Sketching Serendipity

Serendipity is the gift of finding value or agreeable things not looked for. This can happen whilst sketching. You, an artist, weren’t planning for drawing an extra wild hamster, or an extra flower, an added feather on the wing of a mandarin duck, but a blemish, a smudge, an accidental line guides you to noticing and adding this extra feature to your composition which becomes the serendipitous element of your drawing.

Zemblanity is the opposite of serendipity; the smudge or really wrongly placed and unfortunate line makes your composition fit for your bin. What a shame, how unlucky! You have just utterly ruined your drawing.


Noticing or imagining something in the unexpected shadow of the light of your studio, or in the cream of your coffee, in a smudge on your drawing (not even visible to others), or a very vague accidental line that seems to come alive as a leaf, an animal, or a lotus popping out of the water, how welcoming is serendipity! It feels as if a sketch isn’t only made by you but your sketch helps sketching itself.

I have been trained on composition, on avoiding smudges, on in-cooperating accidental lines or spots, and this is not what I am referring to. What I like to put forward is the idea that a sketch or drawing sometimes provides you with a helping hand. It subtly ‘talks’ to you (through what you call accidents) and please, do not neglect this indistinct communication.

Opening yourself up to serendipity is like opening yourself up to unexpected inspiration. It requires you to allow your planning to be a bit altered or supplemented; it offers your sketch to help manifest itself a bit differently than you had in mind, but most likely it will be better than you hoped for.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s shop at Etsy

Paula’s art at Instagram

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