Last week I posted a rather lengthy post about how vision works and pretty much takes over our mental processes. In short, our eyes are like a window to our mind. Seeing is something we experience and this experience engages a great part of our brain. Thus, says John Medina, our mind loves pictures and content attached to pictures is likely to be remembered in a higher percentage than in the absence of pictures. This, of course, makes an excellent foundation for sketching our notes instead of trying to copy word by word everything that it is said at a meeting, lecture, class, etc..

However, in another previous post titled Why Doesn’t Everybody Sketch?, I asked why if we are so visually inclined, doesn’t everybody sketch? Though I am still trying to find the reason for the divergence in humans being visually inclined and those who lack the inclination, I thought today we would talk about some of the most common reasons people offer for not sketching.

As a professor, I have taught numerous students. Some sketch naturally, some have to be coaxed into it, some resist sketching as much as possible, some do it begrudgingly, and some complain and moan to no end. Some complain about the quantity but that particular one requires a post in and of itself. Let’s go over some of the reasons we often hear for not sketching. If you have other reasons I have not mentioned, please share in the comments.

Reasons people give for not sketching:

  • I don’t know how to draw or sketch
  • I don’t even know how to make a straight line
  • I don’t have the time or it takes too much time
  • I work faster on the computer
  • I don’t know what to sketch
  • I am not sure how much information I need to put in
  • I have no talent
  • I am not an artist
  • I am not a designer
  • There is no time in the studio for that
  • Clients do not want to see a sketch
  • Clients are not paying for sketches
  • Sketches are personal, not professional

Let’s take each one of them and discuss them, shall we? Since some of them relate, I will group them.

I don’t know how to draw and/or sketch; I have no talent; I am not an artist; I am not a designer

There is no need to know how to draw or sketch. And this reason has more to do with our definitions and expectations of drawing than the actual process of sketching. See, if you take a piece of paper and draw or write a line that is vertical. That line is a line in any context: drawing, sketching, writing, lettering, art, painting, etc.. But the fact that you make a line, also tells you that you just drew a line. You can draw. You have the capability of drawing a line. Furthermore, take that line, make another one a little far from it, and now you have two lines. Make two more, one at the top and another at the bottom trying to connect the initial two and you have a rectangle or a square depending of how far you made those two initial vertical lines. Hence, you have a potential square or rectangle that can be one of these things:

  • a car
  • a house
  • a TV
  • a computer
  • a latop
  • a table seen from the top
  • a piano
  • a window
  • a picture frame
  • a chimney

See the possibilities? Get rid of the “If I am not Leonardo or Picasso, I can’t do this” or the “My pictures are ugly” thoughts. These thoughts are just barriers to enjoy the process of creating.

I don’t even know how to make a straight line

The good news? You don’t have to. Again, this reason is responding to a preconceived notion of what lines, in this case, need to look like. The reason to create simple marks is to help you remember information, not to become a prodigy, so don’t act as if you need to. Plus, no one is grading you, right? Who is judging you? No one.

I don’t have the time or it takes too much time; There is no time in the studio for that

This is one I hear a lot from students. I must say that this is the biggest and most pervasive lie we tell ourselves. We do have the time but we use it poorly. I sketch everywhere the muse yells at me. A long time ago I learned that I needed to have a sketchbook with me at all times. Thus, now I have one in my purse, by my bed, and on my desk at work and at home. I sketch whenever I have down time: waiting for something or someone, in between ads when watching a show, at my kids’ swim meets, during work time in my classes, during meetings, in conferences, etc.. It is not the time, it is how we use it and/or don’t use it.

It is true that this is something I grew to appreciate. Not that I did not sketch before. I did but things, fun things competed with the idea of sitting down to sketch. I was always on, dancing, moving, walking, talking, etc.. Once I realized that I could sketch while doing all those things, it became a natural extension of my life.

The other day one of our seniors showed me his work for his thesis project. Everything looked stale, lacked luster, and it felt generic. Though there was an attempt to play with the typography, there was a visual disconnection that was glaring. I realized he had not taken time to sketch his booklet out. He said he did not have time. I said, 15 minutes of quick and small sketches will yield rewards that you are not even considering because you are not really thinking about this. You are going to the computer hoping it gives you magic when really the magic is you. A few days after he came back having done some sketching and things looked more unified and connected.

Sketching does not have to a take long time. But like any good craftsmen, a little bit of planning and thinking produces a much better result. Can you imagine an architect who does not sketch his buildings? Of course not. Slow is faster. Faster is slow. Take 15 minutes and enjoy that time to do it whether for random thoughts or for a project.

I work faster on the computer

Well, this may be true. However, I have found that those who have sketched as a practice, as a daily exercise, will indeed work faster on the computer. That is because they have accumulated a sensitivity to the gap that exists between the sketch, the real world, and the computer environment. In my experience, those who are new to both as it is often the case, have a lot of thinking to do and this thinking is done in the going back and forth between the paper and the computer through printing things out.

If I am doing something I have done countless times, I can work faster on the computer but not because of lack of sketching. Rather the discipline accumulated through the years has provided me with the acumen to bridge that gap.

I have also spent countless hours looking at a bright monitor going completely blank and the clock has been ticking. I have made the mistake of overestimating my abilities and sitting on the driver seat without a GPS or a map.

No, the computer does not save time unless you have a plan. Even if all you have done is a few sketches like 5-6, it is still a plan that helps you get to your destination.

Clients do not want to see a sketch; Clients are not paying for sketches

Nothing can be farther from the truth. I have yet to meet a client who does not enjoy seeing the sketches I have done for their projects. Granted, sometimes they can get so excited that they start to “frankestein” your designs. But that is not a reason not to share them. On the contrary, sketches equal time invested, time put into their project or account, and it shows them your thinking process– all of those ideas you have gone through. Yes, you will have to take a more active role in educating your client. But I can tell you that the level of appreciation for your work will increase. And yes, they are paying not for the rights to your sketches, but for your time in thinking about the creative solution to their problem.

There is no time in the studio for that

Then, you are in trouble. How can you ensure your work is authentic and not a rehash of what you have previously done? Doesn’t your client deserve better?

Sketches are personal, not professional

Sketches are both and they belong in both environments. You can have a personal sketchbook and a professional one, if you are worried about that.

I don’t know what to sketch; I am not sure how much information I need to put in

The thing about sketching is that one simple mark gives birth to another and so on. Soon enough you will be creating something or even starting another one. And as to how much information to put in, that depends on the purpose of the sketch and who is it for. If the sketches are only for you; to help you remember information, to practice drawing, and/or simply as a meditative strategy, then, that is up to you. However, if they are for a meeting for a client or for another designer to continue on, then you may need to have enough so that it is understood by the others. But, don’t let that stop you. Sketch anyway.

There are many benefits to sketching one of which is to help your mind process information. Whether from a class, life itself, a meeting, sketches help you engage the verbal and the visual to create a mnemonic device to help with memory. Not to mention, observation and meditation. Let’s make it happen!