Clean Sketches
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    Clean Sketches

    I see people's sketchbooks and their lines are so clean and it looks like there are no eraser marks. How come my sketches always look extremely messy? Are there any exercises I can do?

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    Decide on the mark before you make it. Make a mark one at a time, don't scribble. A more thoughtful approach gives you better lines.

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    The best way to not show eraser marks is to not erase.

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    Quote Originally Posted by somnia View Post
    I see people's sketchbooks and their lines are so clean and it looks like there are no eraser marks. How come my sketches always look extremely messy? Are there any exercises I can do?
    I'm afraid you just need a tonn more practice, accuracy will come with experience.

    you can't decide what to put into the sketch and what to leave out before you make a number of sketches and see which lines do work or don't, are essential or not, etc.

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    I'm not going to disagree with previous posts but they are right it's in regard to sketches that are "cleaner". However just felt the need to drop this in.

    You know there's nothing wrong with messy sketches. Alphonse Mucha does this http://mattjonezanimation.blogspot.c.../04/praha.html (check out the Museum picture of his prep sketches)

    Sketch seems to be a very loose term when it shouldn't. A sketch is...just that. It's a preliminary or unfinished drawing. Some people have taken "something unpainted" as part of the definition of sketch.

    A finished and rendered pencil drawing is not necessarily a sketch.

    Sketches are generally made to solve problems they have various degrees of unfinished.

    When people obsess over "Clean lines" or "Clean sketches" they're obsessing over the wrong thing. You need to use your sketches for study. There are various studies.

    Studies before a drawing.
    Studies to improve.

    That's what you should be using sketches for.

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    Totally agree, Arshes Nei. Our old life drawing tutor loved nothing better than to see what he described as a 'battle' on the paper. He'd ban erasers so that he could tell how we got to the place were were at in an image. Sketches are the way we learn, and annotate information for future reference.

    That said about rubbing out, I've more than made up for that in the intervening years, and whether using digital or real media, use an eraser as much as the mark making tool I'm using. However I'm working almost exclusively out of my head and so it's more of an exploration than when drawing from life.

    I often like images with construction lines showing as much, if not more so than ones with pristine line quality. It just reflects a different mind set. With a bit of practice you will be able to do both. The advice already given is spot on.

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    Thanks, guys. I appreciate all the advice the advice. I'll just keep practicing. I never knew if I was sketching the right way or not.

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    Also, never discount the possibility that the picture might have been redrawn. For example, someone's rough sketch is full of test lines and eraser marks; then he takes it over a lightbox and reworks it for more detail and clarity. That second sketch will look much "cleaner" because most of the preparatory work traces are on another page altogether!

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Also, never discount the possibility that the picture might have been redrawn. For example, someone's rough sketch is full of test lines and eraser marks; then he takes it over a lightbox and reworks it for more detail and clarity. That second sketch will look much "cleaner" because most of the preparatory work traces are on another page altogether!
    Not to mention, if you use blue or some other coloured pencil to do your preliminary lines, they can often be removed in Photoshop.

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    Also, you might just be pressing your pencil down too hard on low quality paper. Makes it very hard to erase.

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    I have found that messy lines stem from a lack in confidence about what you are drawing; if you were sure about what you needed to put down, and your skill in doing so, you would only need one line.

    Next time you sketch, study hard the area you want to put down. See how it relates to it surroundings; what angles it makes and it's size. Then allow yourself only one line, and do not reapply the line if it is misplaced, instead start again. The time spent in studying the area is an investment that pays off when it comes to putting something down.

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    Well, I occasionally still touch-up my sketches with Photoshop before posting, but it's mostly a matter of knowing where to put the lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by somnia View Post
    I see people's sketchbooks and their lines are so clean and it looks like there are no eraser marks. How come my sketches always look extremely messy? Are there any exercises I can do?
    Make it compulsory for yourself to keep your erasers out of sight when drawing. This way, you'll have no way to erase, but to go over your lines and re-state them, and your drawings will end up with a total mess of all the correct and wrong lines interlocked together, like a complex engineering blueprint (which is sexy and good). And when you see your paper gets so messy with lines and crap, you'll start to subconsciously force yourself to draw lighter, which is good.

    By keeping your eraser out of reach when you draw, you're getting killing two birds with one stone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FUSHANDCHUPS View Post
    I have found that messy lines stem from a lack in confidence about what you are drawing; if you were sure about what you needed to put down, and your skill in doing so, you would only need one line.

    Next time you sketch, study hard the area you want to put down. See how it relates to it surroundings; what angles it makes and it's size. Then allow yourself only one line, and do not reapply the line if it is misplaced, instead start again. The time spent in studying the area is an investment that pays off when it comes to putting something down.
    Gotta take exception with that opening statement. I love the gestural energetic line which results from putting your pencil/pen to paper and not lifting it as your line quests around and through your drawing for the most relevant shapes and forms. As Ahrenhaus points out it's easy enough to clean up the work if you think you hit on something meriting presentation.

    Vilppu notes "In the Fifteenth Century, it was common practice to do all the preliminary drawing we have been discussing in a medium which could be erased such as a soft charcoal, chalk, or graphite, afterwards going over the drawing with ink or wash. At this point the preliminary drawing would be erased and further development of the drawing would be continued. Today we use light tables, tracing paper, and opaque projectors to do the same thing, still using the methods and materials of the past."

    Art historians refer to the ghostly preliminary lines we see in some master drawings as "pentimenti", marks which reflect the artist "repenting" of an initial drawing choice. We now value such clues to the artist's inner life because of our modern focus on the individual. Indeed the whole of drawing became recognized as an art instead of just a technical stepping-stone on the way to art because we came to realize there are personal flourishes in an artist's graphic communication with him or herself which disappear in the final, "presentation" piece.

    Look up Michelangelo's preliminary sketch for his wonderful Libyan Sybill sometime. To her left is a terrible, sloppy study of her left hand. You think this shows Michelangelo's "lack of confindence"? No, those marks show a determined, even ruthless hand carving into the paper like it was his beloved Carrara marble to find ultimate, ideal truth.

    I do think as a result of drawing, thinking, and more drawing you naturally come to more concise, authoritative lines, but in the meantime, don't shy away from the quest!

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    This is definitely a case of 'the grass is always greener on the other side' I think, because, speaking as someone whose sketches are so clean you can see through them-- it's not all it's cracked up to be. It's easy to clean up slowly as you become more confident in your style and what you're trying to get across, but if you start of sharp, clean and minimalistic, you can quickly become rigid and lack energy in your work and, well, there's no eraser that can fix that, you know?

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    A great point, Sanya. It reminds me of another Vilppu quote.

    "There are no rules, only tools"

    "Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
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