SKETCH? OR PAINTING? And why is the sky blue? ~ by Ralph Duncan

(from a Collector’s point of view)

Since a lot of my work has been done with only pencil and paper, many viewers have often asked about my “sketches.” Now, it really doesn’t bother me (that much) when someone calls my draws, sketches. But really, a piece that takes 40-60 hours of work can hardly be called a sketch. To me, my drawings are my attempt to communicate to the viewer a thought – a story – or a feeling. Very much like a writer. Somewhat like the writer, the artist has various "tools" as his or her disposal to create a storyline.

Other comments I get include something like, “the subject seems to “pop out” from the background. When that happens, then I feel like I am on the right track and have connected with the viewer. But this does not happen by accident.

One of the techniques I employ is known in French as Repoussoira–loosely translated, “to push back.” This is clearly illustrated in the photo here. There is no question that the mountains are far back in the distance behind the magnificent Mountain Dog.  

The drawing just would not look right if the mountains were rendered in the same detail as the subject. The eye would be confused.  And here is the communication part. When the eye is confused, so is the message. But, the real interesting part here is that absolute accuracy is not necessary, because even though our brain will pick out the contradictions, the eye and the human brain will fill in the gaps, as long as you follow certain rules.  

Most of us know the basics: 
1. Large figures in front
2. Less detail in back
3. Overlap objects

Although we may not know why. As an artist develops a piece of work that has a lot of depth, he or she knows that the objects in the back have less contrast, they are dimmer, and their borders become blurred (il mezzo confuso). And here is the most interesting part of all— is where the border between science and art also becomes blurred.

What we see and experience is the result of a trick our atmosphere plays on us.  It is something known as "Rayleigh Scattering." The great genius Leonardo DaVinci knew all about this and referred to it as aerial perspective. Objects in the distance are lighter, less defined, more tightly clustered.  Contrast is reduced in the background. The more atmosphere between the viewer and the object, the more pronounced the effect. It all has to do with those little tiny particles carried in the air and their size in relation to what is known as the wavelength of light. 

This is why contours are softened – the light “information” is degraded by the earth’s atmosphere – particles in the air are smaller than the wavelength of light and therefore they scatter or diffuse the light.  

And yes, here also lies the reason why the sky is blue. The color BLUE is scattered most (therefore we see it more) because it has a very short wavelength - and is most pronounced closer to the ground because the heavier particles sink (such as fog, smoke, pollution) and there are more of them.


So, are they sketches? Ok, sure, if you like. But to me they are much more. They are explorations in perspective - an effective use of techniques to deliver a message. They are also an exercise in story. 

Let me know if you get it.  Enjoy.


  1. Enjoying your posts...and yes, I get it. :)

  2. I enjoyed reading your perspective on what constitutes sketching, Ralph. I've always thought of sketching as a quick outline, much like the way I jot down critical plot points before I write.

  3. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. painting houses

  4. At the point when a craftsman needs to set up a display of their artistic creations online there are a few things that must be finished. First they should filter their oil compositions and afterward they will need to select which craftsmanship artworks they need to post. Deutschland diamant malarei

  5. Generally, painting was performed with paint brushes, however there are different techniques, including the range blade, the cloth, and even straightforwardly from the paint tube. Oil paint stays wet longer than numerous different sorts of specialists' materials, so a reality in many painter's studios is the expulsion of oil paint from the artwork. diamond painting problems



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