Sketching Practice: Faces and Gesture

I am proud of this eyeball.

I haven’t painted anything since my last Farm Road painting, but I haven’t been idle. I have been working on my draftsmanship by trying to draw my way through the Portrait and Figure Drawing courses on I purchased the Portrait course a long time ago, and won the Figure drawing course in the Proko Landscape Thumbnails contest. When I first bought the portrait drawing course, I watched the videos a few times, and drew the loomis head a few times, and then drew the eye once. Then, I stopped. This time, I want to force myself to draw through the whole course. It isn’t that long, so I should be able to. It’s great content, and it’s helpful when drawing any portrait.

I’m trying to treat my drawing and painting as if I were in school. I work all day, make dinner, drive the kids to dance and band. Then I put the kids to bed, and sit at the kitchen table with paper and a pencil. I pull up a YouTube video, or a lesson on Proko, and I “do my homework.“

Sometimes I draw exactly what is in the lesson. Sometimes I practice perspective instead. Sometimes I stretch the lessons by drawing something from imagination based on what I’m learning. It’s all helpful, and I do think I am improving.

The other day I watched the first lesson in the Proko figure drawing course – about gesture. I can see how this will help me improve. I drew all of the poses in that video to practice gesture before watching the second lesson, where Stan actually teaches you how to do gesture drawings (per his recommendation.) I honestly think I’m spending too much time on each gesture drawing. I should be sketching these gestures in a minute or less, but I’m averaging 5 to 8 minutes per gesture, sometimes as many as fifteen minutes. That’s not the point of the exercise. While it is helpful for me to see how the gestural drawing ends up relating to the larger masses – I should focus more on just the gesture, since I am trying to get better at seeing rhythms in the scenes I want to depict.

With all that said, I decided to post images of what I drew this past week for two reasons. First, I want to be able to look back at these later to see my progress. Secondly, I want other artists in training to see the level of garbage that should be expected when starting out with these things. This is not the first time I have tried to draw these things – not by any stretch. As a result, some of these (the detail of the eye, and the smiling baby) are actually pretty good, I think. Even though I have maybe a month or so of practice at this prior to what you see below – the drawings below are mostly really bad. I am not saying that because I’m fishing for compliments, I want others to see that when you start out, it doesn’t look as good as the drawings you see the teachers make. Its ok for your practice to look like garbage – ultimately that’s what it is. And that’s ok.

The point of practicing isn’t to generate high quality art. The point is to learn. You can watch a million hours of videos teaching you how to draw. You can read volumes of books about composition. But until you sit down at a piece of paper with a pencil, you won’t really learn the concepts that are being presented.

I don’t know why it’s different, but it is. For example: I always hear artists say “simplify the subject into shapes, and then draw the shapes.” When I first started drawing, I thought this meant “draw squares, triangles, and circles.” And this helped a little bit… but my drawings still felt rigid, and lifeless. Then I started thinking of the shapes as three-dimensional objects – I tried drawing cubes, and cylinders, and cones. This helped give my drawings more depth, but I still wasn’t able to accurately represent the subjects I wanted to draw. Then, I started learning about perspective, and have been trying to implement more and more of those lessons into my drawings. Instead of drawing cubes and cylinders, I’m trying to stretch ribbons, squash spheres, and sheer edges off of boxes. And all of these things work together to help me “see the shapes” in an object in a way that wasn’t obvious to me before. By practicing simple shapes, value structures, perspective, etc., I actually see things differently than I did before. I can’t quite explain it… but when I go to draw something now, I can tell that there is an underlying structure to what I see, and I want to draw that. The structure might be a cylinder, it might be a series of bending planes, or a slumped over bean bag… but I see “shapes” in a way that I didn’t before. Not only that – but I can tell that there is a deeper level of understanding that I don’t quite get yet. I can tell that there is a structure – a scaffold beneath the surface that I can’t picture exactly, but if I could – it would help me represent the object more faithfully. I wonder if that scaffold isn’t the gesture… more than likely, it’s a combination of everything.

Wow – that was a tangent. At any rate – here are the sketches I made over the past week or so. Again, my purpose is to encourage people who are learning like me – practice practice practice. Don’t be discouraged when your practice looks unskilled – it should. The only way to fix that is to keep doing it.

Perspective Practice

Portrait Practice

Gesture Practice

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