Sketch before story

Just a few tiny sketches for various projects.

Sketches for illustrations for “Undine Love”

I enjoy the relative simplicity and speed of this style of sketch — whether as a way to plan a final illustration, or as a finished picture, or as an element to play around with when developing stories, or even just an idea to hold in the mind, which could turn into any number of things when it’s eventually pinned down in words.

I am gradually (eternally) relearning that sometimes it’s simplest to put down in sketches (visual or written) the known images I want to work with, shuffle them into order, and then work out the story.

Notes for a presentation for the Australian Fairy Tale Society

I also need to remember this approach when planning an image-heavy presentation. The temptation is to write a detailed talk and then track down all the images mentioned in it and put them in order. But dropping all the art into place first and then jotting down the talking points is faster, more fun, and allows for more chatty spontaneity.

Art/writing exercise

  • When working on a story (written or drawn) resist any drive to get the story nailed down immediately.
  • Instead, concentrate on the key images you feel should be in the story (visual or at least with a distinct aesthetic).
  • Sketch them very quickly on cards or sticky notes. Keep it loose — I like to concentrate on movement in drawn sketches, and colour/texture/aesthetic quality in written ones. (So, for example, for a Cinderella story I might use sketches like the ones from Viewpoints, while a written note would be something like “someone watching from amidst the deep marine-blue night/shrubbery in the palace garden, star-flecked, a sweep of descending balustrades backlit by distant candlelight, and the hint of a silhouette of a girl descending them — mystery.”)
  • Try to get down at least 5 moments that feel like they could be key to something. I like to push until I feel there are enough points to balance a story on, and for the little stories I do for Patreon 5 is often a nice number. (Alternatively, draw 5 images from something like Dixit.)
  • If the order isn’t clear (and even if it is), rearrange the cards until they make sense for the spine of a story — the set-pieces.
  • Then outline the rest of the (written or drawn) story in dot points, aiming to get very quickly from one key scene to the next.
  • This can be the framework for a larger project (see Illustrating Flyaway). But if you can distill the notes to just a few telling sentences, it can also be the basis for a very short story.

5 thoughts on “Sketch before story

  1. Pingback: October post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

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  3. Pingback: Observation Journal: Do it for the aesthetic | Kathleen Jennings

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