Cafe Sketches - 1st March 2006
Although I was feeling a bit dissatisfied with today's trip, (I only managed three drawings) now I'm home and looking over what I did I'm fairly pleased.
It was very quiet in the cafe today, I must remember that Wednesday is a quiet day, much better to do a mid-week trip on a Thursday since it's market day and the cafe will be busier. Despite that, the three drawings I did do have turned out ok. I'm placing them on the page better now, no squishing up the drawing to get it to fit because I started too far over to one side. Also none of the drawings from today have that hesitant, hairy line quality I usually get when I'm warning up.
I'm starting to get into routine for how I put these drawings together. Firstly, I wait for a good subject. I'm slowly getting better at this. It's a good idea to give someone a while to settle when they first get their coffee and sit down. People tend to move around a lot at first, then settle down and move less once they get into reading or chatting. Once I've decided to start a drawing, I begin first with the body, laying in the coat or whatever it is they're wearing. I've found it helps to keep in mind where I want the head to end up, then pick the strongest line of the body (often the collar, or maybe the line formed by the edge of an arm,) and place that line in relation to where I want the head to end up.
I've noticed that I'm starting to visualise the drawing on the page now before I start. This has come about without me thinking about it, and I suppose is one of the benefits of practice.
This one was a classic case of patience paying off. I could see that he had a distinctive, strong face which would be nice to draw, and I spent a long time just looking at him very closely, trying to get a picture in my mind of how the shapes of his face fitted together.
I had a better angle to draw him from when he first sat down, and could see more of his face, but he was busy guzzling a muffin and hadn't settled yet so I decided to bide my time. Eventually he did settle down, and although he still moved around a fair bit after that, he kept coming back to the same position pretty much, reading his copy of the Daily Mail.
Fixing his face in my mind before I started made a difference when I came to draw him I think. After getting his shoulder and collar in, the face came together very quickly with only a few corrections on the shape of his head. I'm still not sure I should have worked into his hair that much, but I wanted to get his bald spot. The likeness I would say is quite good in this drawing.
I have mixed feelings about the drawing. It looks better to me now than it did when I'd just finished it, but I was frustrated because I really wanted to get some of her face showing. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.
Although overall it's come out ok, I don't like the lines describing the horizontal folds of her jumper across her back. I think she must have been bent further over her book when I put them in than when I started, since they don't gel with the direction of her shoulders and so don't really help to describe the form of her back. This one is the one that got away, hopefully I'll get a chance to draw her again at some point if she's a regular.
The likeness in this one is not good. It has some resemblance, I got the thin-ness of her neck and face, but the features aren't as well observed as they might be. Perhaps if I'd spent more time just looking before I started to draw, as I did with the first drawing, this one would have been a better likeness.
Although I only produced half the usual of number of drawings today, I didn't produce any really bad ones so it was a success overall. I'm getting more concerned about whether I'm getting a likeness or not now, which is a good thing and perhaps a sign that the drawings are getting a bit better and I'm having to worry less about the basics.
My approach to the drawings is starting to become more consistent, a sign that the practice is paying off. I think that what I'm learning with these drawings will be useful when I do come to doing more controlled portrait drawings. I'm getting better at simplifying forms, and leaving out unnecessary elements.
I think the drawings have more life in them now than when I started last month, and are better observed. I feel less rushed now when I'm drawing. Although these drawings have to be done fairly quickly, for obvious reasons, it's a mistake to rush them. Its still possible to take your time and make sure that you see properly before starting to draw. In fact I think that's what makes the difference between a good and a bad drawing.