Obsessive, distracting, challenging, fun. Sketching 100 people in a week has been a crazy ride. Instead of eyeing the artistic properties of carrots and beets in the supermarket, I found myself wishing I could draw the man with the waist-length gray beard or the woman in the colorful scarf. I became a spy in the coffee shop and at the library: casing the joints for subjects, finding seats where I could be unobtrusive, stealing glances, occasionally getting caught.
I’ve learned a lot in a week.
- The more you do, the better you get—with a major caveat. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’re just doing the same thing over and over. Taking time to learn (e.g., anatomy, technique, accuracy, etc.) or trying different materials can jump you to the next level. The combination of learning and practice is how you improve.
- Sometimes working from photos is a good thing. By stopping the action and giving yourself time, you can really study your subject. You can mess around, make mistakes, and clean them up. Your sketches might be less lively, but when you go back to working from life, you just might be more prepared.
- There’s no substitute for working from life.
- Studying the work of other artists—whether Masters in a museum or fellow sketchers online—opens up new doors of possibility.
- You are in the driver seat. Sketch what you love, but push the boundaries and take risks every now and then to see what you are capable of.
Click on any sketch to view larger and see notes. (See 1-50 here)
This challenge gave me plenty of opportunity to try different materials for the same subject. Here, I swapped my usual Micron 02 for the Platinum Carbon fountain pen. I like the line quality, but had to take care not to smudge the ink while it was drying.
Here’s where the numbers started to drive me and I lost sight of being thoughtful about what I wanted to do with this challenge. Bad move. With an hour to close and few people at the museum, I became reckless.
While I like the sketches of the security guards in this set, there little else I’m pleased with on these pages. I needed to remind myself to take charge again and focus on what I wanted to practice and learn. Good move.
I switched gears in a major way—working from a photo, I wanted to see if I could manage a more detailed portrait in watercolor. The subtleties of skin tones were well worth doing. (I think this should count as more than one.)
For my remaining sketches, I wanted to achieve a more accurate likeness of my subjects (which I did not achieve on 86-88, but did better on 89). These four were done with an inexpensive Pilot Varsity fountain pen with water soluble ink that bleeds beautifully for dramatic effects. I loved this pen for quick sketches with the simplest of washes.
An hour to closing time and 10 people to go, I was back to stalking subjects at the library. Working directly in pen, I managed to capture a decent likeness and suggest form with just two rounds of watercolor wash on most of these. I’ve come a long way from sketch #1.
Sometimes it takes a big push to try something new. That’s what I’m getting this week by participating in the worldwide drawing event One Week 100 People 2017*, started by Urban Sketchers Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel. I barely see 100 people in a week, let alone draw them, so sketching 100 people is taking me to new places, spurring me to experiment with new materials and techniques, and forcing me to study faces and figures after many, many years of not drawing a soul.
I’m just past halfway to the finish line and here you can see the good, the bad, and the way off the mark. But it’s all good and fun, really, and I’m learning a lot. I’ll share the second half and some lessons learned when I reach 100. (Click on any sketch to view larger and see notes.)
1-5 My first sketch took only about 20 seconds, but it marked my commitment to this challenge: I’m in.
6-10 A sense of panic reigned as I began in earnest—the lines are loose, fast and rough; but this is one of my favorite pages from the challenge.
11-20 A lesson in simplification reveals just how much a few strokes of paint can say.
21-24 Learning from the masters is a worthwhile exercise: it’s all about capturing light.
25-28 How different are the strokes of the Japanese masters of the same time period (and what a comparison of 18th and 19th century women)! The Japanese artists had already simplified the features, so their artistry is far more graphic and gave me a sense of lovely flowing lines.
29-33 Here I reverted to fast and rough, just trying to get my numbers up instead of being thoughtful.
34-40 More of the same (see 29-33).
41-43 Slowing down with a water soluble pencil. You can start to see in the faces what I’ve learned from the facial studies.
44-47 I consider the Blue Girls to be my breakthrough sketches. Instead of seeing arms and faces, I began to look at shapes and forms to capture the figures. I also realized that I could slow myself down and be less reckless, even when working quickly. Starting in pencil helped too.
48-54 Back at the library I continued to focus on shape and form, while being more careful with the facial structure. I’m pleased with the results.
55-57 Again, panic. The library was closing in 10 minutes and I want to get my numbers up!