Let’s Paint a Simple Sloppy Sketch

When I speak with adults who want to paint but cannot seem to start there always seems to be the same reason why….. “It won’t look good.”

Fear is a roadblock. Fear is also a liar. Fear is an active gremlin who convinces people to do nothing.

And nothing produces nothing.

So let’s stomp on fear and do a quick, sloppy sketch. The goal of this sketch is to just put down color so that we can have a recording of our day in nature. We don’t care about the outcome. Sometimes it’s even helpful to say that out loud before you start: “I don’t care what this looks like, I’m just going to do it.”

Step 1: Draw a road map with a pencil. Don’t include detail. I just marked a horizon line, a stream, and a few trees in the background.

Step 2: Fill in the sky with lemon yellow. On this day, the sky was not yellow (as you can see in the reference photo below) but it was very hot. So it felt as if the sky as hot as the sun.

Step 3: Add some background trees by mixing green and blue. This whole sketch was done with a flat brush and very quickly too. I believe it was complete in 15 minutes. I did not worry about what anything looked like as I painted. Just keep going.

Step 4: Add larger trees but make them mostly green, not blue. There are three layers here. Light green in the background, medium green on top (skipping around to let the light green poke through), and lastly a dark green here and there and at the base of all the trees.

Step 5: Add a lemon green to the prairie. This too was painted with a flat brush…..quick and loose.

Step 6: Paint yellow in the stream, and a medium green to the edge of the stream. See that blob of green in the middle? That’s because my stream was still wet and it bled in the stream. Am I upset? No. Am I going to quit? No. Just keep going.
With a dark green/blue and the edge of the flat brush, paint vertical cattail grasses on the right side of the stream. Wet the paper under the cattails and pull some color down as a reflection. Then with a little brown, paint the cattails. On the left make thicker grasses for some summer flowers. Nice and loose…..do not mind the form.

Step 7: I added some green to the furthest point in the stream to represent reflections. Next add some summer flowers. Today I saw purple coneflower, black eye Susan, and purple bergamot, but not in this location. That’s okay….I’ll just add it here to remember what was in bloom on this hot summer day. I added these blooms with a liner, not a flat brush. Next, add some tree branches to your large trees with sepia brown. Finally using light green, make horizontal water lines in the creek.

Step 8 Final: In this step I took a red brush marker and added some text. I’m using twin tip brush markers from Hobby Lobby. The brush tip is good for bold titles and the thin tip is good for details such as the date and temperature. I love including text on my sketches in my journal so that I can remember where I was and what the day was like. Today at Springbrook Prairie the cicadas were loud and the wildflowers plentiful.

Here is my reference photo. As you can tell it looks nothing like my sketch. My quick, sloppy sketch represents what I experienced at Springbrook Prairie. Don’t let fear hold you back. Your sketch doesn’t have to look exactly like your photo or on site location. It can be your interpretation. It can be a feeling/emotion in time…and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Give yourself permission to play.



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