I was at our farmer’s market the other day and one of the nice things about this place is that on one end of it there is a great coffee shop. Great to me doesn’t mean the best coffee in the world because as long as it’s brown and hot, coffee is good enough for me. No, I assess coffee shops based upon the seating arrangement and what is available to sketch when I’m sitting there. This shop qualifies as great because of the view of the vegetable stands and the stream of people moving through.
This blog post smacks of ‘here’s a way to do it’ and I’m certainly not really qualified to teach art. In this case I’m particularly not qualified as I’m really bad at sketching people on location. First, it’s not my favorite subject and second, I draw too slow to keep up with moving targets. BUT (Warning, warning, warning), I had an opportunity to take a couple photos of one process I’ve used with some success and I thought I’d share it. It’s not a process that improves my drawing ability but it does provide a bit more time with the subject.
The process starts with me frantically drawing short line segments to capture the shape and position of the moving subject, in this case a mother and son. The son is excited by the pumpkins and wants to pick up every one. I had, maybe 15 seconds to do this:
Excuse the poor photos but the lighting was not great and I was in a hurry. A good artist has great visual memory and can fill in all the details from the scene they’re trying to capture even if the subject has moved on. I’m not a good artist. This photo was actually taken after I took this one:
The mother and son continued along the row of pumpkin baskets, the mother doing her best to keep the son from grabbing pumpkins. While she’d moved to the right from where I drew the lines above, I was able to quickly pick up my phone and snap her picture as she and her son looked at pumpkins. This, and my quick gesture let me complete this:
Notice that I hadn’t drawn any background info until I’d captured the moving subject. But having the photo of the two people let me judge their heights relative to the background of the location where I was drawing. I could see where her purse hung. I even noticed that I’d drawn her head too large in my gesture. You can see evidence of that error in the final sketch as I corrected it.
This isn’t a master sketch by any means but I was happy with it. Sometimes I don’t have to take a photo like this. Sometimes I don’t even have that chance. I do lots of quick-sketches that are terrible and others that are incomplete because the subject walks away. But sometimes the photo trick helps so I thought I’d mention it.