Finding Meaning in Sketching | Finding Meaning in Life


Chances are, you are more likely to know what you want to do with your life when you were much younger, or in your childhood. Remember the times when you were proudly announcing to your classmates or to your parents what you wanted to become when you grow up. You would hold up a fire truck toy and said, you wanted to be a fireman; you looked at your favourite teacher in your primary school and said to yourself, you wanted to become a teacher so you could have all the students to love you. When you were finally grown up, you found yourself clueless to what you wanted to become. You are not alone. It happens to everyone, including myself. So what happened? During the course of growing up, something changed. It might be for the better or for the worst. But I am not here to counsel you or to give any life changing advise to how you should live your life. I am going to leave that to you because you are the best author of your own life, not me, not anyone else.

Many people asked me how long have I been sketching or drawing like this. Every time when I was asked this question, I would wonder what they actually wanted to know. I have friends who were sketching with me and they asked me this same question. Its a simple question but I find it hard to give a straight answer. The question can be interpreted several ways. How long have you been sketching? It can be read as the following ways:

How do you ever manage to draw so well, and so fast? Have you practiced a lot? You must have drawn for years. Or, you suck at sketching, are you a beginner? Do you attend an art school? Where do you learn your art from? Do you have a teacher? That's why, I find it hard to give a simple direct answer to a simple question like, how long have you been sketching or drawing?



Another question peers, friends and strangers would ask a lot is, why do you draw so much?

Simply, I sketch a lot because this is what I like to do. It's different when you have to. Everyone has an innate nature to what they like to do in their free time. When I was a kid, I doodle. When I grow up, I draw and sketch as a student and was drawn to making things happen on paper. Then when I was exposed to more art forms, mediums, the doodling process changes to a more complex one; building forms, depth, light and shadows, use of different mediums and techniques, proportion, scale, contrast etc.; at the same time, the way I see things develops and evolves. 

And it goes hand in hand with your ability to translate what you see into drawing, in other word, drawing skill affects what and how you see. But when you are able to see better, you in turn would draw better too.


Finding meaning in sketching is none other than knowing the reason why I love to sketch (so much). When you are hungry you eat. Do you question why you eat? Well sometimes you may ask yourself why you ate so much from the last meal. That's gluttony at work, just kidding. Once in a while you binge, that's forgivable, but not as a lifestyle. However its perfectly alright to binge on drawing. Like what I did. I found a stack of unused lottery tickets (forms) on a table in a kopitiam where I sat for coffee. Without reasoning too much, I started drawing on these papers. My subjects, everyone in the coffeeshop. My satisfaction came from finishing the stack in an hour. Its like filling up an empty stomach. 

Of course there are tangible reasons for sketching:

1) Sketching to remember. It's great to browse through a completed sketchbook and reminisce on those moments while you were drawing on location. You will find it easier to remember a place after you have sketched it. Its better than snapping a picture with your phone camera because you may have spent a bit more time in that location.

2) Sketching to improve. The more you draw the better you get. This may becomes an obsession. Give yourself measurable milestones and not unrealistic goals like, I want to draw like Picasso one day. Know yourself and your capability and even your pace of learning. If you want to draw more proportionately, then practice proportion in drawing from a still life to building. Maybe build up your foundation in drawing a single object first and then moving on to drawing a more complex subject like a shophouse in perspective. Draw continuously until you find yourself grasping the principle right.

3) Sketching to communicate (an idea). Designers, artists, architects do it all the time. Sketches serves a key function of translating visually an idea on paper. Before that, an idea remains in the head. When it is drawn, everyone sees it and establishes a common understanding. When you sketch on location, you may have a story to tell about the scene. It can be a busy shopping scene, or someone sipping coffee, or a conversation between several people. Be clear in what you wanted to say in your sketch, and keep it simple so everyone could understand.

4) Sketching to document. This can be in a text form, written to accompany a sketch, something outside the observable elements, like a thought, or overhearing a dialogue. It can be a detailed drawing of an ornament on a shophouse or its architectural design reflecting a period or mirroring an architectural period. I like this form of sketching. What better way to study a subject than to sit down and spend an hour or two sketching it life, in-situ.



So how long have I been drawing and sketching? All my life. Do I draw more than Picasso? Nope. How long have I been "urban-sketching"? Answer: Since 2009. Have I got better? Yes. :D


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