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.
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.
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!