Sketching From Photos Is Hard

I really don’t understand those who suggest that sketching from photos is easier than sketching on location.  They say that the photo has already flattened the image to two dimensions and thus it’s easier.  I wonder if that’s because those advocates aren’t concerned about that missing third dimension.

If you do want to add depth to your sketch, the lack of information in a photograph is frustrating.  There’s a reason we have two eyes and I always have difficulty drawing from photos.  Unfortunately, if I’m going to draw outdoor things during Quebec winters, I’m forced to draw from photos.  Here’s a sketch I did of an odd-shaped apartment building at the convergence of two streets merging to one.

Winter Has Come To Quebec City

More than anything, this post is an X on the calendar to indicate when it got too cold to sketch outdoors in Quebec City.  It’s snowing these days and not very friendly to street sketchers, particularly an Arizona-bred sketcher who hates being cold.

I take the bus everywhere and our system is great because I can sit at home and know exactly when the bus will get to my stop which means I don’t have to stand in the cold.  But, for reasons I can’t explain, the other day I headed to the bus stop without checking my app and sure enough, just as I arrived, the bus was pulling away.

That meant I had ten minutes of standing around.  As luck would have it there was a small bulldozer sitting on the corner of the street so I decided to draw it.  I did this quick sketch of it and nearly finished when the bus came along.

This was done in a cheap 4×6 notebook and so wasn’t suitable for color but I added some anyway.  The end result looked like this.. my last outdoor sketch of the year.  It’s museum time for me.

Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work

Sometimes, when I stop to sketch, it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.  What I feel is that I just can’t see in the way an artist sees things.  Everything is a struggle and I can’t engage with the subject.  In particular I have this problem when I try quick-sketching but also, sometimes, when I’m trying to do a more normal sketch.  Anyways, in spite of my embarrassment to do so, I thought I’d share one of these failures with you.

Our main library is closed for renovations right now but there’s a small branch library not far from my house.  I was walking by the other day and decided to stop in for a few minutes of people sketching.  The views aren’t great in this library but, frankly, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t draw a person to save my life.  These were 30-60s sketches and all tentative and horrible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave up in frustration and continued walking.  About 15 minutes later I saw this old guy waiting to cross the street so I tried again.  I was pretty happy with how this one turned out.  I suppose the moral of the story is not to give up but I’d sure like to know why my brain won’t engage with my inner artist on occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Drawing Pumpkins

Pumpkins are still everywhere I look, so I drew another pile of them.  I suppose, now that Halloween is over, that Christmas decorations will be all over the place.  The retail world has spread “celebration” (buy stuff you don’t need) of this holiday over two months and, for me, this has completely diluted the joyful atmosphere of the holiday.  I’m not sure I’ll do many Christmas sketches.  Maybe some cash registers (grin).

Sketching Over Coffee

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.