Sketches, for Painting’s Sake?


Well, not always.

Artists have been drawing pretty much ever since humans made their first marks in the sand or on rock walls. After the discovery of pigments to create a wide range of colors with … some artists relegated drawing to the preparatory phase of painting or for designing other forms of art. It was as if color had completely trumped monochromatic art work of all kinds. (Sort of like how color TVs eventually replaced almost all the B&W sets.)


Throughout the Classical and Medieval periods European and Middle-Eastern artists used drawing in just that way. And while China and Japan had a tradition of monochromatic ink painting that stretched back for centuries, drawing was mostly ignored by non-artists. (Well, I am an artist!)

Around 1500, some folks began to think that drawing, even unfinished sketches, were actually interesting in their own right. If a drawing was a sort of “first edition” of a visual idea … a pre-painted image … then it might be fascinating to see the image at it’s very earliest stage. Fresh off the press as it were … straight from the mind of the artist. Tentative, quick, bold, or intimate visions … even incomplete images, began to be seen as having valuable qualities.

As this “novel view” of the 16th and 17th centuries became more wide spread, drawings even began to be thought of as independent works of art. And as artists became more interested in exploring drawing, materials with extended ranges of hue and texture became available. It was possible to draw with rich hues, subtle tones, and deep values that rivaled paintings. At the same time, many artists and viewers were intrigued by the profound beauty of simplicity that drawing could achieve. (Just like my love for the classics of the B&W film noir movie era … or the rich value range of the best black and white photographic prints.)

Well, here you go …  a few of my sketches; ones that I have been working on during the past few months. Some were completed with no intent of ever painting the subject. Most, however, were part of the preparatory process. For me, all are just as complete as the paintings they helped me create. Different, yes … but complete in their own way.

Here I am showing you the B&W ones; the sketches using pencil, ink and/or ink washes. I also sometimes make monochromatic sketches. You can see one of those on an earlier post (It has been a bit SKETCHY, so far, from July 25th). While I was working on that one outside, the extra color information seemed to provide a little better clarity. Hey, anything to help jog my memory if I decide to use it in the studio! (Besides, for me it has the same sort of appeal as a sepia-toned or cyanotype photographic print!)

I hope you enjoy getting a preview of them here. Let me know which ones you like, which ones intrigue you.

More of these sketches (and paintings too) will be part of my upcoming exhibit at the Staunton Augusta Art Center in Staunton, Virginia. Exhibit info at:  http://saartcenter.org

Landscape Revelations: Watermedia Paintings & Sketches”, (John A. Hancock, Watermedia Paintings and Drawings)

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4 Responses to “Sketches, for Painting’s Sake?”

  1. jean sampson Says:

    I like the first sketch best—it has an Oriental/ Cezanne- like quality. The others are nice, too, I just like the first one best. 🙂

    • johnahancock Says:

      Jean, Thanks for seeing and commenting on the the oriental quality, much of my earliest work was heavily influenced by oriental brush drawing. And, to mention Cezanne, my earliest art hero, well … I am honored.

  2. Mari French Says:

    I like the last one best (undergrowth) for the way you’ve treated the foliage. I believe it’s widely held now that sketching for its own sake teaches us to observe the world better and is hugely beneficial even if we never actually work the sketch up into a ‘finished piece’, which I find heartening as I rarely paint from a sketch these days, finding it almost impossible to capture the freshness of the original impression.
    I also find a sketch often works like time travel, zooming me straight back to the moment and place I created it, more so than any photo! And thanks for liking my own sketching post and for following my blog 🙂

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