Sketching Small or Big

I’m a part-time student and I work full time, so quite often when I sketch it’s where I can: in a Moleskin (roughly A5) on the bus, or on A4 on my desk during a meeting or phone hookup (trying not to draw too much attention to what I’m doing).

As a result when I try and sketch big (i.e. use up the whole A3 page) the sketches end up smaller and smaller anyway.

I don’t mind the smaller sketches (they can always be photocopied/ photoshopped bigger) but I feel it is inhibiting my improvement, especially drawing from the wrist, rather than from the shoulder (if you can imagine sketching while on a bus sitting next to someone).

Any suggestions or insights would be appreciated:
moleskin sketch.jpg

I was always taught to try to sketch larger, using your arm/shoulder rather than your wrists. I think everyone always wants to start small but I think it’s harder to get that nice line quality on a small sketch. For your rapid visualization stuff, those 20 second ideations, thumbnail size is always fine.

It definitely helps to learn to sketch larger. You learn so much more about line quality, simply because you have the space to really get bold. When I was in school, we had to sketch on 36" wide paper… Once you do that for a few years an 8.5 “x 11” feels tiny.

It is natural to want to rely on the wrist. We have trained those muscles through handwriting, and the small scale seems safe. I recommend doing your small doodles then photocopying them up to a4, then do 20-30 overlays ontop to loosen it up…

It sounds like you answered your own question.

Spend more time practicing sketching large - small sketches blown up look like crap, it brings out all the roughness. Large sketches shrunk down tend to look much better because you smooth out all the small details and you can get much better flowing lines when drawing with the range of your arm, not your wrist.

Invest in a table that you feel comfortable drawing on - depending on where you live trying to find an old architecture student who’s throwing away a drafting table can be a great find.

Not only will you learn more about line quality, but you’ll have more room to change or build on to the existing sketch. Often times when I sketch small while brainstorming, some design details may be lost because they aren’t big enough to illustrate the idea.

One trick is to do overall loose concepts smallmouth or as thumbnails, and then blow favorite idea doodles up on a photocopier to fill the page. Use that as an underlay to detail the concept out, sketch up variations, then nail the line quality.