Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Evolution of a Time-Lapse Sketch

I've been experimenting a little this summer with using toned paper, in preparation for a new class I'll be teaching in San Clemente, CA, in November, and Keeton's Art Supply in Bradenton, FL, in February 2019. I've tried Caran d'Ache colored paper, Strathmore toned paper, and Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbooks. My most recent attempt on toned paper is a "time-lapse" sketch done in a 5.5" x 8.5" tan Nova softcover sketchbook...

Click here for larger, more detailed image

I started the page first thing in the morning...

The page design was begun by penciling in a curvy 1/4" wide band across the page about a fourth of the way down. This would be the "time-stamp" band, the space where I would write the time and title for each mini-sketch.

I sketched three additional bands with pencil, dividing the page vertically into fourths and giving me a framework for the sketches to follow throughout the day. 

For the drawings and lettering, I chose a Platinum Preppy fountain pen filled with water-soluble black Platinum ink.

This $5.00 fountain pen does a great job!

First things first - coffee!

Next, I headed to my studio, but ever since I unpacked from my trip to Cheap Joe's a few days ago, the room has been a mess, so, fortified by a cappuccino freddo, I made a half-hearted attempt to begin the clean-up process.

While I was sorting, straightening and purging non-essentials, I began thinking about what I'll need to pack for my upcoming trip to Sicily and the Cotswolds in September. That led me to Amazon, where I ordered a couple of books for the trip, plus a Christmas gift for my granddaughter. (So much for purging!)

Then it was time for breakfast and vitamins...

More chores followed. (Of course, I didn't have room for sketches of all the other various things I tended to, like putting dishes away, cleaning the kitty litter, sweeping out the mudroom, watering plants, and on and on and on...)

Next I put in some time answering emails...

Then I decided to tackle a project I've been putting off for weeks. I'm redecorating a guest bedroom in shabby chic style, and I had bought some quirky old end tables to use as nightstands, plus a vintage dresser. My hubbie had fixed up the furniture, now it was time for some white paint.

After sitting on the floor and painting for 2-1/2 hours, I straightened my sore back and knees and headed for the kitchen. All that work made me hungry - it was time for lunch!

Of course, I sketched throughout the day, adding more little vignettes to the page as the hours passed. There's a lot of uncertainty when I'm working on a page like this, or any sort of composite sketch. I'm not sure where I'm going or how I'll get there, but I just keep plugging away at it, making decisions on the fly and keeping my fingers crossed that it will all turn out okay in the end. And, if it doesn't, who cares? It's only a piece of paper, after all!

Next, I went back to painting (and I don't mean the fun kind in a sketchbook)....

Then it was time to work on the lessons for my class handout for Sicily...

Burritos for dinner plus a slice of leftover key lime pie. (Honestly, my piece was barely a sliver. This generous portion is Fred's. Really!)

After supper, I finished up a humongous follow-up email to my Cheap Joe's students...

Buckley and Buddy the cat were begging for their evening walk. They look forward to it all day. Buckley runs out ahead, frequently looking back to make sure Fred and I are still following, while Buddy walks a good distance behind us. Slow and steady, he plods along, resting periodically and never trotting or running. He may be slow, but he's managed to trim off half of his very pudgy belly since he came to live with us two years ago.

Finally, I took time to sit on the couch and relax for awhile.

Then it was time for bed.

(I love to read in bed, but my reading sessions usually don't last long. I'm just too tired!)

The drawings (and my day) were done!

The next morning, I approached the sketch with fresh eyes and considered whether I wanted to modify the pages in any way. I was having trouble deciding whether to leave it as is or push it further. I posted about that challenge on the closed Facebook group that I have for my students. I thought it would be interesting to see what ideas they had, whether they would leave it as a pure line drawing or go all out and add color.

I received lots of responses and helpful suggestions and, after mulling things over for a day, I decided to take it one step at a time and decide whether I wanted to proceed further after each step was complete.

Since I was using a Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook, I knew it would handle water without wrinkling and buckling, so, using a brush dampened with water, I touched some of the lines and dragged the ink to form soft gray shadows on the mini sketches and the dividers between the images.

The toned paper was crying out for some highlights, so next I used a white Prismacolor watercolor pencil to sketch in some highlights.

The sketch looked good at this point, and it would have been perfectly fine to close the book and call it finished, but I love color, and I had a niggling suspicion that these pages could benefit from just a touch of contrasting color. I hoped it would focus the eye on what was within the border frame and help to contain all the busyness. I picked up a dark pink Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle pencil and colored in the title lettering, then filled in the scalloped border.

Next, I added some highlights to the title to make it pop.

Would you have called it finished at this point? I almost did. The sketch looked really good, but it bothered me that there wasn't any pink in the entire center of the sketch. I didn't want to start adding pink all over the page, because that would only make everything look even busier. I also wished that there were a little more separation between the curvy "time-stamp" rows and the drawings. So I opted to highlight the curved rows with pink outlines above and below. (I didn't want to cover up the text by coloring over top of it, so a single line was the way to go.)

I'm finally calling this sketch finished. Ta-da!

Oh, sure, there are many more ways that I could add to it, but, really, it's time to move on!

To summarize, here are the steps I took in building this sketch from start to finish:
     Step 1 - *Idea*
     Step 2 - Sketch layout in pencil
     Step 3 - Draw sketches with pencil, then pen
     Step 4 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 5 - Add shadows by dragging water-soluble ink with wet brush
     Step 6 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 7 - Add white highlights
     Step 8 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 9 - Add color and white highlights to title lettering
     Step 10 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 11 - Add color to border
     Step 12 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 13 - Outline time-stamp rows with color
     Step 14 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 15 - STOP!

I think the lesson to be learned here is to stop and think at each step in the sketching process. And don't worry too much about your decisions. Just play around and try things. That's the fun of sketching!


  1. I love this idea. I hope to give it a whirl sometime—probably after my son’s wedding. I will want to catch my breath and do something fun!

    1. Then again, it might be fun to do it one day during the preparations. It will capture this happy, busy time in your life like nothing else can.

      I hope the wedding is better than you dare to dream it will be!

  2. Great description of the evolution of a great page. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome - I hope you'll give it a try sometime.

  3. You come up with so many innovative ideas! All your “stop and think” moments paid off in a great sketch. Your day sounds a lot like mine have been since I’ve been back to reality after my week at Cheap Joe’s—chores, projects, and catching up. Of course, I’m also committed to spend part of each day on sketching too! Love The Office. I remember moments that were cringe inducing, but when they got it right, it was oh, so right. Have you tried Better Off Ted? Love that series too.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check out Better Off Ted!

  4. I absolutely adore this! I may have to try one of these in the future. Looks like it would be loads of fun and good art skill practice too!


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