Sketch (drawing)

For other uses, see Sketch (disambiguation).
Jesus and the Adulteress. A sketched figure composition by Rembrandt
Charcoal sketch of willows by Thomas Gainsborough

A sketch (ultimately from Greek σχέδιος – schedios, "done extempore"[1][2][3]) is a rapidly executed freehand drawing that is not usually intended as a finished work.[4] A sketch may serve a number of purposes: it might record something that the artist sees, it might record or develop an idea for later use or it might be used as a quick way of graphically demonstrating an image, idea or principle.

Sketches can be made in any drawing medium. The term is most often applied to graphic work executed in a dry medium such as silverpoint, graphite, pencil, charcoal or pastel. But it may also apply to drawings executed in pen and ink, ballpoint pen, water colour and oil paint. The latter two are generally referred to as "water colour sketches" and "oil sketches". A sculptor might model three-dimensional sketches in clay, plasticine or wax.

Applications of sketching

Sketching is generally a prescribed part of the studies of art students.[5] This generally includes making sketches (croquis) from a live model whose pose changes every few minutes. A "sketch" usually implies a quick and loosely drawn work, while related terms such as study, modello and "preparatory drawing" usually refer to more finished and careful works to be used as a basis for a final work, often in a different medium, but the distinction is imprecise. Underdrawing is drawing underneath the final work, which may sometimes still be visible, or can be viewed by modern scientific methods such as X-rays.

Most visual artists use, to a greater or lesser degree, the sketch as a method of recording or working out ideas. The sketchbooks of some individual artists have become very well known,[4] including those of Leonardo da Vinci and Edgar Degas which have become art objects in their own right, with many pages showing finished studies as well as sketches. The term "sketchbook" refers to a book of blank paper on which an artist can, (or has already) drawn sketches. The book might be purchased bound or might comprise loose leaves of sketches assembled or bound together.[6]

The ability to quickly record impressions through sketching has found varied purposes in today's culture. Courtroom sketches record scenes and individuals in law courts. Sketches drawn to help authorities find or identify wanted people are called composite sketches. Street artists in popular tourist areas sketch portraits within minutes.[5]

Subjects, styles and media
Three draft sketches in sepia for an equestrian monument, Leonardo da Vinci 1508-10 
Sketch in pen and ink of an idea for a flying machine with a spiral rotor, Leonardo da Vinci. 
Sketch of a head in a parade helmet, Michelangelo, c.1500 
Figure sketch in ink of two women teaching a baby to walk, Carel Fabritius, c.1640 
Sketch in pencil and ink of the Piazetta, Venice, Canaletto, c.1730 
The Pasha, an ink sketch by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, late 1700s 
An oil sketch of clouds by John Constable, 1821-22 
A sketch of a landscape in pencil by Camille Corot, 1870 
Nocturene-Battersea Bridge, a pastel sketch by Whistler, 1872 
Le Bouchon, a brush and ink sketch by Édouard Manet, 1878 
A girl in a rowing boat, pencil, ink and watercolour, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1870s 
A landscape sketch in brush and ink with washes, Paul Cézanne, (1888-90) 
Oil sketch Child in a hat with a black rosette, Mary Cassatt, 1910 
Sketch of a reclining nude in brush and ink washes, Lajos Tihanyi, 1910 
Girl Knitting by the Sea, pencil and watercolour by Theo van Doesburg, 1918 
Two ink sketches of Krishna playing the Flute, van Doesburg, early 20th century 
Sketch of a male nude in black crayon, Egon Schiele, 1918 
Watercolour landscape sketch, John Weeks, c.1950 
Court sketch from the New Haven Black Panther trials, Robert Templeton, 1971 
Digital sketch of Zen stones, by F. Cecconi, 2011 

See also


  1. sketch, on Oxford Dictionaries
  2. Douglas Harper. "Online Etymology Dictionary – Sketch".
  3. σχέδιος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  4. 1 2 Diana Davies (editor), Harrap's Illustrated Dictionary of Art and Artists, Harrap Books Limited, (1990) ISBN 0-245-54692-8
  5. 1 2 Cf. Sue Bleiweiss, The Sketchbook Challenge, Potter Craft, 2012, pp. 10-13.
  6. Cf. Richard Brereton, Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators & Creatives, Laurence King, repr. ed. 2012.


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