Facing up to it

I’ve said it before¬†that drawing faces is one of the biggest challenges I have in drawing. I’m not even talking ‘likenesses’ – I don’t expect to become a portraitist – I just want to draw someone who looks like an individual. This is currently the bread and butter of my sketchbook routine, go to the coffee shop and draw people’s faces.

Faces at a coffee shop, pen and ink and brush pen, 14 August 2015

Faces at a coffee shop, pen and ink and brush pen , 14 August 2015

I opted to do the Marc Taro Holmes workshop at the Singapore Symposium to try and get a handle on how I could approach this task and I found it quite helpful.

Double spread, typical of my cafe drawings, pen and ink and brush pen , 15 August 2015

Double spread, typical of my cafe drawings, pen and ink and brush pen , 15 August 2015

Marc has very kindly posted the link to his notes for this class on his blog.

Here’s last night’s effort. A double-page of faces and gestures from our pub trivia night at the Hellenic Club in Canberra. They may not recognise themselves, (possibly better if they don’t), but I’m happy that at least these people look like individuals.

Faces at the trivia night, pen and ink and brush pen , 8 September 2015

Faces at the trivia night, pen and ink and brush pen, 8 September 2015

Tidbinbilla tracking

My partner and I have been taking the new online class by Marc Taro Holmes on Travel Sketching. Today we decided to to practice some of the drawing approaches that Marc has been teaching. We headed out to the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, (otherwise known as the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex –¬†CDSCC), in the rural part of the Australian Capital Territory, to draw the antennae in their bushland¬†setting.

One of the key techniques we are learning is drawing simplified shapes to quickly gather enough information to capture a scene. This way you can do some drawing and still have sufficient time away from your sketchbook to enjoy your holiday! The goal is to capture basic shapes in one line, or maybe 5 or so lines, which I find quite hard to do.

The¬†‘blind contour drawing’ I learned at art school tends to be my default position when drawing quickly. It’s actually a good approach, but it’s not quite what Marc is suggesting. The difference with Marc’s approach is that you look frequently at your page as well as your subject and that allows the development of a more accurate outline. If you have time,¬†you can then add further lines and build up your drawing that way. I have worked out¬†that if I think about this as drawing the¬†‘edges’ then my drawings are more successful. I get less inclined to get bogged down in¬†details along the way. I was pretty happy with this¬†drawing I made of a local convenience store earlier in the day, well except for that very dodgy car welded¬†the side of the building.

A simplified line drawing in pen and ink, 31 August 2015

A simplified line drawing in pen and ink, 31 August 2015

Out at Tidbinbilla there were plenty of interesting subjects to tackle. I settled on¬†the 26 metre dish, or DSS46, (formerly sited at Honeysuckle Creek), that¬†was the antenna that received and relayed to the world the¬†first historic pictures of man walking on the Moon, on Monday, 21st July 1969. As the Centre’s website so eloquently says “DSS46 was retired from service in November 2009 and now remains at CDSCC as celebrated and recognised historic monument.”

While I could hardly describe the following drawing as using¬†one or two lines, it certainly captured the key elements of the scene in front of me with more economy than I usually manage. I will admit though, that I also made¬†several other drawings, which I¬†could only politely describe as being ‘less successful’.

Simplified line drawing of the 26 metre dish, pen and ink, 31 August 2015

Simplified line drawing of the 26 metre dish, DSS46, pen and ink, 31 August 2015

I liked the scene enough to try a more detailed drawing. Having completed a simplified outline I moved on to providing ¬†some solidity with shadow lines drawn with my brush pen. It didn’t take long to realise that the structure of the antenna was such that I’d probably go insane before I could get more than a ‘feel’ for the structure of struts and beams supporting the dish.

The 26 metre antenna, line and shadow, pen and ink and brush pen, 31 August 2015

The 26 metre antenna,DSS46, line and shadow, pen and ink and brush pen, 31 August 2015

At this point we made a strategic withdrawal to the coffee shop. Of course from the cafe’s deck the 70 metre antenna, DSS43, completely dominated the view – not surprising really as it is the largest single antenna in the southern hemisphere. It’s been busy recently with transmitting commands and receiving data from the Mars Odyssey and the New Horizons Pluto and Charon missions among many others.

