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People Sketching Tagalong

Amy Books | Creative Journey , ,
People Sketching at the Library

I wanted to get a podcast out in time for those of you considering the weeklong One Week 100 People challenge Liz Steel is doing, March 6-10, 2017. I especially wanted to post a podcast in advance of this because I’ve been toting around an awesome book on people sketching for weeks. It’s perfect as a supplement for this challenge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record and release an episode of the CMP in time to give you some useful info before the One Week 100 People challenge starts on Monday.

Bottom line: I do plan to tag along on this weeklong people drawing challenge.

100 People is a Lot!

I have some hesitation about saying out loud that I will do this challenge because I do worry that I won’t be able to keep up or meet this goal. Even though it is presented as a week, it’s only a 5-day challenge, not a 7-day week. For the working crowd, this intensifies the challenge, and it may simply mean it isn’t “doable” for me. It really may mean that. My tracking through February has made very clear how limited my creative time is. I have to know and accept at the outset that I may not succeed with this. (The chances of succeeding, actually, are really slim.)

I am being pragmatic. If I don’t make 100 drawings, it will be okay. If I find on day one at the end of the day that drawing a few people didn’t make me happy, and I really just want to do a single, focused drawing from Sktchy, I will honor that. Similarly, I know that I may find at the end of day one that I never left the house other than to drive to/from school (which is typical for me) and that doing 20 drawings of my teen sitting on the couch with his phone doesn’t seem fruitful. That may be the reality. Because I know how often I struggle with body positions in the abstract or without a photo reference, I am hoping that a week like this forces me to practice with very quick line drawings and helps me gain some muscle memory and familiarity with body lines.

I worry about the sheer quantity, but I also worry that what I generate won’t be something I am willing to share. (Sharing really rough and quick sketches and studies like the ones shown above isn’t easy for me. It is very raw to share this way.) There are plenty of reasons this challenge may be too much for me, but I am still going to give it a go. This challenge fits in with my personal goals for my own creative work, drawing, and year. Plus, I like the nudge of a challenge and the diligence it inspires.

Improving People Drawing

I’ve been working on people drawing over the last several months, and doing more in-person/live people drawing (e.g., at a coffee shop) is part of my creative goal set for this year. For my daily drawings, I have mostly been sketching from Sktchy photos each day, which I greatly enjoy. Because I have been really hooked on using Sktchy as a source, drawing a “person” a day has been an important part of my drawing in 2017. There have been a few rogue non-people sketches (a few dogs, in particular), but mostly, I’ve been drawing portraits at night to fulfill my daily sketch. These drawings are people-focused, which is a relatively new area for me.

At the same time, since January, I’ve been going to the library once a week and making a point to sketch at least one person I can see from my seat. (My view from the tables where I sit is very limited and broken by the framing of the light that runs across the table, but I have tried each week to draw someone I can partially see.) My skill with this type of sketching from life needs lots of improvement and practice. The quality of my line in these in-person sketches is tremendously different from my nightly sketches based on photos or Sktchy uploads. My perspective and proportions, especially, seem skewed. That people move often, interrupting a sketch, poses its own challenge and adds to the complexity of sketching from life. I typically do one quick sketch while there. For this week-long challenge, I would need to do many, many more.

I hope that this week-long challenge will give me added practice and will help train my eye and hand to better understand body lines, positions, gesture, and movement.

A Book on People Sketching

Even before Liz announced this challenge, I have been carrying around a book by Lynne Chapman all year—Sketching People: An Urban Sketcher’s Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces I planned to talked about this book on the CMP, but I wanted to spend time with it. Every time I open it, I am almost overwhelmed by the lush interior, so overwhelmed that I have tended to scan a few pages and then close the book&mdah;incredibly inspired but overwhelmed. The fact is, this is a fantastic book. If you have any interest in people drawing or urban sketching, this is a book you should pull from your library for inspiration and for how-to material.

I will talk about Sketching People more in depth on an upcoming CMP episode (probably as an outgrowth of whatever happens in this One Week 100 People challenge), but I wanted to mention it here on the blog so that you have the title, if you want to grab a copy to help guide your people-drawing week.

You can find out more about Liz Steele’s challenge (and how to be involved and take part in the community aspect of the week-long challenge) here. The tag for the week is #OneWeek100People2017.

Be Realistic

If you decide to do this week-long challenge, make it your own. Be a part of the challenge, but realize that you have the freedom to fit this into your own life and routine and make this a positive experience. Here are the things I am keeping in mind for myself:

  1. You can do these drawings however you choose. They can be simple contours or line drawings or watercolor sketches or whatever you want.
  2. You can draw the same person more than once and have it count. (I drew the same woman’s face three times at the library last night. Each time was a new experience and new practice.
  3. You can draw multiple people on a page. There are good examples on Liz’s blog of this. (See Liz’s Instagram post below for another look at multiple people on a page.)
  4. Think through your tools in advance to help simplify (maybe) your approach (including what sketchbook you will use).
  5. Don’t choose a super wet ink. (The ink I have in the pen I was using at the library last night was wet and very slow to dry. As I worked on multiple sketches on the same page, I kept smearing the ink everywhere.)
  6. Make a tracker. Set up a simple tracker of 100 checkboxes or circles that you can check off or color in on your way to 100. (The challenge is only 5 days, so you will be striving for an average of 20 sketches a day.)
  7. You do not have to go to a public location to sketch in order to fulfill this challenge. It can be done at home. Do what works best for you and don’t let your ability or inability to make special “urban sketching time” be a limiting factor.
  8. Resist the temptation to compare your work. Compare your drawings with your own drawings, start to finish. You will most likely see growth or change or the building of confidence over the week. But avoid comparing your work to others, especially if drawing people is really new for you or something you feel particularly intimidated by at the outset.
  9. Share your work at Instagram or Facebook with the #OneWeek100People2017 tag to engage with others doing the same challenge.

You can find out more about Liz and her approach to this challenge (and to drawing people) on her blog in posts like this one. Related books (some of these are about urban sketching in general — not just “people” sketching:

Note: links provided to books, tools, and other resources on the Creativity Matters Podcast website may be affiliate links for which the podcast would make a (very) small amount of money if the item was purchased. The Creativity Matters Podcast is an affiliate. Links are provided for convenience to help you find/see/explore the books, tools, and resources I talk about. Using the library, when possible, is always my first recommendation for reviewing books firsthand.

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