Tuesday, May 03, 2016


One of the fastest ways to improve your skills at drawing or painting the figure is to sketch people in public places. Cafés and coffee shops, waiting rooms, bookstores, grocery stores, parking lots, wherever.
     Be aware that you won’t be able to complete most sketches before the person leaves or changes position. That’s okay; any practice helps. Get down whatever you can, starting with what’s most important at that moment with that particular subject. It could be the overall gesture, or their clothing or hairstyle, or whatever caught your attention. Get that down first.
     It’s okay to leave lots of sketches incomplete. Many of mine are incomplete, but they’re still good practice. And if you can take a sketch a bit further by working from memory, go for it.
     I sketch whenever I get the chance; mostly because I enjoy sketching. It’s my version of doodling. But most of the people I start to sketch in public places move or leave before I’m finished, so I just move on to the next one. And I’m fine with that.
     I like to look for people in situations where they look settled in, at least for a short time. Then I capture whatever I can, sometimes completing a nearly-finished sketch from memory. That’s great practice too.
     Often I get the pencil portion complete but the person leaves before I finish the “painting” part I planned to do. So I just complete the final touches from memory. That’s what happened here.
     This guy was the real deal, and seemed totally unselfconscious despite his dramatic appearance. He was chatting with a truck driver over lunch at an outdoor fast food place where my wife and I had stopped.
     At places like this I often carry my pocket-sized “stealth-kit” for just such an opportunity, and in a flash I did the quick pencil sketch shown below. Then I began painting directly on top of the pencil sketch while he was still there. I got much of it done before they left, and completed the final touches while everything was still fresh in my mind.
     One neat thing about my “stealth-kit” is how compact it is. So it’s easy to take anywhere, even into coffee shops, restaurants and other public places without calling attention to it.
     It’s small enough to fit in my pocket, yet it holds a very small palette of paints, fresh panels like this painting is done on, a thin storage box to carry the wet paintings, a couple of brushes, pencils and a couple of other items I use.
     People don’t usually pay any attention to me because I probably look like I’m making notes in a journal or notebook while I’m actually sketching or painting. And when I’m finished, everything fits inside, including the wet painting.
     I’ll be sharing details about all this in my new Figure Drawing & Painting Workshop that starts soon. If you live in the area you might want to join us. I have SO MUCH TO SHARE, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Here are the details in case you’re interested:
Meetings are on Saturdays May 14 to June 18 from 1pm – 3:30pm in a large studio at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. To enroll today call the Irvine Fine Arts Center at 949-724-6880, and refer to class #166138.
     If you have more questions, email me at tombrownstudio@cox.net   I’d love to see you there!
CLICK HERE for today’s oil painting.


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