For a long time I always felt it didn’t matter. I was quite nervous about being seen to draw. But I’m not keen on sketching other peoples photographs although I have tended to for portraits of celebrities.
Sketching from your own photographs is a different matter. You are actively involved in the composition process. You decide what to photograph and something about the subject has spoken to you on a conscious or unconscious level. There is an immediate, personal connection.
A sketch is something else. In the real situation, a particular feature dominates your consciousness. In this particular sketch it was the brickwork – I love weathered brickwork. And the colours were really spectacular and I focussed my energies there.
The degree of realism achieved is dependent on several factors. Artistic choice and ability, time restrictions, changing light and weather. Movement of the subject. In this case my restriction was time and light change.
So which is of more value? I love the immediacy of the plein air sketch, and you learn so much of value from it. That’s not to say photographs don’t help you learn valuable lessons. But that they are different lessons and learnt in the comfort of the studio. Sometimes it is not possible to sketch – I often see perfect picture images which are fleeting as I steer the boat or watch the lock filling. To sketch whilst steering would be too dangerous but I can usually manage a quick snap which serves as a reminder which I can then work on later.
In other words, if circumstances permit, do both!