I couldn’t resist! With a rapidly cooling cup of coffee I set about doing my final drawing for the day.

DSS43, the 70 metre antenna, pen and ink, brush pen and watercolour, 31 August 2015

DSS43, the 70 metre antenna, pen and ink, brush pen and watercolour, 31 August 2015

We are lucky to have so many interesting places, like the tracking station, to visit within our local area. It’s an amazing¬†combination of leading edge technology in a truly beautiful setting.

USk Singapore symposium, Day 1 workshops

It was pretty chaotic as all the workshop participants got themselves organised this morning.

I started with ‘Thin line bold sketch‘ with Inma Serrano and Miguel Herrantz. We were literally across the street from the Nation Design Centre in the Bras Basah complex. Starting with a quick try out of different line techniques to get us thinking about how we might draw lines. After that we we let loose to do a cartoon of what was happening in the centre. We didn’t need to format it into cells but try and capture what was happening. The idea is try and capture busy scenes without drawing from A to B.

image

We also did a second exercise drawing in a spiral. Again another technique to present complex subjects. Starting with your most important subject then moving around it adding relevant details.
A bit hard to explain as the result looks similar to a ‘normal’ drawing, but you capture what you want first and work around it.

In the afternoon I went to ‘Sketching the Sketchers‘ with Mark Taro Holmes. I have Mark’s book on Urban Sketching so I was always going to choose this workshop. I need plenty of help with drawing faces so Mark’s tuition was invaluable. We went out into the Albert Mall, a bustling street which has two temples in it so there were lots of subjects to choose from.

I took my usual approach of trying to sit and draw unobtrusively but that just isn’t going to happen in Singapore. Before I knew it a stall holder had come over to see what I was doing and then she called out to the person I was drawing! No one was concerned and before I knew it I had a line up of stall holders waiting to be drawn.

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

We started with a thin pen line then added stronger lines with a brush pen. Mark emphasised drawing the skull shape and hair first, then the shadows on the face. With any luck he said, you may never need to draw eyes!

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

I was really pleased with the days work, but we were so tired that we ate at the hotel and went to bed very early.

Boxing Day sketchfest

On Boxing day we decided to head out for another sketch-a-thon. We chose to go to the Sculpture Garden of National Gallery of Australia, because of its wide variety of potential subjects to draw, not to mention its proximity to a good cup of coffee.

I was trying to put into effect some of the lessons outlined in my Christmas present, The Urban Sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location, by Marc Taro Holmes. In particular I was working on sight measuring and angle checking. This is¬† something I mainly do by instinct, so a bit of practice wasn’t going to go astray. Holmes comments that it’s the measuring process that underlying the sketch that provides your framework to draw spontaneously – “Loose is how a drawing looks, not how it is made.”

My first subject is a favourite sculpture of mine, Gaston LaChaise’s work Floating Figure, 1927, in bronze. In the garden the sculpture floats above a pool of water. I had just turned away from my drawing when I saw that a dog belonging to some passing pedestrians had decided to have a quick dip in the pool! Sadly I wasn’t quick enough with my pen to catch the moment.

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Meanwhile my mother-in-law was tackling Rick Amor’s nearby sculpture called The Dog. It certainly isn’t the most handsome of animals, but it is an interesting subject to draw. Here is the view I made of the work.

26Dec2014b

The Dog, Rick Amor, cast bronze on a steel base, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

I’ve decided that I would like to go back and spend some time drawing this piece from a variety of angles. I’d also like to take a greater variety of media with me next time. I was working in my Strathmore visual diary and I found that the Copic Multiliner wasn’t moving across the paper as easily as I would have liked. I’d managed to leave my Lamy Safari pen at home, because I hadn’t checked my kit from the previous day’s drawing. Live and learn.

After lots of discussion about drawing negative spaces and how, from certain angles, the dog looked rather like an anteater, we went inside for a break. Later in the day came some of the best news we’ve had from the National Gallery in a long time – they are lifting the blanket ban on taking photos in the NGA! You can read about it here, National Gallery photography ban lifted.