Last week I was standing in the rain sketching sulphur crested cockatoos.
After further encounters I now believe their disinterest in my presence was somewhat feigned, but it encouraged me to observe them. This kind of close, watchful observation is perhaps the essence of sketching – and it allows the study of movement – a hopping gait, the stretching of the neck when a crest is raised. And so the changing shapes that go with movement may be sketched – quickly.
For me, finding photographic reference in a book, or indeed a single online photo cannot replicate this experience – the observation of real life. However, I find taking my own photos for reference when the opportunity arrises, always a good idea – I can choose my point of view and zoom to shoot detail I missed with my quick sketch.
My quick sketches are just that – sketches, roughs. And yes, spontaneity is wonderful – however, an illustration for a book cover or a story calls for more. This can be added content – perhaps, for example, another character that must be introduced on a cover. And always a book illustration asks for careful consideration of design and the position of text – whether titles, words or entire paragraphs on a page.
So the spontaneity of the sketchbook and any accompanying notes about the particular feeding habits of a bird, become one reference – one consideration on the journey towards a finished illustration.