What’s the difference between a drawing and a sketch? This can be a little confusing. There is certainly some gray area between the two a lot of confusing art terms surrounding this subject! I think the basic difference between drawing and sketching is one of intention. Are you drawing for the purpose of studying, recording details or simply the sheer enjoyment of putting down line? Is your intent to create a finished piece of art?
Sketching is usually in the observation category; a rough idea quickly captured on paper. It’s mostly used for studying a subject, like a leaf or flower. A sketch is used to capture essential information about size, placement, relationship, and gesture. A sketch is all about getting the essence of what you are seeing. A sketch might be the seeds of an idea for a more finished work. A sketch is for your own personal use, not intended to be a finished work of art. However, many sketches are beautiful in their own right and are indeed works of art!
It’s really easy to overthink this one, so I’ve offered a few ways to contrast drawing vs. sketching. It’s not necessarily an exhaustive list but it may give you some clarity and direction when you are approaching your own work.
1. Loose vs. Accurate
2. Less Expensive Materials
3. Small vs. Large
4. Not a Finished Piece of Art
5. Sketching is Previous to Drawing
One way to distinguish between drawing and sketching is that you first sketch before seriously drawing. Artists don’t usually skip sketching because they want their art to be as accurate as possible.
When you sketch, you press your pencil lightly on the paper, so you can correct mistakes easily whenever you want. Whereas with drawing you’re making a stronger statement and commitment. Every stroke is usually darker, and you apply more strength to it.
Although you will also see many artists skipping sketching, they can only do it because they have drawn the subject so many times they have it stored in their visual library. More experienced artists would start sketching a drawing without circles or lines but instead drawing its contour immediately.
Sketching is especially important when you’re drawing something you have never drawn because you don’t yet understand it deeply. Sketching gives you the chance to experiment and help you see what lines help you create a convincing picture of your subject. The way you sketch or draw very much depends on your overall drawing experience and the subject you’re capturing. Also, different methods lend themselves to different subjects.
6. Sketches Take Less Time Than Drawings
7. Sketches don’t have to be perfect
8. Sketches Use Fewer Tools than Drawings
9. Sketching Is Studying. Drawing Is Representing
10. Sketches Are Incomplete – Drawings Are Complete
11. Sketching is casual. Drawing is serious.
Finally, I think that both drawing and sketching are foundational for any form of artmaking. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be a painter, printmaker, or sculptor- drawing is part of the process. Therefore, we can all benefit from improving our drawing skills. How your approach drawing and what you hope to accomplish with it, is up to you. Once you’ve spent some time acquiring good skills, the sky is the limit!
Finally, I think that both drawing and sketching are foundational for any form of artmaking. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be a painter, printmaker, or sculptor, drawing is part of the process. Therefore, we can all benefit from improving our drawing skills. How your approach drawing and what you hope to accomplish with it, is up to you. Once you’ve spent some time acquiring good skills, the sky is the limit!
Happy Drawing and Painting,