Above: Journal sketch of actor Adam Goldberg on the “Unusuals,” a cancelled 10-episode cop show on ABC this spring. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache. (Journal approx. 8 x 8 inches square.)
NOTE: Keep on reading this post until you get to a detail of Goldberg's Chin! Typepad wasn't cooperating when I tried to stack images so there are some large gaps (at least in the preview of this post). Stick with it because I think the detail of the final sketch of his chin is worth it if you like watersoluble colored pencil.
I didn’t discover the “Unusuals” until it had already been canceled. In a way I guess that’s good. I couldn’t get too attached. In a way that’s bad: I watched it anyway and got too attached. The show followed several members of a NYC police department, focusing on cases, but mostly on the characters. I liked that; the friend who suggested I watch it thought that I would like that. Too bad not enough viewers did.
Then on May 27 while I was watching the show I noticed something. There were an awful lot of interesting closeups on actor Adam Goldberg.
I’ve enjoyed seeing Goldberg in a number of movies and television shows. In this series his character has a mass in his brain and takes an interesting approach to the situation (I don’t want to say more in case you can eventually buy the episodes on DVD; which I hope you can because I missed the first two). In all the episodes I was able to see he mumbles compelling performances I’ll be sorry not to see more of.
Anyway, on May 27 a variety of forces had kept me from going to life drawing and I missed drawing faces—longed to draw some faces. The cable company supplies me with a Tivo-like device which allows me to playback shows (and skip the commercials) later. It also allows me to stop the action wherever I want to.
Now my friend Ricë thinks that TV is evil. I on the other hand watch quite a lot of TV. I think it’s rather fun, but I won’t go into that now. Instead I just want to mention, that if you can’t get to life drawing and the TV is flashing crispy images of faces at you consider getting out your journal or sketchbook.
caveat: Television shows are copyrighted material. I’m suggesting you sketch from them only as practice. If you’re going to use them for commercial work, as reference material, you’re going to have to get permission and pay fees.
You can approach this endeavor in two ways. You can sketch while the show is running (and good luck with that: though I have a couple friends whose visual memories are good enough for this and frankly it is a fun exercise in speed drawing) or you can watch and stop the action when you see something interesting. (I suggest you view the show alone if you’re doing the latter because the constant stopping to draw will annoy most family or friends you’re viewing with—though I did watch an episode of the Avengers on DVD with an artist friend once, and we both drew whenever we stopped the action, and that was rather companionable, as well as interesting to see how we separately captured the action.)
You might want to slow down your working speed, but I find that even though I stop the action I am still working as quickly as possible, as if I were sketching a live model. I sit in my comfy chair about 15 feet away from the TV and sketch away. That’s what happened with the first image you see here. The gouache background was added later that night. It’s not a great likeness, but I like the minimal work around the eyes.
The following week I didn’t have any expectation of repeating this endeavor, but there I was, unable to go to life drawing the previous night, exhausted from that day’s work, with no drawing to show for my efforts, and I was watching the show again. I got out my journal and brush pen. In the following series of images you can see the pre-painted background I started with, the brush pen sketch, and then painted the background, which I even altered later in Photoshop. I include these images in the discussion to encourage you to work on unusual backgrounds and also to play with those backgrounds more.
Left: I did the sketch at the right with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, on a pre-printed page. The second image shows the red gouache background I added after putting masking tape over some reserved areas. I was a bit annoyed with the way I allowed the masking tape to cut into Goldberg’s back on the recto page so I separated the back and the masked area in Photoshop in the third version here. It’s a slight difference, but I think it works better. It’s all about experimenting with options. I was really interested in how his hair was in this view. Click on the images to view enlargements. (I've tried to arrange them logically in the compose window, but Typepad isn't playing nice with the arrangements today.)
Left: The second version of this image.
Next on Left: The third version of this image. (Altered in Photoshop just above his shoulder. I'd probably take that whole strip out. But I think the break is important to prevent all the attention going to the masked area.)
What followed after the red-background Goldberg was at least one week when no episode aired, but last week the final episode was on, and I found myself drawing Goldberg again.
Left: This is the sketch I made using watersoluble colored pencil. I liked the sketch and wasn’t sure I wanted to apply water. But then I am a big advocate for pushing sketches past the point of no return so I knew I’d add water. I took this photo of the pencil sketch to refer to later.
Left: Here is the same sketch made with watersoluble colored pencils (Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Aquarelle, black and sepia) after the water has been applied with a Niji waterbrush.
Left: A detail of the dissolved pencil strokes.
No more episodes, so there won’t be any more sketching of Adam Goldberg (unless they bring the episodes out on DVD). I think I'm finally getting familiar with his face, so it's too bad.
But maybe after reading this you won’t think of TV as such an evil entity (if you did before). Maybe you’ll view it as the entertainment and communications tool it can be, and even a practice device, for those times when everyone in the house has gone to bed, there’s no one to sketch, you’ve missed life drawing for the umpteenth time in a row (I’ve got to start thinking about fixing that), and you just have to draw something. Chances are an option is right in front of you. It's not ideal: you can't control the lighting (though you can mentally alter it and reflect this in your drawing), some of your cropping options have been placed out of your control (though you can make stuff up), it's already 2-D. But you can practice your hand-eye coordination, you can always be practicing.
Now that ABC has pulled the plug on "The Unusuals" I'm going to have to focus on "Top Chef Masters" (another non-evil Wednesday night show)—and get back to life drawing group.