Drawing Figures – Project: The Moving Figure

30/09/14

Research Point

Go and do some people watching.  This could be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in the pub or cafe, in a cinema or concert queue.  Whenever you find yourself amongst lots of people have a really good look at them.  Look at how they stand, what they are carrying, what they are doing with their hands, what their chins are like, the difference between a man’s head and a woman’s.  If possible do some quick sketches; or remember and draw up what you observed when you get back.  Record your observations in your learning log.

I started this task over a cup of tea whilst watching BBC Breakfast News.  They were interviewing Michael Palin and I noticed, how striking his position was.  It was probably more so as he was wearing black trousers and sitting on a red sofa, but the camera angle made it interesting.  He was sitting very upright but relaxed and in a typical male pose.  As the camera viewpoint moves every few seconds, I had to remember the position and sketch from that, occasionally, the same view was flashed up but not for long.  I then looked at how the female presenter was sitting, elegantly cross-legged in a very feminine way.  This was also more difficult to catch as although, similar camera angles came up on-screen, due to the more complicated position, a slight difference in viewpoint made a huge difference in the drawn pose.  I tried to memorise it but the drawing is not overly representative.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

After this, as I needed to do some shopping, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and headed off to Fordingbridge.  I decided to sit in the car park for half an hour and sketch people coming and going.  It was around 9.45am, so a fairly busy time for shoppers.  Most of the people I saw were retired, young mums, small children and some delivery guys.  I began by trying to draw “action” and movement, a man on his mobile phone walking along with his other hand in his pocket, a gran strapping in her young ward in the back seat of the car, a woman searching for change at the parking meter.  It was difficult to understand what was really required of me and not just to repeat previous exercises.  Then I noticed an elderly lady passenger in a car that drove past me and thought I’d try to sketch her from memory.  I was quite pleased with the result and started to notice characteristics common in her age group.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

I decided to concentrate on this aspect of the figures around me, what describes an older person from a younger one?  Some observations from this people watching session are detailed below:

  • head and neck appears pushed further forward
  • chins merge with neck as a result
  • the neck merges into shoulders with less definition
  • stance can look strangely unbalanced when standing with weight evenly distributed over both feet
  • older people tend to hold their shoulders much higher as they walk, even those that appear sprightly
  • also noticed how the elderly can appear more androgynous – similar can be said about young babies – I’m sure there are obvious biological reasons for this as well as social/environmental ones.  Examples of social/environmental reasons could be: women tend to have shorter hair and wear less makeup as they reach old age, many people put on extra weight around the middle or appear thinner – both may merge the male and female silhouette to some extent.

Another woman I managed to sketch was younger, maybe in her thirties or early forties and her overall demeanour was very different.  She was lighter on her feet, her head held a little higher, with a defined neck distinguishable from her chin and shoulders.

I suppose I had noticed this before but when studied to this degree, it becomes quite startling as an indicator of a figure’s age.  It is also a lesson to me that good posture is very important and is probably a much more successful method of reducing those signs of aging than miracle creams!

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Project: The Moving Figure – Check and Log

26/09/14

Check & Log

  • How well did you manage to create the sense of a fleeting moment rather than a pose?

For the Fleeting Moments exercise, I went along to a local Carnival – there were many people there of all shapes, sizes and ages – some static and some very animated, particularly the little children and street entertainers.  For a fleeting moment, I had to be drawn to something very quickly, sometimes I only had a flashed glimpse of something through the crowd – two moments were very vivid in my memory in particular,

the “genie” walking by balancing a crystal ball on his head – I really only just caught sight of him in my peripheral vision – I almost believed I had imagined it. So it really was just an extremely quick impression of him.

the hair bunches of a little girl being held up by her dad – that’s all I saw initially in tiny gap in the crowd and every now and then I could see more of her as people around her moved and I continued drawing.

Some of my studies were more descriptive than others, however, the atmosphere was so joyful and fun with excited children all around me, that it rubbed off and my adrenalin was high which made me work quickly and without too much consideration for any real accuracy.  However, this seemed to work in my favour and often resulted in capturing the mood and general figures.  The drawings are much more lively than static long poses, which give more time to consider, ponder and re-work for accuracy.

  • How successful were your attempts to retain an image and draw later?

I suppose this depends on the definition of successful in this instance.  Is it measured by accuracy, catching the atmosphere or general “action” of the scene?  I think realistically, unless one is in possession of a photographic type memory, it’s a combination/compromise of all three.  I think the tendency is to overly try for accuracy as the time limitation is less after the event, and the spontaneity may easily be lost as a result.  After the two exercises Sitting and Waiting and Fleeting Moments, my memory of a scene was heightened because of the emotional experience and attachment of actually being there.  If I could relate to or gain something from a memorised image it was easier to recall to draw.

