One Sketch A Day

Behind the scenes of the 'Tiny Daily Sketch' project

What is the Tiny Daily Sketch Project?

At the beginning of 2016, I gave myself a new goal: To draw at least 1 tiny sketch a day for the whole year. I took a blank daily planner and began drawing on it from day one, I also started sharing the daily sketches on my Instagram. After a few days, I was used to the routine and really enjoying my short sketching sessions.

Here are some links to navigate faster to the most relevant sections of this page. 

“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”

– Walt Stanchfield –

How it all started and why?

At the end of 2015, I revised the amount of artwork I did over the year and I was quite happy overall. Nevertheless, I thought I could be more productive as well as more versatile, as 95% of what I had done, was digital. This is how the Tiny Daily Sketch project started.

At first, it was nothing more than a self-imposed challenge to ‘force’ myself to draw more and use pen and paper to drag my eyes away from the computer screen. A few days into the challenge, I started to notice some extra benefits that I think are applicable to anyone willing to start a project like this (part of the reason why I’m sharing it here).

So how is this related to ZBrush?

The first thing I noticed was that I was ‘rusty’ with the pen and paper, I thought I had forgotten to draw. I was very insecure of my lines and realised how incredibly dependent I am of the ‘Undo’ command. Not just the first drawing… it took me awhile to get into a rhythm, just take a look at these early doodles: 

With ZBrush (and most things digital), going back after a wrong stroke is easy, but not so much with pen and paper. Instead of trying to be more conscious of my lines, I gave up ‘control’ and started building up on little mistakes (more on this later). I also started to apply the same idea to ZBrush sketches and came up with some weird, but satisfyingly unique 3D sculpts.

This project has been fun and useful in many ways. For instance, it gave me a space to explore things that I don’t usually do in ZBrush, like vehicles and Hard surfaces.

Imagine that you get into the habit of making a quick 3D model of one of the tiny sketches, every week or every fortnite. At the end of the year, you can load all those meshes, split them up into parts and create ZBrush insert brushes to re-use with other models. So you are not only being productive, you’re are also practicing ZBrush, producing potential portfolio pieces and generating a huge library of custom insert meshes.

ZBrushCore Doodle

ZBrushCore users can play too!

This is a quick 3D sketch done entirely within ZBrushCore and rendered with Keyshot.

It is not an exact copy of the 2D sketch, but it is recognizably similar.  Part of the fun is in making new design choices along the way, adding or removing stuff to refine the concept.

If you are new to ZBrushCore, here is a beginners series you might find useful:

The interesting thing was…

that as I was drawing these type of mecha characters, I was constantly thinking about how to build them in ZBrush. If you are relatively new to ZBrush it would be a great exercise to map out, in your head, the tools, and processes that can potentially be used to build a 3D model.

The best thing is when you run into something that you’re not quite sure how to do in ZBrush because if you are like me, you’ll get anxious but determined to figure it out; Ultimately adding a new instrument to your ZBrush arsenal.

ZBrush Library of ideas

What makes this tiny daily sketches absolutely worth the effort, is that you end up with a pretty good library of ideas for your ZBrush sessions. Of course, you don’t have to wait until the end of the sketchbook, if there is a cool idea that you just want to sketch in 3D, go for it.

Sometimes, a tiny sketch might even be the starting point for something cool and more memorable. Here is the original sketch of ‘Franky’ along with the 3D sculpt, the render, and where it got featured.

But you can’t escape the awful drawing days

After a couple of months into the project, it was also clear that it was impossible to escape from the ‘awful drawing days’. Although I was always excited to draw, there were days that I just wanted to give up.

You know those days. Nothing works, you think the skills are gone, all the anatomy you’ve studied is useless at this point and forcing yourself to continue just make things worse.

The good thing about this project is that you don’t have to spend more than 10 to 15 minutes on it, so even if you have one of those days, you can still fill the page with something.

In retrospective, you’ll find that there are more ‘good days’ than ‘awful days’ and that with time, they are less frequent. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do if you find yourself trapped in one of those terrible moments where you simply cannot draw:

Walk away

The best thing you can do is leave it for a while and do anything else but drawing. Go for a walk, eat something, read a book or watch a movie. When you come back, you might have improved your chances. Just be careful and don’t let this become an excuse to procrastinate too much.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”Pablo Picasso  

Get inspired first, observe and copy

The thing with being stuck in one of those awful drawing days is not so much the terrible drawings, but the feeling of frustration. So when I walk away, I look for something that inspires me, like insect photography or nature documentaries.

