I’m primarily a building sketcher. I don’t have to worry much about my subject walking or driving away. But I’m also an urban sketcher and things do move in cities. Trains, planes, and automobiles are constantly on the move, as are buses, construction equipment, and parade floats.
How do you capture complex objects that won’t sit still? You can use photos but I’m not that fond of sitting in my office drawing pictures. To be honest, I have difficulty drawing from photos. I’ve spent enough time field-sketching that I just ‘see’ so much more in real life than I can see in a photo.
I did a spur of the moment experiment and I thought I’d share it with you. I was walking along ‘my’ river and at one point there’s a train bridge that crosses the river and heads into the downtown train station.
As luck would have it the train from Montreal pulled across the bridge and stopped. It does this because it has to wait while they throw a bunch of switches so it can back through a wye (trackage to turn a train) so that, ultimately, it can back into the station. In less than a minute the train backs out of the scene.
I decided to sketch it so I got out my Stillman and Birn Zeta (5×8) and a pencil. That’s right, a pencil. I quickly drew a long box to represent the train, the slope of the nose of the train, and several lines indicating where the major parts of the bridge intersected with the train. Then, the train was gone.
I got out my pen and started drawing the bridge. I thought my brain was going to melt at times while trying to figure out all the angles of the steel-truss bridge but it was also fun. I left the site with a bridge with a big, long empty box inside it.
When I got home I sifted through my photos, surfed the internet, and ultimately found a picture of the ViaRail train engine, taken from its left side. This gave me all the detail information I needed to complete my sketch. I did have a bit of difficulty envisioning the proper perspective but most of what I needed to add were squarish panels, so it wasn’t too bad. I liked the result. I have captured a train.
I suppose an urban sketcher purist would take issue with my use of a photo this way but, to me, the hard part of this sketch was done on site and I am now looking for other ways to capture moving objects. Next stop…to sit across from a metrobus stop, drawing a bus; the buses arrive/depart every 10 minutes. Only a few seconds per bus but there are lots of buses. Wish me luck (grin).