Drawing Richard—Some Hiccups But Keep Going

January 29, 2014

140114_019_DICKLeft: 8.5 x 11 inch sketch of Dick on a piece of Fabriano Tiziano using a red Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pen. Click on the image to  view an enlargement.

Before the recent Portrait Party at MCBA I was sketching folks like mad: in waiting rooms, from my car, every chance I got. I even made Dick sit still every night for a short while. (I've used Dick's full name in today's blog post title for obvious search engine faults. I don't want 10,000 hits for the wrong reasons.)

But that's where the trouble began.

I don't draw him often. You'd think I would after years of having no other live-in models any more (Dottie died in 2003). But I don't.

Have I told you this story before?

I did a sketch of Dick once, a long time ago. I did a bunch of preliminary sketches and then I did a really finished pencil sketch and transferred the outlines only of that sketch to some paper I was fond of using colored pencil on.

Next I started to build up the features, beginning of course with his right eye. (I don't feel like I'm in a rut at all.)

I got up past the eyebrows (Dick's eyebrows are blond and look as if they will take over the world in a Twilight Zone episode). I got over to the nose. I got down the cheek. I was blending colors in layers like there was no tomorrow, rotating through a fist-full of colored pencils.

Then I stopped.

That must have been sometime in the early 1990s. The sketch is somewhere in my flat file. For about 2 years afterwards, once every 6 to 9 months or so, Dick asked if I'd worked on that sketch. The few people who saw it still ask about it every now and then.


Left: Sketching Dick again, with brush pens, the next day. Still 8.5 x 11 inch paper. He's sitting again with that left arm up on the couch back.


Nope, no more work on it.

Because you see I'd done what I wanted to do, or rather I'd captured what I wanted to capture. And once I had that look in his clear blue eye (with a little bit of mud) I lost interest.

I'm like Tess in "Guarding Tess," "She's lost interest in peas." (If you don't get the reference go watch the movie, it's great.)

There wasn't any point in continuing. The rest of the endeavor seemed boring to me. I don't usually think of myself as someone with a short attention span; perhaps I'll have to reassess that.

At any rate, there I was a couple weeks ago in the run up to the Sixth MCBA Visual Journal Collective's Portrait Party and I was sketching Dick again.

I found it completely impossible.

To me these drawings look only slightly like him: a little bit here, a little bit there, but nothing cohesive. On one of them I wrote that he looked like a 188-year-old elf. I don't know why that analogy came to me. That would probably be young for an elf anyway.

Obviously we were both having long days…

But even on such days you have to keep sketching because you just might get an insight. I can't tell you today why it is I can sketch a chicken and then set a 12-year-old loose in the poultry barn at the Minnesota State Fair and have her identify the chicken from my sketch. I certainly love chickens less. I certainly look at chickens less. And as Dick will be the first to tell you I look at no one as intently as I look at him and he'd like it to stop, thank you very much.

I don't have any formed opinions on any of this actually. But I'll have more to say about it soon.

So let's just say this for now: whether you find it easier to sketch chickens, or any random person, rather than your significant other or not, keep sketching. Things will happen.

Both of these sketches are from my "single sheets journal" for 2014.

    • Miss T
    • January 29, 2014

    I think it’s harder to sketch someone whom you know so well. I’m not sure why, but it is.

  1. Reply

    Miss T, I’m glad I’m not the only one! Though we know our pups and sketch them well so I’m still troubled by this.

  2. Reply

    I noticed this recently and thought it was only due to my inexperience. It’s surprisingly difficult to capture my husband and grown children on paper. Maybe it’s because sketching the exterior simply cannot show all the interior qualities (or quirks) we know & love so well – just doesn’t look right. I find it easier to sketch furry family, so maybe it’s a humans-we-love thing.

  3. Reply

    Janet I think it’s a host of reasons. I think we definitely are constantly comparing interior qualities with exterior. But I do that with dogs and birds so I can’t say it’s just that. I just need to really look harder without filters. And of course practice more. But when I’m looking more carefully. And I think slowing down would help me a lot in a lot of things.

    Best of luck in capturing your husband and grown children on paper!

    • Tina
    • January 29, 2014

    I’m laughing too hard to comment!

    – Tina

  4. Reply

    Tina, that’s always good!

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