On most days I carry a slew of art tools with me when I am going out to sketch. You never know which tool you would be inspired to pick up that day!
In my case, it often depends on the subject. For busy street scenes and city scapes I feel like I can express myself better using a dip pen with flex nib and ink on large sheets of paper where I have space to move my hands around to convey all the energy and chaos of that urban setting. If I am at a cafe with comfortable seating and good light, I crack open my sketchbook, spread my crayons, markers and colour pencils out on the table and play with those over a cup of tea. Inside a park or a public garden there is nothing more satisfying than sitting on the grass and rendering dense swathes of greenery with broad strokes of a flat brush loaded with transparent watercolours.
Last year however, while recovering from my shoulder injury there was a period when I had to pare down my bag of art supplies to one pencil and a single sheet of paper. I felt terribly encumbered without the rest of my tools but pressed on hoping that it won’t last long. On the contrary the whole thing turned out to be a fun challenge! The sketches below were done during that time at different cafes in my neighbourhood.
In the absence of colours, I was forced to pay attention to a very important design element i.e tonal values ( how light or dark something appears) in a way I had never done before. It was like going back to basics and focusing on a technique and getting better at that.
For a composition to look balanced and aesthetically pleasing, one has to create depths and contrasts which I realized becomes much simpler to learn and execute using a single colour. The more I practised drawing this way, the more I learnt about elements that did or did not work for my drawings. No wonder art tutors recommend practising with a pencil to get a better grasp on tonal vales and only when you have mastered that can you start using colours.
I did start using colours as soon as I could carry them out with me, but not without the learnings from this inadvertent practice session.