“It’s the best practice for me and all urban sketchers: very quick sketches done on the way to work every morning and on the way home every evening.” – Lapin
I usually read on my way to and from work, but after I read the above quote from French illustrator, Lapin, in The Art of Urban Sketching, I decided to give sketching on BART a shot.
When using a photo, it’s easy to frame the composition of a drawing, because the photo has already done the job for you. But when sketching live subjects, you have to imagine a picture frame, and you only draw the subjects that fall within that frame. Artists often use a viewfinder to help them compose a plein air drawing or painting. I haven’t used a viewfinder yet, so sometimes my drawings from live scenes aren’t quite right, as I drag in subjects that are outside of my imaginary frame.
Given my compositional challenges, I decided I should start by just sketching people’s faces. After a few sketches, I included some more of the background, but I still find that part difficult.
I can hear my brother now, “You do what? You sketch people on the train?” At first, I was reluctant to draw on the train, because I was worried I might be caught in the act, particularly by the people I was drawing. But in order to improve my sketching abilities (and heeding Tim Ferriss’ advice to do one thing every day that scares you), I took out my pocket Moleskine and Pigma Micron pen and sketched.
P.S. One of the Urban Sketchers blog correspondents, Lynne Chapman, who is a British illustrator of children’s books, passes time on the train by sketching. If you are interested in trying, or in improving your technique, read her post, “How to Draw People: Sketching in Public Places.” She offers excellent advice.