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Testing Elements through Doodling

January 23, 2019
Quick warm up sketch from a 20th century mug-shot using the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen on Fabriano Tiziano paper—with border practice.

One of the best times to test design elements is when you are warming up. Take a couple moments to make a decorative frame around your warm up sketch. Use more than one approach. Don’t worry about cohesiveness—it’s a warm up sketch.

Consider the following:

• Make a long enough or large enough area of pattern that you can judge it against and with your drawing style. If possible make some portion of each pattern near similar values in your sketch so you are judging each border against a similar value. In this sketch I kept to single sides, so it isn’t a fair comparison between the right, left, and top sides. (But I was lightheaded from a clear liquid diet before my colonoscopy and zoned out into a single side for each border type.)

•Work with the same pen that you made your warm up sketch for cohesion of pen line, or

•Work with different pens in your border than you used in the main image or a mix of both if your goal is to vary the line widths with intention.

Try to work loosely and remind yourself that you are warming up—for the borders just as you were for portraiture when you did your warm-up sketch. This allows you to judge the impact of the pattern or doodle rather than focus on any tightness that creeps into the border. Once you have decided on a border or pattern you can work at tightening to whatever level of finish you are capable of or you desire.

Anything you practice in this way will be available to you when you’re doing a more finished sketch and want to frame it in some way. Practice will allow you to go forward without hesitation on finished sketches.

Additional Experiments You Can Try

Make borders on your warm up or experimental sketches with different patterns of washi tape as I did in this sketch.

Create stripes or various shapes of paint and add doodle patterns on top of them when the paint dries as I did in this sketch.

Use collage elements like paper cutouts and vertical letter stamping instead of washi tape, or along with washi tape as I did in this sketch. Here’s another sketch where I use collage strips just as if they were washi tape.

Use paint to create a window frame for the parts of your warm up sketch you want to save. (Don’t forget that when the paint dries you can still doodle in ink on top of the paint. And yes, that’s washi tape under that paint! It’s like a trifecta of approaches.)

Have some fun dressing up your warm up sketches to explore ideas you can incorporate in more finished sketches.

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