Sketchbook Update: The Merchant of Venice

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Last night I took my wife to see Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” performed onstage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. That makes me sound a lot classier than I am. My wife is the Shakespeare fan, I honestly couldn’t tell you half of what was going on in the story. But it was still fun for two reasons. First, I always have a great time going out with my wife. And second, I took a small sketchbook along and was able to spend over two hours filling the pages. I’ve been so crazy-busy with client work lately that it was a real treat just to draw for myself, whatever and however I wanted.

If you ever get the chance to attend a high-quality stage production, especially a period piece, by all means bring your sketchbook! The stage last night was filled with expressive character faces and fun costumes to draw. The lighting also created wonderful dramatic shadows across the faces that you normally wouldn’t see in “real life”.

It’s hard to overstate the value of keeping a sketchbook. For some good reading on that subject, I recommend a series written by Mark Kennedy on his blog. Kennedy reminds us that the point of a sketchbook is not to do beautiful drawings, but rather to risk making lots of bad drawings you can learn from. Personally I prefer to sketch with a pen, for two reasons. First, not having an eraser as a “crutch” forces me to think harder about my lines before I put them down. Second, knowing I can’t fix anything anyway frees me up to make bolder decisions (and yes, lots and lots of mistakes). In the short term I get sketchbooks full of bad drawings. But in the long term my skills are sharpened and my instincts are honed, so that over time I can work more confidently and with better results.