In my urban sketching practice, there is one common theme to almost every drawing I make...
I didn't have enough time to put in all the details!
Sound familiar? That unfinished feeling can steal the fulfillment of flipping back through your sketches and cause you to dwell on the anxiety of incompletion, instead of remembering the moment in time or the scene you chose to record. Here's a couple of hacks I use to cheat time and use details sparingly in order to get a finished look, because let's be real, will we ever allow ourselves enough time to draw? I hope so, but in the meantime...
1. Contours for the Complicated
Contours, or outlines, are a great hack for complicated things you don't have time to draw (i.e. leaves, trees, blades of grass, strands of hair etc). Suggest what is happening in one area by adding details. I find it effective to do this in the immediate area surrounding your focal point, and then hint at it as you work your way away from the subject.
In this drawing I knew it would take me all day to draw those trees so I worked in just a few details by the house,
and with a quick contour, added a fully wooded dune in the background. Presto woods-o!
2. Contours for Composition
Another tricky way to use contours, is to accentuate your composition. Before you start to draw, ask yourself what (or who) is most important. Build in detail from the inside out. In this setting there were 3 women drinking coffee and computing... I was really limited on time, and I could tell the farthest woman was already packing up. I chose to focus on the central character whose face I could study the closest, and used contours to capture the other characters.
|The contours of the other women become a frame, and force our eyes right to the focal point.|
|Are you an urban sketcher over achiever? I definitely was in this drawing and was far from finishing, |
I decided a quick contoured skyline is so much nicer than a floating building.
3. When all else fails... sign your name and turn the page.
When this couple got up and left mid-sketch, and then a waiter moved all the chairs, and then someone sat right in front of me... I figured this sketch was doomed. Perspective is my enemy, and faking four chairs and table legs was simply not happening. I tried the contour trick but even then, some lines and a big blank spot under the table left that bitter unfinished taste in my mouth. It was time to move on. I blocked out some boxes big enough to "finish" the drawing, and used what was left on my palette to date, initial and plug Panera. Try it! And then tell everyone it was intentional ;)