Adebanji Alade alla prima ball point pen bic ball point pen graphite Inspiration to sketch plein air Public Transport shapes Sketching Tips squinting tombow dual brush pens urban sketching

This is a double hot shot and I have decided to combine them both because they are related!


It’s all about having your eyes partially closed in order to see the main shapes in whatever you plan to sketch and then using this to quickly get down some basic marks to get going while sketching this is very helpful when approaching complicated subjects.


But before we continue If you missed my last Hot Shot, number 11, on actually sketching what you see and not what you know about what you see. Click HERE


This video is only relevant from 0.19secs to 0.47secs where I actually used this tip to approach this scene while doing a quick oil sketch during my Bath Marathon of paintings in 2010.


You’ll notice me closing my eyes and sketching. I do this just to see the relevant shapes and I put those down very quickly before continuing with the process.

The scene from the video and the oil sketch on the Easel-Here you can see a clearer view of how the scene has been broken down into simple shapes. It all started from the squinting while sketching at the beginning and the squinting continues while taking on different parts of the scene, especially the tree.

HOT SHOT 12,13

12.  Always remember that you want a simpler way to sketch what is in front of you. This is only possible by squinting. With your eyes half open or looking only with your strongest seeing eye, you should always squint to distill all the unnecessary detail into basic shapes.

13. Shape or shapes is a big word in the sketch inspiration. Breaking things down into shapes can be a highly effective way of sketching- this is a very useful when sketching complicated subjects.


An example of how this helps can be seen in the way I approached this complicated scene of a street in San Fransisco, I worked from a very complicated photograph. But the same rule applies.


San Fransisco Blues- THE EFFECT OF SQUINTING to SEE the MAJOR SHAPES- You can see how squinting helps in approaching a very complicated scene. It helps to bring all the shapes and values down so that only the important is emphasized at this stage.




San Francisco blues- the second stage- Here you can see how the first stage of squinting has helped me to start adding details little by little-It's like creeping into the scene quietly then making a lot of noise at the end!



San Francisco Blues- the completed scene- everything is complete here, but it all started from distilling everything down to simple shapes by squinting to get the initial stage up and running

For me, this hot shot is one of the great secrets of sketching and painting in general. It really helps in sketching- I have developed a constant habit of squinting to see everything around me and even when I am not sketching I often ask myself, “How would I be able to knock that out into simpler shapes ?” or “How would I be able to reduce those tones just down to three?”


The habit of constantly questioning is powerful! It’s the rule of simplification! Always say something like,“I can make this subject I am about to sketch simpler!” It’s about editing out the unnecessary and focusing on the bigger picture when starting off.

When sketching on public transport, If I notice a figure and I really want to sketch fast but still have a degree of accuracy about what I am doing, I use my Tom Bow Dual Felt pen to quickly put down the main shapes. If I was using a pencil, I’ll use broad strokes or chunky graphite to get the broad shapes in first.

Sketches of two sleeping ladies on Public Transport- The overall shapes with the wash pen were put in first then I added the lines. It's just another way of approaching whatever you plan to sketch.

Sketches of a guys face on Public Transport- Here It would have been hard to capture the moving head of this guy. I worked on all four heads at a time putting in the basic wash shapes of each position he took while sleeping, then I filled in the lines where necessary.

Sketches at the Bus Stop- The first thing I did was to block in the basic shapes with the Tom Bow wash pens then I added the lines. You can easily see those shapes and how they stand as a solid base for the rest of the line work.

Here below is another example of how squinting helps to start off a piece I did of a Berimbau player.


Berimbau player-STAGE 1- With Squinting I am able to edit the details and focus on the larger main shapes- I used Sanguine dust with tissue to block in the shapes. I used a putty rubber to pick out the highlights.


Second stage- You see how the figure emerges from the initial shapes.


Berimbau Player- Final Stage- Everything is in place but always compare this with the beginning, the shapes at the first stage, give it a firm foundation.


And finally another video where I demonstrate very briefly what I have been talking about.

In the demo I Joshua, my son is the model



The Demo-Squinting to see the shapes-JOSH- this is a very "brief" demo which I completed later on. It was to show how squinting distills the details and helps focus on shapes. I started with chunky graphite and ended up with lines with an oil base pencil


I hope you picked up something from this post. Squinting is very powerful. Whenever I get into sketching or painting something and it seems difficult, I remind myself to SQUINT! Once I squint it helps my me sketch or paint “without my brain”.

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