When I started sketching on location I only sketched buildings and maybe a few trees. I was terrified of adding people. Places are alive because of people and sketches feel kind of empty when they show no human figures.
The vast majority of my recent sketches show only people doing things, athletes, musicians, etc. I haven’t sketched places in a while. So I felt I needed to practice drawing people as if I would be adding the figures when sketching a space. Here are few quick tips for when adding people to sketches:
The horizon line is pretty much at eye level of all the figures standing, either close to us or far away. I like to vary a few, like some shorter ladies and maybe some taller guys just to add some diversity. Sitting figures have a different eye level!
Small head, large bodies! I don’t really bother to establish the real proportions of the figures, like how many heads or whatever. Such rules are great for figure drawing, but my sketches usually take me just between 15-20 minutes, so I have to be loose and spontaneous. I don’t mind if the body ends up way larger than in reality. We’ve all seen people with much larger bodies than their heads. A large head and a small body however make figures look like extraterrestrials.
Figures closer to us show more detail than those far away. When adding color, figures far away are painted with cooler and duller colors. Warm and bright colors bring the subject forward.
Waking figures are more dynamic than standing symmetrical figures. Walking figures can be suggested by tapering one of the legs. The opposite is done with the arms.
I still prefer to just suggest details rather than them being very defined. I like my sketches to tell a story and, unless the person is the story, details might distract from the focus. This practice sketch maybe suggests a little more detail than I’d like, but I did this without reference or direct observation –there wasn’t a story to tell here. When I’m back out there sketching places on location I’ll figure out the balance of how much detail to add to my figures.
It would be my dream as an artist to live in a city full of architectural wonders and iconic spaces to visit. It is a challenge to find what to draw when living in unremarkable suburbs. But you got to do what you got to do… sometimes you got to pull a story out of thin air just to do what you love. And keep an eye open; maybe tomorrow I’ll witness something exceptional.
“Fortune favors the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur
I continued the challenge last week, although I’m a couple days behind. Need to do a few more per day if I want to complete the task. I have mostly been using a pretty large brush for the paper (a 26 round on 9″ x 6″ sheets), which I think helps me loosen up. Also, I found some sheets of great Arches 300 lbs. sheets I had misplaced, which make a huge difference. I used this fantastic paper for the last two self portraits; I don’t think O want to paint on anything else from now on. The experience of painting on good paper is pure joy.
I don’t have much time to either sketch or to blog, but I wanted to participate this year in the 30×30 Direct Watercolors Challenge. The challenge is to do 30 paintings in the month of June, directly with watercolors, no pencil drawing underneath. I thought this was good practice for what could be my future style, based on the lack of control I have with pens or pencils. There are no rules regarding the subject or if these are based on photographs or from live observation. I’ve been wanting to get my feet wet with portraiture, but with a loose and expressive style. So decided to do a self-portrait a day (if I don’t get tired of drawing myself over and over…).
I am sketching fairly small, 9″ x 6″. At the beginning I was using two small brushes, #8 and #5 round, but the last couple days I have mostly used a big #24 round brush. I am liking the bigger brush better.
Here are my sketches for the first six days. These are all under 30 minutes each.
Sketching has been a challenge lately. I don’t know how much my MS is affecting me, but because of my struggles with a pen, my sketching has not been as prolific as usual. I haven’t had the regular motivation to capture the world that surrounds me. My hands feel weird, like if I have gloves on all the time. But I was thinking of how happy sketching had always made me feel, so decided to make changes, like ASAP.
I certainly have lost control when handling drawing instruments. In a way I can live with that, as I prefer a looser, more spontaneous style. On the other hand, it is frustrating not being able to command your own linework. When you want to draw something straight and it comes up in an angle. When you want to draw lines a certain length and you get something different. I guess it takes time to get used to. But still, I don’t want to just give up.
Sketching with fountain pens has been a nightmare lately. Holding the pen tends to give me cramps and it drives me nuts when they start skipping because I can’t hold it properly. I basically need to re-learn how to draw. Obviously, I’m not starting from scratch, so that’s going to help. But I need to adapt to my new reality. I think it’s time to switch sketching media.
I need something that doesn’t strain my hands as much. At first I was thinking of using markers and fine liners, as they are pretty reliable with very little maintenance. I gave it a test run a few days ago but my hand was hurting pretty quickly.
Digital sketching is a little easier on my hand. It might not be the same as the real thing, but maybe that’s good. I have enjoyed sketching part-time with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, so I’m actually pretty comfortable sketching with it. So it might be an opportunity to develop my skills with digital media.
What other options do I have? I’ll try direct watercolors. Also I think that ink with brush in a larger format might fit my style. Any suggestions are welcome!