  • Were you able to keep to a few descriptive lines to suggest the person’s movement or were you tempted to keep introducing more elements into your work?

I suppose the honest answer is a little of both.  However, I only seemed to continue working on a study until the next opportunity presented itself and I just moved on, so as long as I had continual visual stimulation I could be succinct with my mark making.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments

20/09/14

Fleeting Moments

I am hoping that I have chosen a situation that will present many “fleeting moments” as defined in the brief for this exercise. eg

  • Opportunities not to be missed
  • Energy and movement
  • Colour and ideas for future work
  • Concentrate on the smaller part of the story and catch the moment
  • abbreviate sketches, keep to minimal lines, tell the story briefly and move on to the next opportunity

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to go to the annual Ringwood Carnival Procession and watch, not just the procession, but the crowds lining the streets in anticipation.  My main challenge was to be, I thought, drawing children.  I was taking it as read that moving subjects would be tricky but children’s proportions are very different to adults – their heads are naturally larger compared to their bodies for future growth. Even some ancient paintings of religious subjects show babies/cherubs as adults in miniature rather than alluding to this fact.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Fleeting Moments
Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd
Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

First page of sketches and straight away, my nemesis – Little People!  Well, it transpired, you don’t have time to worry about proportions in this scenario, you just get on with it and the more you do the more natural it becomes.  Doing this, my sketches are very scribbly but that’s what seems to give them life and energy (that’s one tick!).  It was difficult to decide what to draw at first, particularly as we were waiting for the procession to start for 10 minutes or so. Eventually, though, I became aware of more animated subjects.  I don’t think I really described the wizard like character well enough to understand he was a stilt walker but I couldn’t really see his full figure as I was back from the road edge. As I moved on, the little ones were more engaging and I couldn’t resist.  I felt I’d succeeded with the little girl sitting on the kerb with her “wiggly” (mmm I know what I mean).  The first thing I drew were her curls and went from there.  This seems to be a common factor when I make these kind of quick studies, I start with what first attracts me, be it the negative shape in a bent arm, style of hair or whatever, and work from that – it seems to work but isn’t how you would normally begin a portrait or life drawing for example.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Fleeting Moments
Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd
Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

I noticed that a couple had chosen a window seat in a first floor cafe across the street – wished I’d thought of that!  Pots of tea and sandwiches, comfortable chairs *sigh* – I digress.  They were probably a little static for this exercise but they help describe the full scene below.  A street entertainer stopped in front of me and the kids loved him, laughing, squealing, oohing and ahing along with his tricks.  He grabbed “volunteers” from the audience and stood on the folding arms of two dads, whilst juggling with knives, very impressive – almost forgot to keep drawing!  Another guy came along with a wheeled suitcase full of “wigglies” for £1 – he must have sold out by the end of the procession!  I noticed a little girl in a polka dot zipped up top waving her “wiggly” around for all she was worth, and a young lad too, he only managed to put on one sleeve of his anorak on in the excitement.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Fleeting Moments
Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd
Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

The procession began and so did the accelerated pace of drawing.  Floats passed by too quick for me, with the crowds in a mini surge to the kerb and I’m sure, I think, I saw a genie balancing a crystal ball on his head – now that was a fleeting moment!  The beautifully harnessed horses pulling the Carnival Queen’s float were spectacular but so much information it was impossible to catch it all – I barely managed one horse’s head.  The marching band playing the bagpipes looked very impressive but on trying to draw just one of them, I’ve decided bagpipes are impossible at speed – too many tubes, bags, squeezing arms arrrgh!

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Fleeting Moments
Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd 
Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

I think I’ve learnt that, in this situation, a split second selection of a good subject is even more crucial that the drawing itself. Choose the wrong thing at the expense of a better subject being missed too.  With this next page, I selected a little more carefully.  Fleeting glimpses through the crowd of a little girl’s hair bunches was great, as the crowd in front of me, moved and swayed in and out of view I built a sketch of her in her dad’s arms and then noticed the bugler from another marching band had stopped awaiting his cue. Two for the price of one!  The circus float had two trapeze artists swinging to and fro and just caught a sketch of one before they moved on.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Fleeting Moments Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Fleeting Moments
Ringwood Carnival Procession & Crowd
Liner pen in A4 sketchbook

My final page of scribbles was slowing down as the procession came to a close.  In front of me was young baby boy with the roundest cheeks, gazing in absolute awe (or was it confusion?) about him. I couldn’t see his mum at first but tried to describe him, starting with the cheeks! Bizarrely this seemed to work as I then noted his collar and little dungarees, with his chubby little hand clinging onto the stick of his balloon.  As I was drawing him, someone moved out of the way and I managed to catch sight of his mum too.  The teenage boy was a great subject, his dark hair sprouting out of his woolly hat so typical of his age group, covering his eyes and appearing a little sullen – yet he had been patiently keeping his little brother and sister in check all the time.

