The Difference Between a Sketch and a Drawing

This is a sketch- It’s a lovely little brook behind Benson House, with charming waterfalls and babbling cascades. I drew it in about 30 minutes while sitting on a mossy boulder and being sucked dry by mosquitos and blackflies. I’ll do a full-scale drawing of it later, going back with my field equipment and using better paper and  some color. This was just a scouting plein air drawing setup

This is my plein air drawing setup: a Winsor & Newton Giant Meadow Sketching Easel, a folding table, a hollow-core drawing board. When I go to this much trouble, I call it Drawing.

What’s a sketch, but a quick record of a momentary experience? And what’s a drawing, but a finished rendering? In my book, a sketch has a lot of air between the lines, captures ephemera, and is usually raw material for something more complete later on. Drawings, while they may be done plein air as though they were sketches, are begun with more forethought and planning and potentially a frame, mat, glass and space on someone’s wall in mind. The sketches stay in the book where they belong. The drawings are the final product.

After being here about 7 weeks I’m up to 16 plein air drawings of the Harvard Forest and environs. This past week I’ve been having fun adding color via pastels to everything, including my clothes and my own face. The drawings range in size from 10″x10″ to 22″x30″, and due to a shipping error by an art supplier, I now have ten sheets of Rives BFK extra-large 32″x40″, for which I’ll go to the lumber yard and fetch a piece of plywood to function as a drawing board large enough for those big honkin’ sheets. I’m ready for big. There’s some pretty awesome subject matter around here: waterfalls, old-growth trees, boulders, lakes, mountains. A whole forest beckons.

I’m going to need a bigger wall.

Sugar maple at the end of the driveway, partly completed drawing with pastel added. Drawing measures 15″x22″.

Boulders dropped hither and yon by retreating glaciers are called Glacial Erratics. Cool name, and they make pleasingly interesting subjects.

Here’s the drawing underway. I’ll photograph and post the finished piece, which has pastel color added. This one measures 19″ x 25″.

Another sugar maple, this one at the entrance to Shaler Hall and the Fisher Museum, Harvard Forest. It’s a magnificent tribute to the power of pancakes and an early settler’s craving for sweets. Plus, it’s a tree that’s chock full ‘o character.

I drew this on Martha’s Vineyard: a windblown, solitary oak- the only one growing in a windswept stubble field on the edge of the ocean. Cindy House and I sat on the ground and drew it together until our hands went numb from the wind. When we stood up we were leaning over, too. I’ve added pastel color. 15″ x 8.5″.

4 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Sketch and a Drawing

  1. Becky says:

    These are wonderful, wonderful drawings — I particularly like the Sugar Maple and the way you caught the twist of it — and the way you are adding pastel to the drawings. What an inspiration you are!

  2. wrjones says:

    Great drawings. I’m impressed by your ability to draw while being devoured by insects. I don’t have that kind of concentration. Where do you get one of those bug hoods?

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