There are always sketches that will never be finished. And sometimes I lack ideas when I’m trying to paint. These two realities of everyday art creation go together really well when you start thinking a little differently and start recycling your art work. By using unfinished sketches (or even different finished pieces and bashing them together) you can create new art. It can be in the same setting as the current sketch, or it can be something completely different. This tutorial briefly outlines my process of taking an old sketch and using blending modes and other tools to create a new painting. I’ve also collected it into a Recycle Your Own Sketches in SketchBook PDF that you can download if you want to keep a copy.
Step 1: Selecting a sketch
The first step is to select a sketch from your archives. It can be a completed sketch or something you were working on that was never finished. If it’s digital, duplicate the file and start experimenting. If it’s on paper, use Scan Sketch to pull it into SketchBook and give it an entirely new life. You can use multiple sketches or even finished drawings/paintings. For this tutorial, I liked the lighting and shadows of the snow in this work, so the sketch above will be used to create a new painting within the same snowy environment.
This half-finished sketch has some good lighting and shadows — a good candidate for recycling.
Step 2: Using blending modes and transforms
This is the main experimental step. By duplicating, distorting, transforming, and/or rotating your sketch with a combination of blending modes, you can begin to discover new compositions. The original sketch is kept on a layer underneath. It is duplicated and put on “Darken” mode. Since this is a snowy sketch with dark rocks, using the Lighten and Darken blending modes work best. When using Darken, since the rocks are darker in value, they appear on top of the snow and mix with other rocks, creating new compositions while keeping the same colors and not distorting them. This effect is replicated within the Lighten mode, but the snow is shown instead on top of the rocks since it has a lighter value.
There is no limit at this stage of how many Darken/Lighten layers you create. The more experimenting you do, the more variety you’ll see in the composition and placement of rocks and snow. Once you’ve found a satisfying composition you can start painting on top.
Step 3: Render and depth
After establishing the main composition of the new painting, the next step for me is rendering and adding depth to the piece. Using the colors already established within the painting, you can continue to introduce more rocks and shadows within the snow. I added a mountain in the back for additional depth. Throughout the painting process, it’s a good idea to constantly flip/mirror your canvas. This way, you get a fresh eye on your composition and see it from a different perspective. A tool you may want to use is my set of Expressive Painting SketchBook Brushes.
Something important to remember is that you may have reusable objects in your scene already. In the frames above, I copied and pasted the trees on the right side over to the left instead of having to paint them again. I used already existing trees within the painting to paint on top and it worked out great.
Step 4: Final details and adjustments
The last step is finalizing the overall composition and adding in the finishing details. Make sure to always keep the lighting direction consistent. In this stage, I added more mountains in the distance and clouds in the sky for more depth. I also introduced some cool hues from the bright sky into the shadowy areas of the rocks so they would pick up some of the natural light.
The one on the right is the final painting. You can see several elements from the original sketch, such as the lighting and rocks/snow theme, but it’s an entirely new and even better work than it was before. I really enjoy these fun experiments in using my older work to create new paintings without starting from a blank canvas. I hope you’ll give it a shot and see if you like to recycle your art, too.