Drawing outside is a wonderful experience but I must admit I am not very keen if it is raining and cold! When the weather is warm I really enjoy sketching in my garden, it is not only very peaceful and relaxing to be outside but it can benefit drawing in so many ways. I offer a few tips on why it is good to draw outside and what you can do to make it a even better experience.
Drawing from Life – A True Representation
Drawing from life is so important, particularly when you are learning to draw. You can see subjects as they really are, in 3 dimensions rather than 2 dimensions. There is so much more information to hand about light and shadow than you could ever get from 2 dimensional images. Once you have drawn from life and compared it with drawing or painting from images you will realise how much richer the ‘real life’ experience is.
If we are using an image of a tree for example we might think the shadows are dark brown or black and paint them as we see them on the image. If we are outside we can go up to the tree and really see what colours are there, often the colours are different from the image and we might see orange, yellow or dark purples.
The quality of the light outside can’t be matched in indoor environments, all photographers and artists know this. The outside environment is dynamic and always changing, this is excellent for the artist because it really trains the eye to see what is there and study the light. Light is probably one of the most important lessons artists need to know about, being outdoors is the perfect place to observe light.
Going outside regularly even without drawing makes us notice nature and therefore gain an understanding of it. If we can observe the sun setting for example we will know that it casts long shadows and notice the warm ‘glowing’ nature of the light around this time.
So much can be missed when you are indoors! Have you ever stepped outside and noticed a fantastic sunset? Often these moments are fleeting but very inspirational. Just like the photographer who gets up early to catch the dawn you can capture some magical moments outside if you are in the right place at the right time! The more you have your sketchpad handy and go outside the more you will capture. The more you see that inspires you the more you will want to draw and paint. Once you get into this habit you will start seeing things and thinking ‘I wish I had my sketchpad’.
A New Space
Whenever I have taught children I have noticed that once they get outside to draw they become more motivated. There is something about the classroom or indoor environment for many children (and adults for that matter) that doesn’t inspire them. It is hard to find inspiration when you are sat at a table looking at a blank piece of paper! Going outside is often what is needed for many of us to be inspired to draw. Once we are inspired it doesn’t take the same effort, we enjoy the experience much more.
Knowing Your Subject
Often I cover the topic of townscapes on my courses and I ask my learners to go and sketch on location for their development studies. I can usually tell the ones that really went there and spent some time there and those that didn’t. It is not only the visual information you can gather from being on location but the smells, the feelings etc. of the setting. You can then communicate the ‘feeling’ of the place in your artwork much more effectively than if you had never been there. Being in a different environment forces us to work in a different way which is good for the artist, as art is essentially about experimenting and trying out new ways of working.
Sketching is Good Practice
Being outside does have its challenges and doesn’t always allow for longer more developed studies. The practice of quick sketching is a good one, short studies or thumbnail sketches of a scene or object are very valuable. You could always then come indoors for the developed study but you will have done your homework with the locational sketches.
It Doesn’t Have to Be a Landscape!
Many of my learners have the idea that sketching outside means drawing a landscape. I know that is the obvious subject matter but you don’t have to draw landscapes. You can draw still life, figures, portraits etc. outside. Taking a small object outside is a good idea to observe how natural light falls on it.
New Opportunities for Subject Matter
There are so many more things to draw outside than inside that you are bound to find something that inspires you. I like to combine walking with sketching because I really don’t know what will inspire me it is completely down to chance. I might stumble upon a rusty gate for example and sketch this or a cloudscape, the opportunities outside seem endless.
Get the Kit
If you want to get serious about drawing and painting outdoors I suggest getting some of the kit that will make life easier. I shall be publishing a post about this and what I recommend you use. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do need to be comfortable if you are to enjoy drawing and painting outdoors.