My first cafe sketches expedition!
I have to say I really enjoyed myself today.The drawings aren’t great, but considering I had between twoand five minutes to do each one I’m not unhappy with them.
Hardly anyone noticed I was drawing, apart from anobservant little boy (“Daddy, that man’s drawing!”) and a small party of old folks sitting near mewho I noticed craning over to look at my sketchpad when I was getting my second coffee.
So here’s the first one for today. I got down there at about half nine in the morning and it was pretty quiet.I got myself installed in a corner at the back, facing the window with a good view over the room. This guy wassitting a few tables in front of me, so he was my first victim.
Unfortunately I realised a few seconds into this one that he had some kind of nervous twitch,and couldn’t sit still for more than a few seconds, and his head was constantly moving. No problem though,that’s the kind of thing I’m there to learn how to deal with, even if this was a bit of an extreme example.He got up and left after about two minutes so I didn’t get very long with him anyway, but at least I’dmade a start. I noticed him come back in and get another coffee about an hour later, so maybe he was twitching onaccount of the amount of coffee he drinks.
I started the top drawing here first, but in less than a minute someone sat down and blocked my view. A bitfrustrating but that’s the way it goes I guess.
The guy with the phone was only a few tables away so I startedon him. I just got him roughed in then he finished his call and put the phone down, shifted into a differentposition and picked up his paper.
Aha, he’s back on the phone. thankfully this was quite a long conversation, and I got five to ten minuteswith him pretty stationary. This was the first one which came out ok.
I think his arm looks a little short, I got it better the first time. Hopefully fast measuring by eye is askill I’ll develop more as I do more of these sketches. I got a pretty good likeness though, even thoughthe majority of his face is behind his hand, this drawing does have something of his character I think.
I’m surprised I managed to get as far as I did in the time. This might not be quite as hard as I thought, Ireally didn’t expect to get anything out of today, it being my first time out.
This woman sat fairly still while I was drawing her. I watched her for a while and she seemed pretty relaxed,reading and playing with her hair, so I thought I’d give it a go. There was something I liked about the crookof her arm, and the fact that I could just see a bit of her hand. I wanted to see if I could get the angle of herhead convincingly even though all I had to work with was the back of her hair.
I really like this one. Eventhough I could have kept going since she stayed stationary for quite a while, I decided to stop at fiveminutes. I’d caught the lean of her body ok, and the angle of her head, so I was happy. Next customer please.
Not quite so happy with this one. Although I think I got the shape of the head pretty nicely, the arm ismuch too short again. I must make a note to work on relating shapes more on my next trip, so I get theproportions better.
I think what really bothers me about this one, though, is that I didn’t get any kind of likeness. When Isay likeness, I don’t mean so much whether it looks like the person or not, its more to do with capturingsomething about the attitude of their body, the way they’re sitting. I look at this one and it doesn’t conjureup a clear memory of the guy, whereas some of the others do. Also the newspaper is ridiculously small. I thinkI ran out of paper on the right hand side and tried to squeeze him in, which was a bit daft. Must remember notto do that.
Drawing number six. I really wanted to catch something about this guy. The way he was dressed he looked almostlike a model for a portrait by Rembrandt, and he had a very characterful face. This one I took more time over.Since he didn’t look like he was going anywhere in a hurry,instead of trying to get him all in one go, I keptwaiting till he got back into position, or near it, before drawing any more. He was alternating between talkingto his friend on his left and gazing out of the window.
I know the proportions are out, the head is too big maybe, but I still like this one. I think Icaught something about his eyes and his pushed up nose which I’m quite pleased with. Also his relaxed,happy air. He looked like a really nice guy. I was half tempted to go over and ask him to sit for me for ten orfifteen minutes, but I bottled out. Shame really, he did have a lot of character and would have been great fora portrait.
Another nice one. I look at this and I remember him exactly, what he was wearing, how he was sitting. He lookedthin and vulnerable, and that comes across a bit I think. Again the proportions are out, again the arm is too small,the distance across the shoulders too thin, but maybe that helped with the feel of the drawing. His head is bang on.
I don’t mean to patronise the man, but he looked kind of sad. I hope things work out for him.
Last drawing of the day, not so happy with this one. What annoys me is the confusion of the arms. The hand up byhis face is actually hisright arm, the one furthest away, but when I look at the drawing now I can’t help reading it as his left arm,the one closest to me. that’s wrong, and the drawing should make it clearer which arm he’s holding up to his face.All it would have taken is to continue the line of his left arm down so it crossed the right arm, that would havemade it clearer. I guess I could do it now, but that would defeat the point. I want to be able to look back at thesedrawings and see where I got the first ones wrong, to remind me to watch out for making the same mistakes in futuredrawings.
I got the shape if his head badly wrong. To be honest, I was feeling an odd mix of being wired from threecoffees and tired from the drawing. Something about drawing in a public place for the first time in years was tiringme out a bit I think. I have to admit my heart was beating when I started the first drawing, and I was a bit nervousthat someone would notice me drawing them and take exception.
Overall I had a great day today. I was only there for a total of two hours, but I’m pretty pleased with whatI got done. I learned something which I think could turn out to be important too – that you don’t need to be able tosee someone’s face properly to be able to get something of a likeness of them. If you can catch the way they’re sitting,the way they hold themselves, you’re half way there already. Character isn’t all in the face.
This was so much moreproductive than sitting staring dolefully into a mirror for three hours and producing yet another poor selfportrait. I felt alive on the way home, like I’d achieved something and made some real progress. I was surprisedhow well the drawings turned out. I know they’re not great drawings, but they’ll get better the more I practice likethis, and I expected them to be terrible on my first few trips out. I was pleasantly surprised. Most of all it wasgreat fun and it put the enjoyment back into drawing for me.
I can’t wait for my next session now. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit another one in later this week.
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