Sketch n 1. A hasty or undetailed drawing or painting often made as a preliminary study. 2. A brief general account or presentation; an outline.
To examine its definition, the sketch marks the beginning of a study; it is only a humble opening to be forgotten and improved upon. Perhaps though, and particularly in the context of the design process, it goes beyond the beginning and is of much more value in its own right.
To deconstruct what it is may possibly be an oxymoron of what it actually is; it can be a number of things, most often at once. Nonetheless, some of its qualities are highlighted below.
When travelling, the casual tourist carries a camera because it is convenient way to record things. Likewise, the sketcher need not be unduly burdened. To sketch, all you reasonably need is an inexpensive pencil and a piece of paper. The equipment, therefore, can be with you at all times (wherever you may be).
To be able to put on paper what your eye sees, you have to be able to understand what it is you’re looking at; you have to look closely. Therefore, much more than the photographer with their camera, the person who has looked and drawn, comprehends in far greater detail what they have seen.
Design is not done extempore. Indeed the process of design is complex and non-linear; however, to the designer or artist, the sketch can be an instrument for starting to develop an idea. It might, in an instant, record the essence of an idea and become a constant source of reference as a design develops.
The designer does not live in isolation. Neither does the design. Therefore, along its way, the idea must be told to others. The sketch communicates an idea to others at a point in time. It can immediately be developed, then amended again. It is not precious.
Conversely, the longevity of the sketch is seen in Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture, the most enduring record of which is arguably the explanatory sketch. This creates an interesting contradiction between the act of the sketch, which is in itself momentary, and the record of the sketch, which has, in effect, become permanent.
The case for the sketch is far reaching; it is not just as described above, but an aesthetic, emotive and even magical device as well. So perhaps then, it is the inherent flexibility of the sketch that is its strength; it is something that is simultaneously informative, a giver of pleasure and a democratic platform to record the thoughts of the mind.
“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” John Singer Sargent
By Stuart McKenzie