Drawing from Life

Since my last post mentioned a road trip, it seems only fair that I share a few of my sketches.  On a trip, I always imagine I’m going to have loads of time to sit around and simply draw.  It never happens quite that way but there are at least a few opportunities.   I spent one day in San Francisco sight-seeing.  It was Memorial Day weekend and it seemed like a good part of the world had decided to do the same thing.  There were crowds everywhere and almost no place to sit.   I managed to find a bench near Fisherman’s Wharf and I did quick sketch of Alcatraz.

sketchbook alcatraz

Later it was on to Berkeley where I spent some time in the charming patio of a coffee shop near the campus- the perfect place for people drawing. These two young men were so deep in conversation that they didn’t even notice I was drawing them even though I was only a table away.

sketchbook berkeley

Whenever possible I wear sunglasses and hold my book up in such a way that folks can’t see what I’m doing.  People often feel your gaze when you’re drawing them and then become self-conscious once they figure out what you’re doing – or they simply get up and move.  I try to be surreptitious.    If sunglasses are out of place.  I spend a lot of time looking in various directions while trying to memorize the lines needed for my subject.  Speed is of the essence because one never knows when your subject will move.

These quick sketches are valuable.  They teach one to look closely, draw simply and speedily and above all, to focus.  That’s why I enjoy doing them.  Drawing from life captures the essence of the subject.  Because you have to go fast, you don’t have time to think about not being able to draw or what others might be thinking of your skill. Total immersion in your subject for even a few moments magically brings out a spontaneous expression of that subject. Best of all, that scene will be etched on your memory forever.  A click on your phone’s camera can never do that.

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