An Artist’s Diary

Stack of Sara's SketchbooksSketchbooks are interesting to look through whether they’re old ones of mine or someone else’s. It’s captivating to see where my artistic skills were on a specific day, or recall what mood I was in, or why on one day I drew something that looked quite brilliant yet the next page contains something I could have drawn when I was five.

I find it astonishing how in many instances I can recall exactly where I was, who I was talking to, or what was going on around me while I was sketching. To me my sketchbooks are like coded diaries that utilize images rather than words to act as little flags in my memory to cause recollections. (Seems like a pretty crafty way to keep a diary’s contents safe and keep your mind sharp!)

So, why am I talking about sketchbooks? Well, I ran out of room in mine the other day and had to go out and buy a fresh one. Having crisp, new supplies is almost as satisfying as coming to that final page and seeing that I’ve developed my own little story book. I may not look through my sketchbooks for several months on end, but when I do I’m always left feeling accomplished knowing I have enough creativity to fill an entire book.

Sadly, I have not come to the end of a sketchbook in a long time. I have been neglecting to keep my skills sharp with diligent practice. Finishing this one reminded me not so much that I need to practice drawing (because forcing myself to do something when I don’t want to turns it into an unlikeable task), but instead it reminded me of the enjoyment I used to get out of sketching. I’d create something new almost daily, and I liked doing it. It was part of my day and I want to have that relationship with my sketchbook again.

You should flip through your old sketchbooks and see how much you remember about each day and why you were working on each sketch. It’s a time-sucker though so make sure you have at least an hour to kill! There are some drawings in mine that just make me laugh and laugh. . . I think you’ll find your own book to be a real page turner 🙂

A Work in Progress

I have wanted to create a huge drawing based off this photograph since I was in high school and I’ve finally started working on it! To give you a bit of perspective, the photo is 4″ by 6″ and the drawing is going to be 23″ by 35″. Here is the progression. . .


I have been enjoying working on dark backgrounds with various drawings and paintings so, I decided to use colored pencils on a dark, chocolate-brown, linen embossed paper. I’m planning on a monochromatic color scheme, but we’ll see how it goes. . .

The outline isn’t complete yet, but once I finish it, I think I’m going to switch to coloring sticks and try a looser technique to make an attempt at not be so tight with the detail as I usually tend to be . . .

Outline of colored pencil drawing of an old man lighting a pipe________________________


I finished the outline yesterday and I managed to get a better representation of what color the paper is. There are a few errors,  and I can likely fix them once I start shading, but I don’t think they are going to matter all that much . . .



I started on the shading yesterday and had to stop when it was too dark to work anymore (I have my easel setup in the garage). Typically, I would dive right into the picture and draw all over the place: put color down on the foreground and background, focus on one area and complete it, leave some areas completely untouched, etc… I started to do that this time, but I’m trying do the background first, then go into the subject. I’ve been told it’s the proper way (background, then foreground) but I always seem to stray from that.

Another thing I want to try to achieve with this piece is a depth of focus, like in photography. I don’t have as much experience with cameras so I hope I can better achieve different focal effects with a pencil than I can with a camera. Ideally, the left side will be very blurry and out of focus, the figure will be focused and the right side will be mostly focused, though not as much as the figure. We shall see. . .

Drawing of a man smoking a pipe________________________


Not a whole lot changed from the last update, just a bit more of the background is filled in on the right side.



I think I’m still putting in too much detail, but it’s hard omitting elements when I’m used to drawing as much detail as I can. I rely a lot on the photograph. Maybe I’ll try to look at it less. That way I won’t spend as much time studying everything, trying to get each element exactly “right.”



I’m trying to shade in a base color that I’ll be using primarily for each section. I recall taking a class back in high school at Munson Williams; the instructor taught me to choose a warm color and a cool color to paint a wash over the warm/cool sections of the painting. It gives you a base color to start with, helps determine the main elements you want to be most prominent and also with determining your lighting.

In this case, I’m using it to assist me with choosing which tones of brown will be used for each element so the drawing doesn’t wind up lacking dimension and depth due to the shades of brown being too similar.



So, about that whole “not being very detailed thing”. . . I need to practice on that a bit because I’m still doing it. 🙂

I’m always happy with my pieces when I look at how realistic they look so, I know I’ll be satisfied even if it turns out to be completely detailed without the desired blurry effects I describe in a previous update. My “break-through” piece simply may not be this one.



I’ve been filling in the collar and shoulder and I’m liking the results; Lots of depth and dimension.



Well, after about 7 months of letting this drawing sit around, I finally picked it back up again last night while I had M.A.S.H. playing on the TV. However, I didn’t do all of this last night; I worked on it for 5-10 minutes here and there for the last few months. I hadn’t completed any significant amount of work to bother posting an update until now.

On a side note, I hate setting deadlines for things because it will only set myself up for disappointment since I rarely meet a deadline I set for myself. It’s different when someone else is relying on me to finish something, but when it’s just for myself I tend to be more lax about getting it done. . .

As you can see I’ve filled in the majority of the left shoulder and sleeve of the jacket. I’m having a bit of a hard time with the hair since it’s so white. Its going to be a little more challenging trying to make it not look like a white blob. I’m also not looking forward to the hands, though I’m sure it won’t be as bad as I’ve convinced myself it’ll be.

Hand drawn pencil portrait of old man smoking a pipe.________________________


This update is long over due and there’s still quite a lot left to do, but progress is obviously being made. I took this photo inside, at night so, the colors are a little off.

I’m very happy with the way it looks, but I’m dissatisfied with the fact that this is only challenging my patience, not my skill. I already know I can recreate scenes, photographs, images, etc with amazing detail so, I’m still trying to figure how I can make this piece help me grow, and develop something new.



The primary changes in this update are the accomplishments with getting the hands nearly complete and the smoke is starting to come to life. I am determined to get this drawing done in less than 2 years!!! Oye…



Almost done!!! I think is will be the final “update” before the final piece is reveled. YAY! So, the main differences in this update are some changes to the hair, the smoke now looks more transparent, I added a few highlights to the hat brim, and the wood on the left is a tad blurrier to give it an unfocused effect.