After reading my recent post on doing quickies, a friend of mine reminded me that another great way to make use of limited time was simply to draw in sketchbooks, rather than set up all that gear and paint.
Even when I'm doing quickie oils, I do these little drawings anyway, and I hadn't given them much thought, but he's right. Drawing is not only a great way to do limited time studies, but absolutely essential in keeping your chops greased. If you don't practice drawing, you won't get very far.
These are sketches from my sketchbook. I use a 8 x 5 Moleskine, and an ordinary pen or a pencil to do my sketching. I'm not really picky about my sketching materials. Any paper and pencil / pen combination will do.
As with oil studies, I try to think about what aspect of the model (or the landscape. or whatever I have in front of me or in my mind's eye) I'm studying. Is it the gesture? The shapes? Light and Shadow patterns? Form? Composition? As I focus on that particular aspect, I try really hard not to dilute my focus by also emphasizing other aspects. This habit of defining your emphasis translates to automatically thinking about hierarchy of importance when you are actually painting, I noticed.
Trying to do everything is not only difficult, it's counterproductive in a quick study. I don't need that kind of pressure anyway.
Perhaps because I avoid that pressure of trying to do everything perfectly, I find that drawing in my sketchbook to be a very relaxing activity. I can do it just about anywhere, whenever I have five or ten minutes. I don't plan on showing these to anyone (oops I just did in this post, didn't I?) so I don't care if my drawings come out badly.
The above drawings were done as warm ups before the oil quickies, and here they are. The oils too are just quick studies. Not as quick as the drawings, but still done with very limited time per sketch.
When I first do the pen sketches and then do the oils, the painting goes faster as well. At least, with less frustration. I've already gone through some of the editing process during the pen sketch, and I've also identified some problems and solutions before starting the oil studies, so I have an easier time working with paint.
Sometimes I get hasty and in my eagerness to start painting, I skip the sketchbook stage. We all do that. But almost always I kick myself later because I can easily see that I gave myself unnecessary frustration by not pre-solving some of the problems. Easy to say "I got lazy." As long as I keep getting lazy, though, I'm not getting any better. And that's a fact.