Sketch kit

Winter still grips tight, pressing on nerves stretched thin, and senses cooped up. The landscape might be snow covered but Barbie and I hop in the car to see if birds are on the move yet. A drive on Sunday only yielded a few bluebirds and a lone canvasback duck patrolling a small patch of open water. From here forward we will get out every weekend. Nothing like seeing a flock of Trumpeter Swans and hearing their music break the silence at Killbuck marsh.

 I’ve written about sketching as a way to train the eye. Artists have long used sketching as a foundation skill. Many of the natural sciences once utilized sketching as a way to improve observation skills. Astronomers were quick to realize that sketching the planets while peering through a telescope allowed them to see more detail. Ornithologists sketched birds to sharpen their focus. Even today with the advent of digital photography and high tech optics, sketching is still a proven way to energize your mind.  

  I keep a sketchbook nearby and even have a pad and paper in the glove compartment in the car. Over time I have assembled a sketch kit that I take with me when visiting a museum. Barb bought me a nice leather folder which holds the following simple drawing tools. I carry two sets of dividers. I find that often one gets set to a module of some kind and the other is handy for stepping off distances and exploring. In this case they are both small dividers but different enough in appearance to avoid confusing them. I have a small T square that’s handy because it’s short enough to use on a regular sketchpad. The narrow strip of wood is a straight edge. It’s just a piece of scrap that I gave one pass with a plane to yield a smooth clean edge. I use cheap mechanical pencils and an artists sketch pad. You might also notice the checkered strips of paper. I explained these in my first video on design. They are essentially a series of grids broken up into five parts or six. Since 1/5 or 1/6 is often used to create punctuation, I use these strips held on a bias to quickly smoke out a fifth or sixth.

 That’s about it, I keep this paired down on purpose so it’s not a chore to tote around and keep track of. Don’t underestimate it though. This can unlock doors inside your head you didn’t even know existed.

George R. Walker

About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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2 Responses to Sketch kit

  1. Jack Plane says:

    George, I like your portable draughting office, and in particular, the ‘fifths’ and ‘sixths’. I hope you don’t mind if I pinch your idea.

    • walkerg says:

      You are welcome to it. Since the major parts of a classic order are determined by dividing the height into fifths and sixths, these little strips are very handy for uncovering proportions in photos of period work. It’s not uncommon to find a foot on a case coresponding with a pedestal on a classic order or an apron on a table coresponding with an entablature.


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