which you create your drawing. This will help prevent realising that something is 'off' after working for hours on a piece of work.

Draw using basic shapes.

You can also use simple forms such as cylinders for the limbs and cubes for the hands, a sphere for the head, etc. This will help your drawings seem three-dimensional but help you spot errors early on.

Slow down to draw fast

This might seem like counterintuitive advice. But when we slow down, we get to be more intentional about the way we create our work. We get to put more thought into how we want our work to appear and how it will be completed in the end.



Intentionally Incomplete

Some of the most beautiful artwork leave out some details to the spectator’s imagination. Certain areas of the composition could be left out intentionally, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps.

Can you imagine trying to capture every leaf on a tree? What a nightmare! Although I have certainly tried in some instances. Removing the pressure to capture every detail has freed up my energy to work on other areas of my art practice.

Don't use guidelines to draw.

Don't draw the skeleton

For more intermediate to advanced artists, try dispensing using shapes and forms to draw. Jump right in and work without your guidelines. Some of us get attached to using our training wheels and forget that we can draw without them. Experiment and see what drawing techniques you use as a crutch and draw without them.

Practice makes progress

You might struggle with timed drawings. They might seem stressful and unnecessary. But with practice, you will improve and get better. It will allow you to make many mistakes and learn from them in a short amount of time.



So, is it better to draw slow or fast?

It depends on what you are trying to achieve. Over the years, I have learned that drawing fast or slow should be a choice. We need to be able to balance each skill, taking our time when necessary and going fast if it's crucial.

Try this drawing exercise below:

Artists can spend hours trying to create a perfect illustration. So, Mark Crilley, a comics creator and illustrator, decided to challenge his fellow illustrators with this speed drawing challenge. The rules are simple - pick a subject and sketch it three times in 10 minutes, 1 minute, and 10 seconds.

See how fast you can push yourself. It's a nerve-wracking challenge when you notice how quickly time can go.


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