Thursday, February 28, 2013

Drawing People in Action: A Character Sketching Crash Course (Workshop N)

Instructor: Marc Taro Holmes (Montreal, CANADA)
Location: Rambla del Raval

The main thing to remember about drawing people in action is this: They are going to move before you’re ready. It’s inevitable. Real life never holds a pose.

Once you are ok with that, urban sketching begins to open up for you. If your drawing process requires subjects to sit still, you will never be able to draw anyone outside of a subway car or cafe.

We want to unlock the ability to draw anyone, doing anything. To tell any story.

This workshop is based on capturing everything you need quickly – in mere seconds – and completing the sketch before your visual memory fades.

It helps to have a plan – a systematic approach – to avoid dithering about what to draw next, or how to draw it. We’re going to practice a method of working where each step adds information to the step before, always moving toward a finished sketch.

Your subject can walk away at any stage in the process, but you’ll be able to finish based on whatever you have captured so far.

Learning Goals

We will practice four simple steps, in this order: Gesture > Line > Blacks > Color
You can also think of this as: Pencil > Pen > Brush (Pen) > Watercolor
  • The Gesture aka “The Cloud Scribble” aka “The Ball of String”: An instantaneous “single” line capturing volume, posture, costume hints, and narrative . A gesture is so fast, you can capture any subject, no matter how active. It is the scaffold you will build on. It’s the map you will follow.

  • Line Drawing: The Line Drawing is done right on top of the Gesture. We will practice an exercise called the 7 Line Figure, which is just mind game to prioritize the important stuff first. Your subject is probably walking away about now, unless you’ve chosen someone who can’t escape. (Workers are good, street performers, people playing sports).

  • Spotting Blacks: Properly Spotted Blacks are organized to focus the eye and indicate mass or weight. Darks should cluster around the area of interest and fade out to the edges. As well, small cast shadows indicate volume and ‘contact’ with a surface. After this part, you have a solid drawing, so you can go back and erase some of the gesture if you like a cleaner sketch.

  • Color Washes: This is the easy part – because this is most likely done after the subject is long gone. But you have your drawing to guide you. Now you get to have fun and make the sketch come to life! Go outside the lines. Use a big brush. The drawing is the scaffold, holding everything up. The color can be playful and it all still works. This is also the time for some opaque retouching with gouache if you like.

  • You need a paper that can take watercolor. Standard Moleskines are ok (if you don’t mind the coated paper and smallish size). Basically anything over 80lb up to 140lb paper. I like loose sheets of Strathmore Bristol in the smooth surface, and Canson Montoval watercolor pads.

  • Gestures are best done in Mechanical Pencil. You’ll want a Kneaded Rubber Eraser as well. 

  • Line Drawing over top of the gesture requires a fine line ink pen – Ballpoint Pen, those little nylon tipped Microns, or a Lamy Fountain Pen. (Lamy brand cartridges are water soluble, which allows for special effects later).

  • Spotting Blacks is super easy with a Brush Pen (Pentel GFKP is best). Or you can be more artistic with Brushes and Ink. This can be messy but real brushes are more expressive. I carry ink and water in Nalgene bottles. They never leak. Always have Paper Towels to blot inky brushes before polluting your water supply. 

  • Color Washes can be either watercolor or gouache (I carry both). Tube Color is best. (Windsor and Newton or Holbein, any artist-grade really). And of course Brushes (Say, 4-5 sizes, from small enough to draw lines to big enough to one-stroke skies), Water Bottle, and Folding Pallet. Yes, lots more stuff to carry, but this is the fun stuff! You can opt for Pan Colors and maybe a Waterbrush if you’re packing light.

Workshop Schedule:

Part 1

Gesture - I’ll demo a few Gestures, and you’ll do a quick once around the block grabbing some of your own.

Part 2

7 Line Figures - I’ll demo what I mean by 7 Line Figures, and you’ll work over your first batch of Gestures. Then well do a longer chunk of capturing (40 min) sketching people in action using both steps.

Part 3

Spot Blacks and Color - I’ll demo Spotting Blacks, which is the core of a solid sketch. How to Focus the eye and give things mass. You’ll try it out on your sketches so far and then right into:

Part 4

Color Washes and Discussion - We bring it all together. Finishing all the sketches you captured in the first half, and seeing how the process has helped us get all these spontaneous drawings of people who wouldn’t sit still for us.

More sample sketches


Brenda L Murray said...

Bonjour Marc,
I'm so happy that I was able to register for your workshop before it sold out! Your sketches are beautiful! Our chapter is considering a road trip to Montreal to take in your seminar this summer. We'll see. I hope the Montreal seminar hasn't sold out already!
Brenda Murray
KW Urban Sketchers,
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

marctaro said...

Hey Thanks Brenda - looking forward to meeting you! Glad you made it in - nobody expected to sell out so quickly. That was quite a surprise!

marctaro said...

If you make it up to MTL in Aug, we will be doing watercolor sketching - much more like what I taught last year in Santo Domingo. It should be a lot of fun with the beautiful old buildings we have in the old port.