Going back over the criteria, I missed so many more opportunities than I caught, but I suppose there was a lot going on.  I hope I managed to convey energy and movement, it did feel as though I did.  I did fall down on the colour aspect, I think I only mentioned it once with the little girl in pink and that was probably so obvious it wasn’t really worth mentioning.  However, I do think there are a few select moments that may be nice to include in a future work.  I also found it difficult to abbreviate sketches unless I really only did have a split second to produce something.  I found I did go back and re-work a little more tone and a little more definition fairly regularly – hopefully, though this was when I had some breathing space to add more remembered detail and was not just over-egging it.

Another very enjoyable experience, which I was surprised to note only lasted just over an hour. I’m therefore, pretty pleased with the amount of drawings I came away with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project: The Moving Figure – Exercise: Sitting and Waiting

17/09/14 & 20/09/14

Sitting and Waiting

I had been looking forward to this exercise and although the intention is to do this on an ad-hoc basis (always carrying a sketchbook etc – I’m lucky if I remember my (non) mobile phone!), I thought I’d take advantage of a beautifully sunny day and visit the market in Ringwood.  All good intentions of getting there early dissipated and I arrived in the car park at around 10.15am.  I positioned myself in the actual market place, although towards the end of the market itself, on the central steps and cast around for likely subjects.  I was actually pleased I hadn’t arrived much earlier as it was fairly quiet and didn’t really begin bustling until 11ish.  I had a good view of several stalls around me and, a nice composition of looking down the High Street – Ringwood is a historical town with some beautiful old, character buildings.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Market Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Market
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

The first page of drawings began with the plant stall, there were a couple of customers and stall holders and although speaking animatedly, they were fairly static so good to start off with, particularly as I hadn’t tried to capture people in this kind of situation before.

The pie stall was in a trailer, so the proprietor was much higher than the customer.  The customer caught my eye as he was dressed in baggy jeans, a hoody and a baseball cap with long, grey hair belying his age.  He seemed quite a character – I began wondering how do you illustrate that in a quick sketch? Body language, stance?

 

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Market Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Market
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

 

The view down the street was lovely, with the stalls catching and diffusing the bright sunlight.  Bunting was strung across the street as it was Carnival week in Ringwood – little triangles of red, white and blue fluttered gently as cars and lorries crawled beneath them.

To my right, I noticed a couple at another stall, they obviously knew the stallholder as they were chatting for ages but no sale! I also noticed the first dog of the morning who seemed fairly keen to cross over the road. Only then did I realise I was sat next to the pet stall!

 

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Market Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Market
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

I thought I’d practise drawing some individuals to see if I could apply their character as mentioned before.  The lady on the right was rifling in her handbag for her phone and was grateful to have found it, it seemed.  The next lady was scurrying around with, what appeared to be, a mission in mind, whereas most others were sauntering and browsing, enjoying the sun.  Not sure if this comes over but I hope so.  The next chap was very conspicuous, all in khaki, safari type gear, but he again was fairly speedy and the only way I could convey his attire even slightly convincingly, was by applying a tint of khaki colour when I got home. Oh and then the dogs kept coming – too many to mention and draw, but the Great Dane was very impressive although, didn’t come to the pet stall itself, and the little West Highland Terrier obligingly stood still next to me for a few minutes.

 

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Market Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Market
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

Getting back to the brief of starting with one character and adding in more to make a cohesive scene, I spotted the chap at his (what I assumed to be) duster stall. No-one was visiting him and he looked bored, but no sooner had I started sketching him then the first wave of customers arrived.  Green jumper lady was inspecting the wares and I captured her leaning over the table, another passed by and cast a glance at the display in a seasoned shopper kind of way – she seemed to be able to tell in a split second if anything was of interest, sadly no.  Then as other people passed by, they were incorporated into the drawing, coming and going, chatting and going about their business unaware they were being observed (maybe).  A lady pushed a wheelchair slowly around, it’s occupant keener to get moving than she was, obvious by their leaning forward position.  A muslim lady in her black headscarf drifted past, revealing as she came away from the stall, a bright yellow, beautifully patterned long skirt that would have been a gift to paint, but as soon she appeared, she was gone.

