Cafe Sketches - 18th March 2006
It's been two weeks since I got down to the Cafe Nero for some sketching. I think the break might have done me good, since today's drawings came out a bit better than the last two trips I think.
I must have been feeling a bit brave today, because instead of taking up my usual position at the back of the room I sat at the front by the window. This had two advantages, firstly I had my back to the window so the people were better lit from that viewpoint, usually they're silhouetted against the window, and secondly, people tend to sit facing the window so I ended up with less drawings of people from the back. The down side was that at least two of today's sitters twigged that I was drawing them. In fact I've got a feeling one girl left because she noticed and it made her uncomfortable. Maybe I'm being paranoid.
Last night I was working on some copies of Bargue drawings, I think that Bargue's method of simplifying shapes and the discipline of accurate copying may have rubbed off on me a bit. I certainly hope so, because I plan to do a lot of those copies. Turning out a reasonable drawing on the first go is a bit of a double-edged sword though: it's good for the confidence, but then I feel more pressured to keep up the quality and not do any real hummers. Which of course I did, I always do. It's just struck me that I've drawn this bloke before, a month ago to the day on the 18th of February, he was the first drawing from that day too, but from the back.
That said, the face and the shape of the top of the head are quite close I think. He was a bit of a gift because he had such distinctive lines on his face. That made him much easier to draw. Also he was close to me, not ten feet away, which definitely helped. I was a bit paranoid he was going to notice, but he didn't - at least not till he got up to leave. I had half a mind to show him the drawing but thought the better of it.
I wasn't sure about drawing her, since she was close to me and had two friends with her, one facing me, so there was a very good chance she'd know I was drawing her. I much prefer it when people don't know, because I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, because I'd be embarrassed if anyone wanted to see my drawing of them, but mostly because people act differently when they know I'm drawing them. I want to catch people off guard, as they really are, not as if they're posing for a photograph.
The reason I so badly wanted to catch this girl's likeness was that she had something very classical about her profile. She immediately reminded me of Raphael's drawings. I guess that's quite a compliment, because Raphael's drawings are highly idealised, more beautiful versions of reality. Overall I got a reasonable likeness, but her chin is much too weak and her mouth is not quite right. The profile down her forehead and nose is good and her eye is right though, if you put your finger over her mouth and chin you can get an idea of what she looked like. Not beautiful in a catwalk kind of way, but still beautiful, I would have loved to paint her portrait. This is the girl I mentioned earlier who I think might have left because she knew I was drawing her. Another one that got away this one, if I'd had another few minutes I could have got her chin right.
About half way through this drawing I realised I'd drawn this guy before too, strangely enough on the same trip as before, the 18th of February. Maybe they're both only allowed out on the 18th of every month.
The last drawing I did of this guy is a better likeness than this one, I guess he was just too far away for me to see him properly, and I tried to get detail I just couldn't see. I try to pick subjects based on how still they're sitting, but some people just attract me to drawing them. This guy is one of those. He has a strong distinctive face, but he also looks like a very nice guy, always chatting and smiling. I hope I get to draw him again, maybe on the 18th of April.
I'm glad I did, because I think this one came out ok. Not a brilliant likeness, fairly close, but what I like about this drawing is that I caught the attitude he was sitting in. His back looks real and solid to me, and I'm taking that as a sign that I'm getting gradually better with proportions. Also there's nothing really redundant in this drawing I don't think, by which I mean there's not a lot of hairy uncertain lines which don't need to be there, it's an economical drawing.
I must admit I'm relieved it went ok today, since the last two trips were pretty dire. I think I was getting a bit too hung up on getting better every time I went, and for that reason it was perhaps a good thing that I had a break for a couple of weeks. Today I felt more relaxed, less pressured and I enjoyed it more. If only I could have got that girl's profile right.