Since I began my series on "direct sketching with pen and ink" last week I have received a number of emails from people frustrated by models who are constantly in motion. I want to encourage you to keep at it both in the long term and in the immediate time frame.
Above is my next spread from the March 6 Como Zoo sketch out. I was pretty much warmed up by this time and looking forward to doing another large portrait like my full-page penguin. I came into the giraffe building and was immediately struck by the petite dimensions of the baby giraffe. It was standing still and fairly close to the fencing. I watched for several minutes and then started to sketch in the top left of this spread—thinking that I would expand across the spread to the right with a full neck and back.
Well the mother giraffe thought differently and she started to nudge the baby so that it would move, and then she stood between us. (We were across a moat like walk way that is about 4 feet wide. There is wire fencing all the way up on her side.) She just didn't seem to appreciate the attention I was focusing on her baby.
Disappointed but undaunted I decided to make a large sketch of the mother. You can see the initial lines for that face just to the right of the first sketch. But that was also not to be. She was moving constantly and I couldn't get any of my measurements to come out. Then suddenly she simply retreated to the back of the enclosure with her baby behind her and started to chew her cud and relax. I watched her and the other giraffe for a few minutes and then began the sketch at the base of the page spread—a sketch of the mom, with her full grown porportions. I worked several minutes on this sketch and then she started to pace. Each time she returned to this area and pose I added more detail about the markings on her neck. Finally I decided to paint what I had sketched up to that point. After a little painting it was time for me to move on, because I didn't have room to include the rest of her body.
I sat on a bench inside the building (it was still in the low 30s here on this day) for a few moments and wrote the large block of text on the right hand page. I wanted to remember what had happened and the conversation I had had with another visitor.
For me, even though there are two false starts on this page, it's one of my favorite journal pages ever. It has a little bit of everything I love: observation, multiple sketches, a more finished sketch, and of course notes.
If your first sketch, or even your second sketch doesn't work out, keep working, and working. Take a break and look around you to rest your eyes and restart. Take a break to look away just to see what is going on around you or join in a conversation if someone speaks to you. But keep coming back to your work. Get something down on paper. You just might end up with a page you really love. And if you work in ink it will all be there for you to see, and remember.