Here is one of my Pinterest boards for creatures / alien inspiration. I am constantly adding pictures that I find interesting, feel free to follow me on Pinterest to get more of these updates.

Revisit

The key, I think, is to do the daily sketch no matter what. You might have a good idea, but not a good day for drawing so it won’t be well executed. Just make sure you get the gist of it and you can come back at a later stage and revisit it to improve it or just as a reminder of something you wanted to make.

various thumbnails sketches from the Tiny Daily Sketch project

Being productive

I believe the essence of good work is time, and good art, a byproduct of patience. Whether is in the craft itself – placing ‘dot’ after ‘dot’ to create a shaded line or in the conglomerate of things, that form the knowledge behind a single line that says it all.

The tiny daily sketch project is NOT about lowering the quality just to produce more. Is about practice, commitment, consistency and creating a healthy habit. At the beginning, I spent more time thinking about what to draw than actually drawing. After a few days, you’ll be opening the sketchbook and drawing straight away; developing a workflow.

The Key is consistency

The key to being productive is not necessarily how frequent you draw or the number of sketches you do, but being consistent in doing so. You can start with a weekly sketch, as long as you do it every week… you’ll be productive.

Another thing I found to be quite helpful to keep up with this daily routine, was sharing all the sketches online. There was a sense of accountability and all the feedback I got was very encouraging, making it easier for me to stick to the plan.

Instragram feed scrolling through the Tiny Daily Sketch project

You can apply the same principle to anything. If you are new to ZBrush and want to get better, try modeling something quick every day for a month and document your progress. You’ll be surprised with how much you can improve.

The Time tracker

To track the time I spent on different tasks, I use Toggl almost every day. It’s a very simple but great tool to keep track of your time and visually see how much time you are spending on each project. If you start tracking your sketching session, you’ll be able to measure the value of consistency and practice.

Toggl has a mobile and desktop app. I mostly use the Chrome browser addon, but the mobile app is also handy to sketch wherever you are. If you don’t want a tool like this. You can set some ‘rules’ for yourself such as a Time limit: Set a timer for 15 or 10 minutes. What you get done in that time is what it goes on one page of the sketchbook (day). You’ll get better/faster with time.

The Sketchbook

My ‘canvas’ was a tiny Moleskine diary called: Moleskine 2016 Daily Planner XSmall Black

It was the perfect size for the project and having the days and date printed at the top corners of the pages, was super handy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a new one for this year (2017) and rumors are, that they have discontinued this model. You can still get a version with lines but is not ideal for drawing.

The size is what make this diary perfect for the job. Fortunately, I found a couple of alternatives (also from Moleskine) to carry on with this project. The extra small plain notebook (doesn’t have the dates printed on it) and the Volant Extra Small Journals, they have fewer pages but you get a pack of two

Moleskine extra small sketchbooks

You could also get the Plain Reporter Notebook. It is slightly bigger but if you are into landscapes, it would probably be a good fit

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” – Pablo Picasso

The Technique

The technique to draw for most of these daily sketches is quite simple, here are the steps of what I do:

About 40 seconds

I start with a super loose doodle using a pencil, I don’t even worry about what it is (or will be). At this point is just a set of random lines with a certain rhythm. Sometimes I let the previous sketch give ideas through the translucency of the paper.

About 2 minutes

Step back, squint your eyes a bit and see if the chaos of lines can suggest some forms. If you don’t see anything, turn the sketchbook upside down or sideways, add more lines, cover half the page with your hand, or do anything you need to do to find a form. The idea is to let the random lines suggest the shapes and contours of your drawing.

Trick: As humans, we can identify faces really quickly, there are parts of our brain dedicated only to recognize facial expressions and familiar faces. Add a couple of dots randomly in your set of lines and they will make it easier for you to find a hidden character/creature in there.

About 5 – 7 minutes

Now take a pen and start to highlight the lines that speak to you. Eventually, you’ll find yourself drawing something you weren’t planning for, that could turn into something really cool.

About 3 – 4 minutes

Use a couple of different pen sizes to refine the sketch a bit and add details (if needed). Erase the messy pencil lines, take a picture and you are done.

End Of The Journey

Finally, here is another project that started with an idea from the Tiny Daily Sketchbook. I took the concept doodle from the 20th of May 2016 and turned it into a ZBrush model. For the rendering style and materials, I used a rendering technique that I shared in my eBook ‘ZBruch comic style render’. You can see more of the process and breakdowns of this project here.

Ok That’s it for now. I’ll leave you with a couple of very interesting TED talks about creativity, procrastination and creating habits. I think you’ll find them very interesting.

Let me know how you go with your own daily sketches. Feel free to share your progress in the comments below.