Sketching means freehand drawing by definition. Sketches can be made for generating ideas to use later on or to make a draft of any object or for various other reasons. Some do sketches just from their habit where some do sketches since it is their job like the ones from the fine arts subject. Some general brief information about sketching and its history will be our subject today.


There can be different types of sketching like pen and ink sketching, ballpoint pen sketching, water color sketching, oil sketching etc. A sculptor may draw three dimensional sketches in clay or wax.


There are various mediums where sketches can be done. Generally a dry medium is used like silverpoint, graphite, pencil, charcoal or pastel.


A sketch usually implies a quick and loosely drawn work to be used as a basis for a final work where underdrawing is drawing underneath the final work, which may sometimes still be visible, or can be viewed by modern scientific methods such as X-rays. Sketches are also used as a draft work of new ideas or inventions.


We don't really know how sketching started or who was the first person to draw but what we do know is that the first drawings were done in caves some 30,000 year ago.


Dig for Victory- a famous sketch of Leonardo Da Vinci



Gradually elements of stone and of bone were found in the regions of Spain and France which made it increasingly certain that pictures of bison, mammoths and reindeer were indeed scratched by men who hunted this game and the pigments they used were burnt wood, bone, chalk etc.

Development of graphite pencil

The development of the graphite pencil in the 17th century avoided the need for a prepared ground and also enabled the artist to draw in a variety of styles. 

Use of charcoal and its development

From the 16th century charcoal (Charred wood) black chalk (Black stone) and red chalk (Mineral) were extensively used in preparatory drawings. Pen and ink may be used for preparatory drawings either alone or in a combination with charcoal or chalk.

As a medium for rapid sketches from life models, charcoal was much in use in art academies and workshops. Difficult poses, such as Tintoretto demanded of his models, could be captured quickly and easily with the adaptable charcoal pencil. Charcoal was also widely used in preparatory sketches for portraiture. In his charcoal drawing Portrait of a Lady, the French painter Edouard Manet (1832-83) managed to capture the grain of the wood in the chair, the fur trimming on the dress, the compactness of the coiffure, and the softness of the flesh. The 17th-century Dutch painter Paulus Potter (1625-54) was another great exponent, as also were the great draftsmen of modern age, such as Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), and Ernst Barlach (1870-1938).

So this is how sketching came in handful to us and went through progress gradually.