‘People watching’ is a good way to understand human movement and interaction. This might be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in a pub or café, cinema queue or takeaway. Night or day, observe different kinds of people – how they stand, how they interact, what they carry, what they’re doing with their hands, and how they dress. If you can do a few small and quick sketches on the spot, that’s great. If not, take a few discreet photos and try to keep the atmosphere of the scene in your memory until you return home, then try to recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.
How successful were your attempts to retain an image of a scene to draw later? How might you tackle this in future? Make some notes in your learning log.
My pocket drawing kit – an old Staedtler propelling pencil, refills and rubber.
This is a made-up grouping taken from different individual sketches of figures from street life observation and the illustrated book Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City (1990) London: Chapmans Publishers Ltd. to celebrate European City of Culture status.
An Inverness street scene.
Top – an Inverness street scene; and bottom – from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
Top – from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City; and below – an Inverness street scene.
Both sketches drawn from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
Sketches 9 and 10 drawn from dance company images http://www.planbcreative.org; and sketch 11 drawn from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
I think the sketches of images taken from the book and website are my take on what I saw in them that attracted me about their simple story-telling impact. The Inverness street scenes are much rougher in execution, having very quickly sketched down the basics and completed the sketches later on back at home – a tricky exercise and one that will need much more practice to begin to feel comfortable with.
Drawing a moving figure is different from drawing a posed figure – the person won’t slow down or wait patiently for you to finish. You’ve already had some practice in producing quick figure drawings but this project may be more of a challenge because you’ll need to draw quickly to record your subject in motion. This will probably mean looking up and out, concentrating on the subject in front of you while drawing ‘blind’, rather than looking down and concentrating on the sheet of paper.
As well as working outdoors and indoors you can draw people from a window, car, etc. Wherever you are, draw quickly and keep your eyes on the figure in action. Try to capture the vitality of the movement through fast and confident marks and lines, and don’t be tempted to repair or overwork the final image. Keep looking at the figure rather than the paper.
Use quick exploratory lines to express the overall flow and movement rather than seeking a perfect reproduction. Think about the speed and purpose of the figure in movement and how to capture the energy through stance, mark-making, etc. For example, someone running for a bus may have their coat flying and head thrust forward; the figure will have momentum and intention. Try to express this.
While working, make notes about your observation of moving figures and why they’ve caught your attention. Think about:
• Narrative – the story that reveals the reason for the activity, such as running for a bus or dancing. • Interaction – merging the moving figure with its surroundings, considering its relation to the environment and other figures, buildings, etc.
Look at the energy in this fast brush drawing by Richard Hambleton; his brush strokes echo the speed of the figure. Now go to David Haines’ website (http://www.davidhaines.org/work02.html) and find the drawing New Balance Sneakers vs KFC Bucket. Note the more restrained movement of the figures and the artist’s detailed rendition of the scene in pencil; here the act of drawing is slower and more careful.
Bizarrely energetic mark making – the joy of movement is ‘jumping’
off the paper.
Hyper-real drawing – action frozen in time, suspended in its every detail as seen by the viewer.
“Drawing can be seen as an act of theatre” – an interactive dialogue… a performance.”
“A photograph is static because it has stopped time. A drawing or painting is static because it encompasses time.” Berger, J. (first published in New Society, 1976) Drawn to that moment. [Essay] [pdf] [Online] Available at: http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/Spokesman/PDF/90Berger.pdf
[Accessed: 31 December 2015]
Brief for Exercise 1 – Single moving figure
Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. Try to fill a page a day; this will be a rich resource for future work as well as improving your figure drawing through regular practice.
How well have you managed to create the sense of a moving figure rather than a static pose?
I was intrigued by the ‘two pencil’ section in The drawing projects: An exploration of the language of drawing, pp73-75 (Maslen and Southern, 2011) and gave it go in sketches 1 to 5. I think the effect achieved does add a sense of energy to the figures, suggesting movement. The figures do feel more than mere static poses.
I used 360⸋ DVD life models from Virtual Pose 3: the ultimate visual reference series for drawing the human figure (Chakkour, 2004) for sketches 1 to 10 in this series.
In this sketch I added colour by taping 1 2B pencil with a blue and orange coloured pencils. Again, I think that movement is proposed in the stretching figure, both with the trailing leg and also the head reaching forward.
Dropping the black pencil, these blue and orange coloured pencil sketches hint at movement, especially with the crawling figure.
Change of colour to red and green pencils taped together and then the colour spread out slightly with a blender pen to try and capture a sense of movement.
For sketches 11 to 13, I used three dancers as my models, this sketch quickly laid down with InkTense block ink and brush pen – a fairly speedy method of capturing a moving figure.
The sketchbook page was rubbed with graphite powder, aiming for an atmospheric effect, and I used Artbar wax colour and blender pen to again try and keep up with the movement of the figure.
Continuing to try out different media I chose DJECO gel pens to aim for the flow of the dancer’s dress and arm and leg movements.
Overall, I think a sense of movement has been achieved in the figures drawn. I particularly enjoyed using the ‘two/three’ taped pencil method to quickly give the effect of energy and movement in the figure. It was a bit weird at first, but once becoming familiar with the ‘double vision’ appearance of the lines, it now seems like quite a natural method of sketching moving figures.
I also found that working with each of the coloured medium – InkTense block ink, Artbar wax block, and gel pens – offered different opportunities to try and capture that sense of movement – drawing lines quickly and overdrawing with different colours to gradually build not just layers of colour but also lines adding to the impression of movement.