Help! I don't know how to sketch!

When trying to capture ideas quickly, a lot of artists pull out a sketchbook and do a quick drawing. Or an even quicker scribble that they trust they can interpret as a drawing later on. They have tons and tons of pages with wobbly things scrawled on them, and when they move on to a bigger project, it turns out really detailed, well composed, in keeping with their style, and overall really great. Whereas when I try to sketch... 
Trying to sketch ... I kinda like the one on the right.
The one on the left still feels too detailed even after erasing three layers.

While trying to do a sketch a day for a yearly challenge, I hit upon a problem when I realised that not only was I behind (unsurprisingly), but I had also just taken about five hours to complete the drawing I was working on at that time. Five hours is not a quick sketch anymore! No wonder I was struggling to keep up; there's no way I could work five hours of art into every work day. Not even with my horrendously low sleeping levels. 
I sort of gave up on the challenge, and told myself I would catch up eventually - and I felt bad about myself for giving up on yet another thing. 

I kept drawing in my sketchbook, and my drawings kept being relatively detailed. I learned some things from them, but because they took so long, I didn't learn as much as I would have wanted, I wasn't interested in going back, and I especially didn't want to start on big pieces when I could almost guarantee that I would not be happy with the outcome. Even when I sat myself a time limit, I would not do an entire quick sketch, but I would do a tiny detailed portion of the thing. (The detailed portion looked nicer and nicer, but that really wasn't the point of the exercise.)
Sketching with my tablet.
(It's a guy looking at a city.)

But last week, quite by accident, I stumbled upon two mediums that actually helped me sketch. 

The first is my tablet. 
It is a normal tablet, not specific for digital art, I have a free drawing software, and a very unresponsive stylo with a really broad tip that actually prevents precise lines. I honestly can't even manage to write a pretty word if I have to lift the pen in between. 
That being said, this combination is perfect for sketching. 
Being unable to draw precise lines means I can't focus on details. I have to be broad and accept that it will look messy. 
Having an unresponsive pen means that I have to draw the lines several times in order to get it to look how I want. This enables me to get closer to the forms I want and sort of work them out during the drawing, instead of having to have a perfect idea at the beginning and then trying to translate that. 
And there is of course also the digital art advantage of using more than one layer. Unlike a pencil drawing, I can completely mess up one layer until I find something I like, and then put a layer on top to trace out the nice lines from the layer beneath. Then I can start again. Or I can use the same basic forms, and fill them out in different ways several times. Or I can block in different colours to see how it might work. Or I can work from a reference picture and learn its forms before working on my own. There are a lot of plus points to digital art, and while I might always want to finish pieces with traditional mediums, at least I can learn to appreciate the options for building a complete picture in the first place. And force myself to not buy a specific pen. Otherwise, you know ... details. 

The other option I discovered when cleaning out sketchbooks. 
Brown paper with hideous red pencil -
Be quick so you don't have to look at it for a long time!
I admit it, I hoard these things, and not all of them are filled. In fact, I discovered two brown paper ones that I had started, and then given up on in disgust because some pencils didn't work in it, and I didn't get the results I had imagined anyway. They had cost something like 1.50 EUR, so I wasn't all that bothered. (Or at least less bothered than with a 20 EUR one.)
I was clearing them out when someone called. They said something important, I had to take a note, and picked the nearest pencil available, which happened to be a wax-based one in a really hideous shade of red. Later on, note taken and the person on the other end babbling away, I started doodling. I kind of liked it, the pencil was even showing up on the paper, but the colour was still awful, and how much stuff can one possibly talk about on the phone anyway?
Finally I was free, and started thinking about my sketching problem again, when I looked at my doodles. I had accidentally outlined a drawing I wanted to do, and then had outlined two more options. I had done sketches!!! Useful ones, which one could base a drawing on later! 


I stared at that ugly red pencil, and it stared back at me.
"You are a hideous shade of red!", I told the pencil.
The pencil stared on, not bothered.
"I should throw you away so I don't have to look at you ever again!", I told the pencil.
The pencil kept staring, becoming more menacing by the minute.
"Ah, well then", I said. "I wanted to find a method for sketching. Guess the song was right. 'Careful what you wish for...'.

The pencil smirked.

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