From speaking with many of you, I think it is safe to say that many of us find sketches to be more interesting than polished paintings and drawings. We each have our reasons for thinking this, however articulating these reasons and our emotional reactions to sketches isn’t always easy to do.
Words may come easier to you after today though, thanks to Gabriela Goldschmidt and her interesting article, The Backtalk of Self-Generated Sketches.
In her paper, Goldschmidt (2003) discusses how the sketching process generates and strengthens ideas. She provides an example of how this process can occur with a young child and with an adult designer. Goldschmidt (2003) thoughtfully describes the creation of sketches and how a sketcher reads a sketch to develop an idea into something with many layers.
Goldschmidt’s insights are fascinating and includes some history about the origins of sketching. It appears that sketching can be traced back to the late 1400s and is a direct result of the invention of movable type, printing presses and an emerging book printing industry that includes the birth of the paper industry. As paper became more affordable, designers and artists began consuming paper to create study drawings (Goldschmidt, 2003). This was the time of the Renaissance and the thoughts artists placed on paper were called pensieri, the Italian word for thought (Olszweski 1981, as cited in Goldschmidt 2003).
So what is it about sketches that make them so interesting?
It’s simple — they tell better stories.
Goldschmidt (2003) explains how more information can be read from a sketch than a finished drawing. Hard-lined drawings, she explains, are created “according to strict rules” and imply a finished product. Because anyone can create a line drawing, this makes a hard-lined drawing no different than any other type of generic visual information (Goldschmidt, 2003). A hard-lined drawing is no longer telling a story or, as Goldschmidt says, no longer “talks back”. She explains that self-generated sketches reflect a sketcher’s innermost thoughts and ideas and this is what makes them better stories.
Goldschmidt’s 17-page paper is very interesting and I feel you would enjoy it. I have no doubt you will recognize your own process in her discussion.
Goldschmidt, Gabriela. 2003. The backtalk of self-generated sketches. Design Issues. 19(1): 72-88
Olsweski, E.J. 1981. The Draughtsman’s Eye: Late Renaissance Schools and Styles. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art/Indiana University Press.
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