Field Observation Exercise

(This is a recovered post from 2013~It has been edited because it was a complete mess!~S)

Field Observation Supplies:

  • Your journal or paper to draw on.
  • A pen.

I photographed my journal entry and made some comments on each step, which you can see below the break (image heavy!), but here’s  a rundown of the Field Observation exercise:

Field Observation Exercise Steps:

1.  Grab your sketch journal and find a comfortable place for both writing and drawing. Select two clean pages or a landscape/wide angle.

2. Look around for an “unarranged still life.” That means stuff that just happens to be there, not something artfully arranged.

3. Ten Minute drawing: Choose one thing from the scene and draw it. Be very simple and don’t make hesitant lines. Take no more than 10 minutes. Set a timer if you have to. Notice the details with your eye. If you miss something, draw over it. If there’s a wrong-placed line, ignore it. “You want the personality…”

4. Ten Minute “position map” drawing: Put small place holding marks where the other things in the scene intersect the thing you have just drawn. This is a loose map of where the other things go.

5. Fifteen minute details: Go further into the drawing. Linger over the things that interest you. Ignore/edit out the things that don’t. Realistic isn’t the goal. Getting an image’s personality down in as few strokes as possible is! Look instead at the light and shadow. Take no more than 15 minutes.

6. Put down your pen. Look at your chosen scene. Did you notice something interesting about it as you were drawing? What was it? A shadow? A spot of light? A reflection? A shape?

7. Three minute description: Pick up your pen and choose a blank place anywhere on the two pages/space around your drawing.  Write a specific phrase about your drawing. Be SPECIFIC, but NOT descriptive. Being clever or poetic is not the goal. Learning to see specifics and get them down in your book in the fewest words possible is! Just enough to assure yourself that you’ve had a “good look” at your scene or item. Plain but specific. Take no more than 3 minutes.

8. Another three minute description: This must be totally different from your first, but the restrictions are the same. This is to remind you that there is more than one way to look at something.

For pictures of my entry made with this exercise and my thoughts on each step, see below:

1. The most comfy place for me is in the reclining loveseat in my family room. Right in front of me is a fireplace with things on the mantle, but those things are deliberately put there to look nice and formal. For this exercise, I need a more casual scene. In my house, there are a lot of “disarranged”…scenes. From my comfy spot, I could see the hall tree by the front door:

There is a lot going on here: The dog barrier for one thing. I have some moving boxes to the left of the hall tree, there is an umbrella, a messenger bag, my purse, some shoes, some loose papers and a brass bell. There is also stuff in the foreground on the right: The bar with Mike’s pipe stuff, an opened box and some jumble…I chose to focus on the hall tree and the stuff immediately around it. That means ignore anything in the family room (bar and jumble in the foreground on the right). I also chose to ignore the dog gate barrier. By wiggling around, I can see around it just fine.

2. The main thing in my scene is the hall tree, so I thought I’d draw that first. This is starting STEP THREE, the ten minute initial sketch.

Beginning to Sketch

I had shifted in my chair so the perspective changed from my initial shapshot to the time I began sketching.  This is most obvious if you look at the top line of the hall tree in the photo and the sketch above.

Okay, that is working fine. You can see some of the details so I have the character of the thing, not a realistic drawing. (For example, look at the blobs I used for the detail work on the legs.)

3. Time for the “position map”… This is STEP FOUR.

I have drawn the handle for the umbrella, the strap for the messenger bag, a shoe (on the right side of the hall tree) and outlines where the pieces of cardboard box are supposed to go. I chose to ignore the loose things on the shelf and the brass bell. (I almost forgot to take pic of map! I started filling in the details THEN remembered to grab the phone for a pic.)

4. Now for STEP FIVE, the 15 minute finish…finish up the details of your drawing.

You can see that the boxes on the left are defined more clearly. I fixed up the blobby legs, got the stained glass detail on the top and sides. I chose to ignore the reflection of the front door in the mirror, but got the piece of door frame in the hallway in the background. Actually, I did a little more detail work after I snapped this pic…I added shadow behind the hall tree where it is against the wall and more definition in places. This is because in STEP SIX I have to look carefully at the scene. I should have drawn that shadow in the 15 minute drawing push. I blame stopping to take pics for that!

5. Then for STEP SEVEN, I had to make some observations about the scene. Just quick phrases! I forgot and did a complete sentence, but that is part of the un-learning process. We need to forget the formal style so that when we go out to capture a BUSY scene, we can capture it in the shortest possible words and drawings!

Part 1

6. See the shadow I added? Now it was time for the last step, STEP EIGHT: Say something different about the scene than you said the first time. I couldn’t think of anything, so I just pointed some things out.

Part 2

Sam notes: I signed it because I recently read a blog post somewhere about artists should always be signing their work! I always put the date somewhere on the page, too. Just for my reference.

Older Field Observations from my original sketchbook:

How did YOU do with this exercise?


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