The Process

Posted by Gregory Johnson on

I recently had a conversation with an art student about how her professors emphasized pre-sketching the piece before approaching the final draft. I couldn’t agree more, at least in most cases. When we talk of pre-sketching, if we’re doing it correctly, that doesn’t mean just draw a few lines and dive in. It usually means sketching over and over again, until you’ve got a good idea of the subject matter, composition, and overall layout. When pre-sketching, I never erase lines. Quality art should “move”. By that I mean the eye should travel all around the piece, and there should be a certain energy, which those non-erased lines contribute to. This type of approach is critical for a piece that you already have fixed in your mind, usually those that involve a commission from a client, or a specific idea you wish to pursue.




What about the spontaneous pieces? Many of my drawings are the end result of an aimless doodle that takes on a life of its own. Suddenly the idea appears. You might say that this is the “pre-sketch” that sort of opens up a creative portal. The problem with this technique is the relative uncertainty. It requires a certain attention. Unlike a pre-sketch, there is no planned layout, so I have to do it in the moment. This sometimes leads to ruining the work if I choose the wrong path. It can also lead to a joyous outcome, in which the piece ends up completely right. Most abstract pieces take this path. The very idea of abstract art is spontaneity. That’s where the energy and movement usually come from. Ultimately, it’s about discipline, which I will discuss in a future blog.