 

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Market Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Market
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

Over my right shoulder, near the church wall, was the tea van! A chap was leaning, hand on hip, shading his eyes from the bright sun with the other. Of course as soon as I started drawing he turned away and leant looking over the wall, but there is no escape – I got him! Again I built a little scene with a man sitting with his dog, plus a cyclist stopped for his lunch and a cuppa, leaned his bike against the wall and settled down – lovely I thought, then he decided he didn’t want to sit in the sun and disappeared behind a truck (or he’d clocked me watching), so I scribbled a figure in the chair he’d vacated. As noted, he seemed to morph into C-3PO from Star Wars!

 

 

At this point it was coming up to midday, and feeling a little numb in a certain place and gasping for a cup of tea, I packed up and moved off to another part of town to a cafe.  It was situated in a pedestrianised area, so I could continue my people watching.  I ordered some lunch and took my tea to an outside table to write up notes on my sketches.  I noticed that, inadvertently, I’d selected a spot that overlooked a bench built round a tree, that was a great meeting point.  I began scribbling again.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting A Ringwood cafe overlooking a bench Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
A Ringwood cafe overlooking a bench
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

A couple of ladies, not connected, sat and waited on the bench, unaware they were being drawn.  The body language was very different between them.  Lady left, was obviously waiting for someone and was anxious that they wouldn’t appear – it seemed she was right to be, as she got up and left without her rendezvous taking place.  Lady right, was much more relaxed and used her waiting time checking her phone – Facebook, Twitter, email – who knows, but she seemed to be enjoying her snatched “me” time.  My salad arrived and I then realised how hungry I was, however, I glanced up a few minutes later and another lady had appeared with her bike and she stopped to chat to a gentleman waiting on the bench.  Brightly coloured flowers and the shape she made whilst leaning on her bicycle attracted me and fork was replaced with pen.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting A Ringwood cafe overlooking a bench Watersoluable liner pen and some coloured pencil - A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
A Ringwood cafe overlooking a bench
water-soluble liner pen and some coloured pencil – A4 sketchbook

 

Another little scene produced itself, when a tall, broad, bald chap in shorts arrived with a tiny little dog.  He sat down with the dog on his lap and appeared to be reading his paper to the dog (I know, but it’s my story and that’s how I read it!), unfortunately, his wife arrived almost immediately and they were gone.  An elderly couple then sat down closely together and seemed to have been together for many years, comfortable in each other’s silent company.

 

 

 

 

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Scene of Crime - meeting place bench

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Scene of Crime – meeting place bench

Above is the position I had to examine the comings and goings of people – perfect spot – with refreshments!  I had a fantastic morning doing this exercise and thoroughly enjoyed chatting to people who, not surprisingly, were curious as to what I was doing.  I collected some mini life stories to store in my memory that would make great narrative for drawing and painting subjects, plus I need to look out for Norman on BBC4 as they had interviewed him for a forthcoming program about what the over 65s do to keep themselves occupied! He was quite the character in his bright red chinos and yellow trilby type hat, it would have been a bit blatant to draw him though, unfortunately. Oh and he did a type of yoga that involved being in a room as hot as a sauna apparently!?

Well that was Ringwood on Market Day, I have made a diary appointment with myself to come back on Saturday as it’s the Carnival Procession for Fleeting Moments exercise.

20/09/14

Back again – have added the below sketch as it was more than a Fleeting Moment.  I was making my way to the High Street to watch the Carnival when I heard some instruments being tuned up.  It was a marquee housing some lads who had formed a band.  As I was walking past they started up and as they could sing as well as play, I promptly turned round, found a little niche for myself and watched and listened.  Out came the sketchbook.

Project: The Moving Figure Exercise: Sitting and Waiting Ringwood Carnival - BF Band Watersoluble Pen on A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Exercise: Sitting and Waiting
Ringwood Carnival – BF Band
water-soluble Pen on A4 sketchbook

I have to say, they didn’t move much, probably a mixture of nerves and being too cool! They were great though and considering they were between 15 and 17 years old at a guess, had the crowd in the palms of their collective hands!

As a note, when I was making all these sketches, I hadn’t realised the liner pen I was using was water-soluble. When I returned home, I had intended to tint the colour in with water-soluble pencils but thought I’d better test the ink first, luckily, so I could then add tone with the ink instead and used coloured pencils to lightly indicate some colour.