Design Matters: Sketching Strategies - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Design Matters: Sketching Strategies

 In October 2013 #206, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

05pwm1013designmattersAs with woodworking skills, design and drawing skills take practice.

By George R. Walker
Pages 20-22

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For many woodworkers, design seems like a leap into the unknown. It’s one thing to teach our hands to saw to a curved line; it’s quite another to summon our eye to conjure a fair curve.

It’s easy to imagine hand skills as a series of tasks we master step by step, yet design somehow seems like squishy ground. But ask yourself this simple question: “Did I take up woodworking as a creative outlet?” If the answer is yes, what’s holding you back? Why stop short of the most rewarding part of our craft?

Here’s a little secret: Hand skills don’t appear out of thin air. They are only possible because we possess inherent ability, and combine that ability with technique and practice – in much the same way we possess inherent design ability just waiting to sprout.

Sketching is one proven method to nurture your designer’s eye and unlock your hidden potential.

It All Begins with a Sketch
A common excuse I hear is, “But I can’t draw!” Nonsense. In the first grade you learned to draw letters and numbers that allowed you to express ideas and stories. Think of sketching as a way to tell a story with objects in space instead of words. Don’t think of sketching as a fine art (or fine drafting) exercise, but as a visual way to shape an idea and help your mind sort through possibilities.

Sketching taps into two powerful abilities that lie at the heart of design. One is what artists sometimes call “flow” or the ability to zero in. Sketching helps us shed distractions and bring our minds into an intense focus. Second, sketching is key to visualization. You can only design what you can see and those chicken scratches flowing from your pencil become building blocks for your designer’s eye.

Keep it Low-tech to Start
I sketch using an old-fashioned pencil and paper – but not because I’m technically challenged. My reason is that hand drawing creates a clean connection to my inner eye. Somehow my brain responds to the image unfolding from the tip of my pencil and the feedback of graphite rubbing against paper. My drawing kit includes a drawing pad with paper that has a bit of tooth to it, a straightedge, a pair of dividers and a black pencil that leaves a good strong line without smearing.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store:By Hand & Eye,” a new book by George R. Walker and Jim Tolpin.

From the October 2013 issue, #206
Buy the issue now.

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