A few weeks ago I shared my big art goal for 2017 – to get people into my sketchbook – and four elements of my plan:
- Finding the best approach
- Doing it and correcting it.
And then, last week I gave you a quick update indicating that I have been sketching in a small book and some of the benefits of doing that. Today I want to give you a fuller explanation of what has been happening and my current strategy.
Firstly, my accountability partner is Chris Haldane and our plan is to meet every two-three weeks to review our process, share insights and struggles and set goals for the next meeting. We also send each other text messages during the week to report on our progress and wins. It is incredibly inspiring to be doing this with Chris – I was so pumped after our last meeting.
We are taking it slowly, looking at one aspect each per session with our big goal to feel comfortable with our people sketches (either individually or as part of a larger scene) in our normal sketchbooks by the end of April. Although I know I could easily start putting these people sketches in my daily book right now, I have deliberately decided not to at the moment as a way of focusing fully on the learning aspect.
We are both seasoned sketchers but are dissatisfied with our people sketches in relation to our other work, so our self-assessment of ‘being happy’ is at a high level. This level of expectation can be crippling if you are a beginner or have a tendency to be too hard on yourself, but for us, the goal of achieving a high standard is motivating us to work hard!
In the first fortnight of this project, I discovered that there are four aspects that I am working on, and which I believe essential to sketching (moving) people on location and also drawing directly in ink which presents a few more challenges than working in pencil. These are:
- Knowing enough anatomy to be able to draw a generic male and female in a number of standard poses. As people move so much you have to be able to complete a sketch using your memory.
- Being able to capture the gesture – the best gesture (decisive moment) to tell a story about the person and what they are doing. I will be re-visiting Suhita’s wonderful Craftsy course for this!
- Having a system for drawing the figure i.e. where to start, what order to draw the elements.
- Developing your own shorthand for features and elements of the figure.
These four aspects need to be developed at the same time, but at the moment I am focusing a little more on the first point.
There have been a lot of ideas floating around my head in the last few weeks, so here is a random list of the most important ones:
- I have been focusing initially on the volumes of the head. This is quite different from previous occasions where I was more interested in the face and features. I feel as if this has already made a huge difference for me. It is super helpful to be learning to see the whole skull rather than just the face as it relieves a number of ‘object brain’ problems such as drawing features too big.
- In order to train my reflex actions, one evening I spent time do multiple tracings of a skull profile, and then drawing it and checking my lines for accuracy. This seems to have been very effective in cementing the shapes and relationships into my hand movements
- My goal for this first period was to see and draw the shape and position of the skull. So I suspended judgment on other aspects (features, neck, torso, arms etc) – ‘I will get onto researching them later’, I told myself. I found this was really useful and by the end of the fortnight, my single line drawings were a lot more three dimensional than previously.
- Rather than drawing the axis lines down the centre of the face and through the eyeballs, I have been focusing more on eyebrows as they represent an edge on the skull. I also don’t want these axis lines in ink on my sketches.
- The big breakthrough for this first session was the importance of the ear at the intersection of three major components. The ear-eyebrow line (the tilt of the head), the ear-jawline (the shape of the face), and the ear-neck/spine axis (the overall posture.) I really haven’t thought about the ear much before, and although a major tip from Marc Taro Holmes’ Craftsy course was the ear-jaw connection, I felt everything clicked in place last week. I starting looking at people’s ears and was amazed at how that helped me see the volumes and gestures so much better.
I could go on and on, but I think that is enough for this week!
A little note about the sketches. These are a selection of sketches that I have done in my little book over the last 3 weeks. They are roughly in order and we all done super quickly – somewhere between 30 secs and 3 mins. Finally, I know that a few people asked for a list of recommended books. To be honest, I haven’t found one book (so far) that addresses all the things I need. Instead, I tend to look up a number of books and absorb a few different approaches, and then try to work it out for myself. Like the ‘ear’ lightbulb moment, it only became real because I was doing the work and ‘discovered it for myself’.
The moment when something clicks is what I am always searching for. It is easy for more seasoned sketchers to say: “Oh, yes, I have known that for years” but it is the personal moment of discovery that is the important thing – that only comes by doing!
As always, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts, challenges and/or tips – especially if you are someone that sketches a lot of people.