[by Fred Lynch from Boston]
I have a book to recommend for sketchers, and you can read it for free online because it's so old that the copyright has expired. It's called Outdoors Sketching: Four Talks Given Before the Art Institute of Chicago; The Scammon Lectures, 1914. Not a catchy title, I know, but it's a great book about sketching. F. Hopkinson Smith was the writer, and he was quite a Renaissance man: an author of fiction and non-fiction, an artist and an engineer. In this book, Smith makes so many good points and has so many good lines, that I think I underlined half of the book.
My favorite quote from the book is perhaps, “...it takes two men to paint an outdoor picture: one to do the work and the other to kill him when he has done enough.”
“Having determined upon the quality of the subject-matter and fixed its centre interest in pleasing relation to the whole, the next step is to confine yourself to all that the eyes see at one glance and no more, or, in other words, that portion of the landscape which you could cut out with the scissors of your eye and paste upon your mind. That which you can see when your head is kept perfectly still, your eye looking straight before you, only seeing so high, so low, and so far to the right and left, without a strain”
Not bad advice for a beginner, but, to my mind, the ability to look around and synthesize a scene, is one of the ways in which the sketcher separates themselves from the photographer. I always consider whether my drawing is doing something different than photography. Looking wide is one of the many options that an artist has in capturing place in a captivating way.
Another is to a capture a period of time rather than a single moment. Again, unlike the flash of a photo, an artist can sit and record for hours if they wish. In my case, I sat on the high steps of a church and soaked in a busy afternoon of the Umbrian town of Narni in Central Italy. In my wide view, people came and went, as did cars, buses, and most interestingly, wedding guests. I spent the afternoon adding moving parts bit by bit. Few of these cars and people actually coexisted, but but they passed by. I aimed to represent the afternoon in the drawing rather than freeze a moment (which I most often do). It was a busy day of head turning.