In the past, when he and I have discussed art, he had commented that he'd taken a few lessons in the past year or so on drawing, but that he'd done little if any sketching outside of that, and had no pretensions of being an artist.
You can never tell from the way people talk about their own drawings whether or not they're any good, as opinions range from "My art is horrible" [compared to Rembrandt] or "I've gotten very good" [compared to the fingerpaintings my mother saved from when I was three]. But usually, when someone says "I've done almost no drawing" it means they're not very good at it.
But the samples my friend sent me were, in fact, quite nice pencil sketches on a variety of subjects. As in "better than I could do" pencil sketches. I was impressed, and told him so. His reply was along the lines of 'All I did was copy a photograph. That's not art.'
This begs the question of what exactly art is, of course. We got into that a bit, but I said I'd be curious to see what he could produce without a visual reference.
I seldom ever sketch without a reference, myself, mostly because the drawings I do from the top of my head are pretty dreadful. I have a distinct artistic style when it comes to sketching, and I don't like it much. My humans are especially bad, but whenever I look at other people's quick sketches, I think "I wish mine looked like that."
Anyway, my friend did a fifteen minute sketch off the top of his head, and, predictably, it wasn't as good as the sketches from photos. For comparison purposes. I did a 15-minute sketch of my own.
I've never timed how long I spend on a freehand sketch, though when I was taking art classes, the poses were all timed, and usually ranged from 5 minutes to an hour and a half.
The first thing I noticed about this exercise was that 15 minutes was far too long to spend drawing something if I didn't like the way I'd started out. I was on Sinai when I started, and tuftears posed watching over my shoulder when I said I was going to draw something. So I started out doing a picture of a lynx watching over the shoulder of someone trying to draw. The first pose looked all wrong, and after two or three minutes, I started over. I didn't reset the clock. I've always been of the mind that bad sketches are part of the process of making good sketches in any case. I spent the remaining time on the sketch behind the cut-tag.
It's noticeably more detailed than my friend's, and perhaps a bit better overall. Still, I find myself envying him what appears to be a natural talent much greater than my own -- given how long it's taken me to get even this good at drawing.