Studying Mr. Sargent

Pencil studies of drawings by John Singer Sargent, Don West, Artist.
4” x 6”, drawn in a medium Moleskine Sketchbook
with Blackwing pencils.

John Singer Sargent was a master oil painter, watercolorist and draughtsman. I’ve made it a point to study his works as best I can so I can learn from what he did. Unfortunately, we can’t see what he was observing as he created his sketches and drawings. We can only study his techniques for putting down his marks. We do know he was trained by Carolus-Duran to record his subjects with a minimum of strokes and fussing. So it seems that gaining insight on Sargent’s sketching techniques would be of great value since they inherently require less time to capture a subject.

The only way one can do that is to study his works and attempt to replicate them within reason. The goal being to actually notice what he did and where he did it in the piece you’re studying. And then do that yourself in your own version of the piece. If you do that regularly, you’ll soon be able to utilize Sargent’s techniques in your own drawings and sketches to gain speed by aesthetically making minimal, non-fussy marks.

It’s fairly easy to see what he did by studying his strokes on the paper. Most of them are quite loose, gestural and above all, minimal. It’s important to accept though, that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be producing exact copies of Sargent’s work. That’s not the goal anyway. So relax and learn from one of the most admired Artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s all about teaching yourself useful techniques used by one of the best. You can find all his known works online by simply searching on John Singer Sargent drawings.