Drink And Sketch, Drink And Sketch

On my way back from a discussion with a bank manager I stopped into a place for a cup of tea and the possibility of sketching an interior scene.  It wasn’t the Taj Mahal but what the heck, it was great practice.  Here’s the result, done in a Stillman & Birn (4×6) Alpha sketchbook.  I used a TWSBI Mini as my pointy device.


While the counters, coffee and tea didn’t move, the people did as one after the other, a person came to the counter, paid for something, and left.  I’ve been asked several times about how I set up a sketch like this and I thought it might be time to oblige.

It’s fashionable in internet-land to proudly state that one doesn’t use pencil.  Ink is the only way to go.  Well, I’m an ink guy and most of my sketching is done in ink.  But I’ve also learned that laying down a few bones beforehand allows me to concentrate on the drawing of each section of a sketch and prevents my ideas from running off the page.

2013-11-20PicardieSillery_layourSo, I start with a pencil, a 3H pencil to be exact.  I draw lines to represent the major vertical and horizontal components.  I’ve indicated the pencil work for this sketch in red.  Once done, I can look at the paper space and compare it to the scene, ensuring that things are going in the right direction.  Note how few lines are actually required.  This is not drawing; it’s organization.

In this case I also wanted to place a person and I could use counter height and the verticals to locate her.  I’ve indicated three small pencil lines in yellow that define the top of her head, her shoulders as well as the bottom of ‘her’ coat.  The reality is that the coat was drawn mostly from the first customer but also the second, who contributed the legs/shoes.  A third provided the head, but as I had these little lines in place, it was easy to cobble together a person for my scene.  Given how light the pencil lines are, I rarely see a need to erase them when I finish so no eraser was harmed in the creation of this sketch.

Could I do this with dots from a pen?  Sure.  When I did Brenda Swenson’s 75-Day Challenge (limits you to ink only) that’s exactly what I did.  But it’s far easier to see the scene structure with some lines than with a few dots and a .5mm pencil isn’t that heavy so I carry one for this purpose.  Besides, if layout underpinnings was good enough for the master artists of the 18th and 19th Century, why shouldn’t it be good enough for me (grin)?

2013-11-21Brulerie3rdAve_72The next day I was meeting a friend for tea at one of my favorite haunts and this guy, all scrunched down in his chair caught my eye.  I sketched him and then just kept going, ending up with this scene.

6 thoughts on “Drink And Sketch, Drink And Sketch

  1. Very interesting to read about your process, Larry — which turns out to be very similar to mine (except I do use ink only). I call the process of putting together a person by piecing together parts of several “models” Mr. Potato Head sketching. 😉

    – Tina

    • I find that separating the organization stage from the drawing stage by changing tools ensures that I actually DO the organizations phase 🙂 If I’m drawing a single object I skip the pencil.

      The composite person thing is, for me, a relatively new thing. But it sure helps as it takes the ‘frantic’ out of trying to capture someone in motion, or someone who’s going to stand still for only a few seconds.

      As for similarities between how we do things, I’ve noticed the same thing while reading your blog. The materials you like and don’t like are almost identical to what I’ve found with the same materials and for the same reasons. Uncanny that.

      Cheers — Larry

  2. Wonderfully informative post, Larry, and a great sketch too! If sketchers prefer using pencil first, whether it be to do a few markings for composition or for a more detailed drawing, they’ll get no judgement from me. I say to each, their own, and neither medium is better than the other. I nearly always note down what mediums I use for a sketch and I will also note down if pencil wasn’t used only for my own information when I look back over sketches later. By the way, I love the fact that your sketched ‘person’ is actually a blend of numerous people. Great idea!

    • I agree, Serena. All these ‘rules’ seem dumb to me. Personally I use a pencil for organization, not drawing and I like the separation of these two things by tool type as it let’s my simple brain know what I’m supposed to be doing. In this case it keeps me from lapsing into drawing while I’m organizing a scene and reminds me to actually DO organization so I don’t end up chopping off the top of a building or making the table on the right smaller than the one on the left, or whatever 🙂 Different strokes.

      Cheers — Larry

  3. Terrific post Larry, you’ve given me a great tip using the pencil to set out the sketch before starting the pen work and I love the figure made from several people. And an excellent sketch too!

    • Glad you’ve found it helpful, Valerie. Old drawing texts talk about such things but modern texts about drawing lean heavily towards drawing from imagination where the approach, by necessity is different.

      Cheers — Larry

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