Sunday 12 April 2015

How to Sketch People Who Move

I'm still working hard on my book. I'm currently writing a chapter about the complications of sketching people, who are, of course, inclined to move about. 

It's a problem. Even if they are pretending to be still, it never lasts. People are basically fidgets (read the text on the sketch above...). 

Even when they are asleep they snuffle and slide and change position to get more comfortable. Honestly. The worst ones are those who have been still as a statue for the last ten minutes, so you finally decide that they would be good to draw, but then, just when you have made your first, indelibly black mark right in the middle of the page, their friend arrives and they leave.

So, what's the answer? Well, there are actually lots of different answers. None of them make people keep still, but I am looking at all the different techniques I use to get over the frustrations. For instance: don't try and create a single 'picture' but a spread which tells the story of a changing moment of time. That way, a page with lots of half-drawn sketches has a different kind of value. Like these musician drawings I was doing a couple of weeks ago in an overcrowded pub:

I'm also looking at the ways in which you can make life easier for yourself. If you might have less than 5 minutes before someone moves off, you need to have instantly accessible and easy tools. A small sketchbook can be whipped out in a moment and is comfortable to use if you are standing up. Similarly, 2 or 3 coloured pencils might not seem much, but a set of 12 is no use at all to a speed-sketcher: you'll waste half your time choosing colours and the other half picking the dropped ones up off the floor.

One counter-intuitive tool tip is that, even though a pencil might feel safer when the job is tricky, as it pretty much always is with people, since there's no time for rubbing out, you might just as well use ink and get the benefit of a bold mark.

Another tip is that composite characters are not cheating. Whether you are drawing people buying apples at the market, paddling in the sea, or standing at a bar, you can more or less guarantee that you will have a steady supply of people turning up to strike similar poses, standing in more or less the same place. 

Grafting one person's legs onto someone else's torso might be a bit Silence-of-the-Lambs in real life, but in a sketchbook it's fine. That's the technique I used in the National Portrait Gallery sketch above and how I managed to capture what I did of these skater-boys:

I am creating eight different spreads for the People Move! chapter of my urban sketching book, each concentrating on a different technique for dealing with movement. Some tips, like those above, deal with the problem of drawing basically stationary people who fidget or move position, other sections look at the special challenge of trying to sketch people in constant motion. 

I've finished half the spreads now, but still plenty to do, so I suppose I'd better stop chatting to you and get on with it!


Ruby said...

Thank you, Lynn, for sharing such a helpful and whimsical article! Looking forward to your new book!

Ruby said...

Sorry, I spelt your name wrongly.

Ruby said...

Sorry, I spelt your name wrongly.

Ruby said...

Thank you, Lynn, for sharing such a helpful and whimsical article! Looking forward to your new book!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Thank you!

Jean Mackay said...

Thanks Lynn! This is really helpful. I especially like the idea of trying to convey the story of what's happening, as I'm always trying to convey experiences, and not just "objects," in my artist journal.

lee kline said...

Really helpful.

Smadav 2018 said...

Nice post Thanks For Sharing :)
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