What Is a Sketch?

Posted on October 14, 2022 Categories: Sketching

The difference between sketching and drawing.

Sketching has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially urban sketching (drawing from life, typically a street scene or cafe). Although technically you “draw” when you sketch, sketching and drawing is not the same thing. Historically, sketching was used as preliminary work for later drawings or paintings; but nowadays it is seen as its own form of artwork – and rightfully so. Sketches can capture an energy and movement in a way that cannot be replicated otherwise. Why is that?

When you sketch, you are not meant to be exact. You draw with more freedom and expression; it’s about capturing the essence of your subject quickly, without worrying about too much detail. You pick up what the the most important thing about your subject is and leave unimportant parts out, or just suggest them. But don’t be mistaken: sketching requires skill and a lot of practice to stand alone as an art expression by itself. You still need to understand perspective and know about human anatomy (if you are sketching people).

Let’s have a look at some old masters sketches! I find them quite fascinating.


Drawing, on the other hand, is slower, a lot more refined and can go into a lot of detail. You can, of course, turn your sketch into a full blown drawing or a painting, but sometimes it can lose the spontaneity of the initial sketch. However, drawing doesn’t necessarily equal photorealism. There is still plenty of room for expression, interpretation and style and you can focus on some parts, leaving other parts more or less “sketchy”. But generally, drawing is a lot more precise and it’s meant to be very accurate.

I used to draw a lot, particularly faces. I was always asking friends to sit for me so I could draw their portrait. I think it gave me a great foundation for being able to sketch people quickly. So funnily enough it worked the other way round for me.

Let’s have a look at some old masters drawings to see the difference.

Sketching and drawing: one is not better than the other; they serve a different purpose and both are a beautiful form of art. Sketching can be done very quickly almost anywhere, while drawing requires more time and patience.


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