I Don’t Do Portraits

Oops…I guess I do.

One thing the art world has taught me is that I don’t have the “people are interesting to look at” gene.  While everyone else attends life drawing classes and draws portrait after portrait, I prefer to draw fire hydrants, buildings and telephone poles.  I don’t know why but if I were to rank sketching subjects, people would be at the bottom of my list.

BUT, sketching a person walking by a fire hydrant, that’s an interesting idea and so I spend a fair amount of time doing quick, loose sketches of people.

Yet another BUT is that I’ve come to realize that being able to draw a likeness can get you into places.  My buddy, Yvan, is always drawing people and because of it people in groups immediately understand him and what he does.  It’s harder to comprehend a fire hydrant sketcher.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7) using a Col-Erase pencil. Very hard to get darks

Also, to me, there are several “core” skills that make up drawing.  These are 1) the ability to measure/estimate angles and proportions, 2) achieve accuracy of line and form, and 3) mastery over whatever materials you’re using.  I’ve spent the last 3 1/2 years, starting out trying to draw cubes, with a rather myopic “gotta learn those things” approach.  I’m getting so that my ability to assess angles and proportions is becoming a feature, not a liability in my sketching, and I’m ok with pushing my fountain pen around (watercolor is another matter).

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black - This is tough with pen but I barely know which end of a pencil to put to paper.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black – This is tough with pen but I barely know which end of a pencil to put to paper.

It seems, however, that fire hydrant drawing can only take you so far when trying to learn form and accuracy and so I’ve spent a lot of time in museums, drawing all sorts of stuff that I would never “choose” to draw, all in the name of improving my accuracy, ability to see half-tones, and the rest.  I figure I only have another 40-50 years of doing it and I’ll have it figured out.  By the age of 115, I might be able to call myself “artist.”

All of that is to say that I’m even drawing portraits… kinda.  I head to a local park every Thursday night, where a small group sits on the porch of a small chapel and we sketch one another, during 20-minute poses.  I’ve never mentioned it before because… well, I’m pretty bad at it.  I thought, however, I would share a couple of the sketches I’ve done recently, just to change things up here just a bit.  It’s ok to laugh.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black - I'm really lost when it comes to hatching really light shades that are the form of the face.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black – I’m really lost when it comes to hatching really light shades that are the form of the face.

3 Responses to “I Don’t Do Portraits”

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  1. Tina says:

    It’s very courageous of you and your cronies to sketch each other! Sketching strangers on a bus or train is one thing — they are unlikely to see those sketches and balk at the likeness (or lack thereof). But sketching your friends who are sitting right there — that’s very different. Bravo!

    – Tina

    • Gee, I never saw it as an act of bravery. Too dumb I guess 🙂 Two of the guys I draw with are professional artists so I guess I could be properly intimidated if I gave it any thought, but I see it as an opportunity to watch them work. I confess, however, that when we finish a 20-min session and everyone looks at everyone else’s sketches, I sometimes hide in my art bag.

      As for sketching topics and approaches, I will do any kind of art that lets me use lines to create realistic (not abstract) images. It’s all good and each thing teaches me stuff that I can apply to my daily sketching. Give a hydrant a try (grin). — Larry

  2. Tina says:

    P.S. I, too, have my list of sketching subjects that I’d like to push to the bottom, but like you, I want to achieve a certain degree of accuracy of form in whatever I might encounter in the real world. Even if I’d rather not sketch a hydrant 😉 , I’d like to be ABLE to sketch one accurately, should one walk by.