A typical selection of notebooks or sketchbooks. From 4 x 6 up to 11 x 14, I use these to captures moments of everyday life no matter where I may be. I try to remember to make a note of the date and location as my memory is poor after time passes.
There are so many artists who really excel at figure drawing that I’m always envious of their talent and the ease at which they seem to be able to capture the human figure. I’m not one of them.
For me, drawing the human figure is mostly a matter of hard work. Draw. Draw. Draw. That is my MO.
I was pulling out some notebooks in my studio this week. In a career of over 30 years, I have a lot of notebooks!
I noticed that I seem to be attracted to figures of all types and sizes, all ages and venues. I don’t concentrate on one “type” of figure. Not the big eyed children nor the beautiful sylph models, but the old and the gnarled, the fat and the thin, children doing what children do, people doing what they do when they think nobody is watching. I don’t think I have a type but others may disagree.
One thing that I noticed when I was pulling notebooks out of my flat files is that I’ve been consistent over the years with my drawing. I draw a lot. This, more than practically anything else, has probably led to my ability to capture figures. And I’ll admit right up front that not everything I’ve drawn has hit the mark. But practice is the best way to develop a skill.
I have small notebooks (4 x 6) which I can squirrel away in a purse or bag. I’ve been able to amuse myself at airports and museums, restaurants and beaches. Nearly anywhere people gather.
This is a situational sketch in my small notebook. The location is Topaz Thai Restaurant in mid-town Manhattan. I did this while I was eating lunch. Toned markers were used for quick shading.
Macy Gray at the Iridium Jazz Club near Times Square. Using pen and toned markers.
It was late evening on Times Square. I found that if I leaned up against a wall, I could draw street vendors and other passersby without any notice. It’s a fun challenge.
Audience members at Birdland. I think we were waiting for Rita Moreno but can’t remember exactly. Should have written it down.
Some of my sketchbooks range up to 18 x 24 or larger, which are not always easy for transporting, but great for working on larger compositions.
For drawing instruments, I use everything from pencils to pastels, gel pens to markers to charcoal. Each has a special characteristic but I suggest that you try many different types of instruments.
Some life drawing sketches. The model is Ron whom I’ve drawn for over thirty years. He can hold a pose for a long time and entertains the artists with stories in his southern drawl.
I’ve taken life drawing classes. Yes, the models are naked but you get used to it. I’ve drawn one male model, Ron, for over thirty years. He’s not a Mr. America by any means but he’s a really great model with inventive poses which he can hold for a long time. He’s in his 70s now!
Another typical life drawing sketch. If you look closely, you can see where I’ve made initial marks for the model’s trunk. Pencil is the medium.
These are quick sketches in life drawing class. Typically the artist is only given 2 – 4 minutes before the model changes poses.
We don’t get too many opportunities to draw two models together so this was fun. Also, nice to be drawing some real bodies with all the lumps and bumps.
And then when I’m working from photographs, I do several preliminary drawings of the subjects. This helps me get acquainted with their shapes and postures. I can work out problems before I even begin to tackle anything in paint.
This is one of several preliminary sketches that I made from photos for a painting I just completed. It’s good to work out problems before I tackle the final subject.
This is an older sketch of my son and granddaughter as a preliminary drawing for a large painting. I love the way his hands dwarf her tiny body.
More preliminary drawings from photos. The granddaughter and her tiny hand grasping her father’s shirt.
So my best advice is to get a notebook, any size but you might be more comfortable with a small one to start with, and a pen or some toned markers, and get to work. You will be surprised but most people don’t even notice that you’re drawing. I’ve drawn in restaurants and theatres, at musical venues and just along the street. I’ve even drawn while in line waiting for a theatre to open! Yes, really.