Blurring the Lines: Painting & Sketching

Paintings and Sketches. Sometimes it’s really clear which is which. And sometimes the lines are pretty blurry.

What is this one?
alameda_ocena.jpgCrown Beach, Alameda. Looking at San Francisco across the bay with the sun in my eyes.
Stillman and Birn Beta, 9×12 in.

Some are easier to classify. Like this one. Perhaps because there’s writing involved? And no paint?

Castillero Middle School, San Jose. Middle school orientation day: I have two middle schoolers this year!! Stillman and Birn Beta, 3.5×5.5 in.

Or this one.
cup.jpgBlvd. Coffee, Almaden, San Jose. Single cappuccino. Stillman and Birn Alpha, 8×10 in.

This one isn’t in a sketchbook, but it’s done faster than most sketches I do…nude.jpg
Life Drawing, San Jose. Detail from a quarter-sheet piece. Arches Cold Press Paper

It’s my vintage sign pieces that are the most ambiguous to me: they’re done in sketchbooks, but a lot of them have been framed and hang in shows or have been sold. Does that change anything? Sketch or Painting?sign_ptg.jpgCity Cleaners, San Jose. Stillman and Birn Beta, 9×12 in.

Does anything change if there’s more pen lines involved?


Stephen’s Meat Products, San Jose. Stillman and Birn Beta, 9×12 in.

What about if the pen work is more painterly brushpen work?linework
Painting with Vera, San Jose. Detail from a larger piece. Stillman and Birn Beta, 9×12 in.

Some people say intent matters and sketchbooks are for study: but that’s an old idea, so much art is now made in sketchbooks, an end in itself.
Others define paintings as works outside books and possibly without linework involved.

What do you think? Do you have definitions for paintings versus sketches?
Or, more importantly, does it matter?



About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in books, california, Close to home, Doodles, Everyday Sketches, Paintings, people, san jose, Vintage Signs, watercolor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Blurring the Lines: Painting & Sketching

  1. Interesting question.. My answer is it is all art.. I notice that in the sketching community I sometimes hear people say they are not “artists” and are not making “art”… I think it is all art and iof course they are artists.. everyone can create and make art.. you could call your art “mixed media”. And since you are having shows and selling your work you are a professional artist! And your art is a amazing and full of life!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pbass wil says:

    Thing is, ‘art’, ‘sketch’, ‘painting’, etc, are categories. Humans use categories as a way to simplify their understanding of the world. When the categories are shared, socially, they tend to serve social goals & aims. Our society has a tradition (since around the renaissance) of art being divided between professionals & amateurs – geniuses & dabblers. That’s strongly echoed in the distinction between sketching and ‘painting-serious-art’. Since it’s such an entrenched tradition, in our lifetime there will always be folks that judge in those categories. But traditional ways of categorizing and thinking _do_ change over time. And they change one person at a time. So if the strong distinctions & categories that we inherited aren’t serving our personal purposes, we don’t have to categorize our own work in those terms. We don’t have to sign up for the current ‘majority rule’ way of judging art. IMHO! :^)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kirk says:

    Really like the water scene which appears at the beginning of the article

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always say working in a sketchbook is my main form of art. I see working on a piece of paper as “studio art”. Although is it studio art when the painting is completed outdoors…then is it plein aire. Another confusing label which I read differently than “sketching outdoors” or “urban sketching”. I have no local sketching group. So I sketch alone. There is a local plein aire group which posts their art after their weekly meet up. They are finished pieces not in sketchbooks. At the moment I am sitting on the fence about joining the group. I would prefer to spend time with sketchers. All these labels are confusing. People seem to be confused when you tell them you work mainly in a sketchbook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say keep doing what you’re doing: draw by yourself when it suits you and with a group when it does. And don’t be confused, labels are just that: labels. Quite a bit of what I do is urban sketching and almost all of it I do by myself But I also do other stuff: life drawing, sketchbooking and a lot of work as an illustrator, most of which I don’t post here.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bernadette says:

    To me, it does not matter if you title it a sketch or painting. These are wonderful! Yes, the beach scene with glaring sun on the water is exquisite! To keep on keeping on, in my opinion makes a difference in the quality of your work. It is obvious that you put loads of time in drawing/sketching and painting. You inspire me! Thank you for sharing.


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