I once took a painting class where we were asked to do ten paintings in thirty minutes. The rules were simple.

  • No more than three minutes per painting.
  • The entire painting surface had to be covered at the end of three minutes.

What one quickly discovers is that there is no time for detail. Instead you focus on the bones that define the structure of an image. Bad bones, bad painting, and one that is not really worth details anyhow. What you also discover is that details is not where the energy lies. The good stuff is in the most fundamental elements of the image such as line, balance and color composition.

I painted a lot of ugly three minute sketches. Keep at it long enough, though, and suddenly a good painting pops out. You then realize that the ugly ones were just part of the process of getting to the good one. The ugly ones are where you explore all your good ideas. It is where you separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say.

The image above comes from one of those sketches that, at the time, I was not really all that happy with. Fifteen years later my wife found it, framed it and put it on the wall. I love it. It reminded me that sketches, serving most often as a means to an end, occasionally have the power to stand on their own.

A lot of what I have been musically producing lately is what I would consider audio sketches. I have not focused too much on details such as set arranging, voice leading or instrumental variation. Instead, I have been focusing on melody and tempo, the basics. Going forward I will group these sketches under the internet album title of ‘Sketch‘.

Yesterday, after changing the strings on my borrowed bouzouki, I became mesmerized by its exotic sound. I was noodling around and a melody in minor started to take shape. I envision that it has a second strain but I am not sure what that would sound like yet. Or, maybe it is an intro to a song or even a set of tunes. I don’t really know. For now I have given it a working title of ‘Crosswinds’. That could change too, though I do like it. What I do know is that it has a couple brush strokes that I wish it didn’t but enough good ones where I will continue to push the paint around. It is a sketch.

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