In my years of teaching art, there are two things that stand out as vital to being a successful artist – learning to see – and loosening up.  Everything else could be termed “technique”, but it is these two qualities that make your art stand out – a fresh, original vision, and a confident, relaxed approach.

Sketching is a vital part of my own artistic practise, keeping my senses alert and attentive to my surroundings.  My sketches are an immediate, direct response in that moment, recording the strongest shapes as well as the subtle details, feeling the rhythm and direction of my subject through my pen or brush.  When I step up to the canvas in my studio later, some of that energy still courses through me and finds it’s place in my painting. The colour, light and texture recorded in my sketch will emerge, and my painting is stronger and more authentic for the time spent there, sketchbook in hand, looking, drawing and absorbing the scene.

A sketchbook is no place for tight, hesitant work.  Time is of the essence as we watch the sky for the next downpour or hurry to catch the scene before it all changes. This is the joy of sketching – the ease and simplicity – nothing to lose – just do it – it’s only a piece of paper! And in the process we can loosen some of our constraints and find a lighter touch and a new enjoyment of the process. Our seeing, our observation, our understanding of proportion, perspective, light and shade, colour and form – all are strengthened. We grow as artists.



“Enniskerry Sketch Walk” on 17 September is the first of a series of sketching workshops which will be held throughout the year in Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland.

imageWorkshop Description

In this full day workshop we will cover some essential skills for sketching on location, at home or on your travels:

  • Selecting the right materials for ease and convenience – what to choose and what to leave behind.
  • Choosing your subject and your best viewpoint – where to start, what to fit in, how to proceed
  • Composition – some basic considerations
  • A simple approach to perspective and achieving a sense of space and depth in your sketch
  • Pen and ink – making marks that dance on the page
  • Watercolour – keeping it fresh, loose and spontaneous
  • Colour mixing and tonal values
  • Developing your personal style – your sketch is like your signature, a unique expression of you!

The Day

10.00 – 12.30: Morning Session

Meet at the Schoolhouse for Art where we will have a brief overview of our sketchbooks and materials. This will be followed by a demonstration on location in the village, offering a clear step by step approach to starting and developing a sketch. You may then select your subject and begin sketching with individual guidance.

12.30 – 13.15: Lunch in the village at your own expense – many good options

13.15 – 15.45: Afternoon Session

15.45: Return to the Schoolhouse for review of our sketches

16.00: Finish

Details and Registration

The cost for the full day of instruction is €90. Space is limited and early booking is advised.

Registration may be made through the Schoolhouse for Art:

Workshop Instructor


Brenda Malley is a professional artist and art instructor living in Greystones Co Wicklow with over 25 years experience teaching classes and workshops. Her work is represented by the Trinity Gallery in Dublin as well as by the Whitethorn Gallery in Clifden, and she has exhibited in London, Boston and Cannes. Brenda’s workshops encompass palette knife oil painting as well as painting and sketching  on location in Ireland and the South of France.





One Response to “Some Thoughts on Sketching”

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