Sketching People: Richard as Life Model

October 27, 2014

141005_D_DickBRLeft: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Golden QoR watercolor in a handbound (5 x 7 inch) journal made of Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper; journal turned vertically so spine is parallel to the floor.

I have said this before numerous times and written about it numerous times—I have a heck of a time sketching Dick's portrait. I put it down to those unruly eyebrows that have taken over his face and are posed to launch a global attack.

But it might be as simple as the fact that I look at him all the time and take certain details for granted, or simply take for granted that he will always be here for me to sketch.

Sometimes I draw a portrait and everyone who sees it knows immediately that it's Dick. That happened when I posted this portrait of Dick in his BVDs

Other times there are huge discrepancies between the details and reality. In part I think this is because I typically draw him at the end of the day when both of us are tried. He's anxious to go to bed, and I'm anxious to not wear out his patience for all my little (and large) schemes, most of which he ends up playing a part of. (Dick is the most patient man on the planet. I do not know where that comes from unless it is a side effect of distance swimming. And I only know that I am the benefactor of that patience on many an occasion.)

141018_Dick-NarrowLeft: On another night the sketching went so badly that I did a second smaller sketch at the bottom of the second page.

Another reason I think that some of my sketches of Dick aren't really recognizable is that if I'm sketching with a black ink brush pen, which I seem to be doing almost all the time these days, and when I mis-state a line I usually don't restate it, because that would clutter the sketch. Instead I live with that error and go boldly forward drawing a portrait of what DIck must look like in some alternate universe. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother Dick. And he doesn't have to sit around very long.

141018_Dick-NarrowCROP_endRight: Here's the smaller quick sketch from that second spread, turned so you can see it upright.

A third reason I fail regularly to capture Dick's likeness is that I work too fast. I always do work fast, but when I work with Dick I tend to get a little ahead of myself with a sort of "I know this bit here" attitude and I don't look as closely or rein back my hand enough.

Yet another reason I fail to get a likeness all the time is my tendency to experiment with media all the time. I literally get so wrapped up with what the media is doing to the surface of the painting that I almost cease to care about the final result. I'm having too much fun.

All these discrepancies can be rectified with more practice and as long as he's patient I'll keep practicing. The last is a bit of a "sickness" and I may actually need treatment…

141018_DickTurquoiseBRLeft: A Pentel Aquash Brush Pen sketch (Light black ink) which I refined with the black ink of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Phthalo Turquoise Daniel Smith watercolor (with a bit of red to neutralize it in places; but I don't remember which red was on the palette). On a page in my 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia studio journal.

The image at the opening of this post is one of those sketches that works, that everyone sees Dick in immediately. The edited down features work, even though the overall structure of the face has been elongated.

In the other images I can always see immediately where I erred, but keep going, or see it at the end—that the forehead is too wide, too thin, too high, too low, and so on through out. 

Lately, however, I've decided that if I can draw all sorts of dogs so that their owners recognize them I should probably be able to sketch Dick in a reliable fashion, whether or not I'm tired or impatient. It's the particular nut I want to crack right now.

Of course I realize that people look different all the time, in different situations, and from different angles. But there is something about each person that allows us to recognize people we know from their gait while they are still a silhouette on the horizon, or if you are like me, from their scent, with no visual cues at all.

I think the most important thing in any sketching project is that we continue to constantly ask ourselves what worked and what didn't so that we can contiue to correct towards the goal.

I'll have more to say about this from time to time.

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