Sketch work is ugly. Comic artists are the exception. Our sketch work will often have a quality about it that most other sketches don’t have. Our job is drawing, it’s what we do all day long, so there tends to be a little more attention in the sketch work we do. We happily publish and sell our sketches to make a few extra bucks like a carpenter sells his saw dust.
However, sketching is ubiquitous in most other creative industries. Grabbing a pencil or pen to rough out ideas isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. Filmmakers, inventors, designers, party planners, bakers, and even writers. These sketches are typically hideous, and in many cases, downright embarrassing. The dirty little secret is that comic artists do it too. Yes, we’ll publish our sketch work, but only the good stuff. Just like everyone else, we tend to hide our failures.
When creators hide their sketch work, it’s easy for us to assume they’re working without it. It’s an illusion, and we’re great at hiding the rabbit. It’s important to remember that sketching is not about good drawing, it’s about good thinking. It’s not even about drawing. Sketch work can include notes, prototypes, whatever gets you to the idea. It takes time and work to uncover the good stuff. Most of it will be a horrible unusable mess of ideas. But if you keep digging and refining, you’ll find those ideas worth keeping. If you want the treasure, you have to shovel dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.
We look at the finished films of Scorsese and we think he created his story with cameras instead of a storyboard. We see a functioning machine and we think it was created in a factory instead of a note pad and a black marker. We read JK Rowling and marvel at the printed words but never think about the hand drawn spreadsheet used to craft the story. The truth is that on the surface, sketch work is ugly and crude. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll see that sketching is where ideas are born.
Here are a few bad sketches by brilliant creators. Enjoy.
JK Rowling hand drawn spreadsheet for Harry Potter.
Eminem lyric sheet.
Coppola’s notes in the Godfather novel.
Breaking Bad prototype.
You should probably go out and buy a few pencils.