Back to Reality


Back to watercolor life class at the

.   Full class this time – around ten of us.  I was very happy to be back and had high hopes.    I’m pretty happy with all the efforts here and above is my favorite of the day (10mins).  I’m trying to avoid stating things too precisely and leaving the eye and brain to fill in details.   

Another 10 minute one.  This is on smoother paper which I’m not so happy working with.

A 5 minute one.   

15 minutes.  I know it’s time for a break when I’m happier painting the drapery than the person.

This is my second favorite (15 mins).  The model didn’t have such a big arse in real life.

5  minutes.  This was actually an exercise (mapping the figure) and then I took a few extra minutes to make it a ‘proper’ painting.  Exercises are never paintings until I put something extra on.  Don’t know why.

Harvard Square Sketching Meetup

Yesterday I took the plunge and went along to a sketching meetup group in Harvard Square.  Turnout was a little light – 14 people registered but only 4 of us turned up.  It was a little odd to be honest.  Not a lot of chat and we all sat in Starbucks and sketched the people/surroundings for 90 minutes or so.  Then, mostly without saying anything, everybody left.   When I’m the most garrulous person in the room you know you have some serious introversion on your hands.  Having said that I did really enjoy it and will try a few other meetups.  You can feel a little self conscious on your own sitting around drawing people when they’re only 6 feet away from you.    I’ve been perfecting being able to draw without bobbing my head up and down when looking from subject to paper which is a sure fire way of drawing attention to yourself.     Counterintuitively when you’re in a group it doesn’t seem as intimidating to people.

So onto the drawings.  Was in two minds whether to post these.   As I’ve said countless times before drawing people is hard even when they’re well behaved and keeping still for you.  When they’re in a coffee shop and moving around you have very little time to catch things.  Even when people are sitting reading or studying they shift an awful lot so it’s a challenge to say the least.

Even though the quality is (ahem) variable I’m pretty pleased with these.  There are glimpses of proficiency coming through.

Girl with scarf and boy with hoodie waiting for coffee.   Usually I’m tapping my foot impatiently when people are making coffee.  This evening they seemed to be on triple speed.

Man in glasses and two girls talking.

More girls talking.

Waiting for the coffee.  As I mentioned in my airport post it’s a lot easier drawing people from the back than the front as (unlike my mother) they don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.

Making coffee.

From a point of view of getting a likeness these were my most successful of the night.  You have to be quick to grab the essentials of a face and to know what to look for.  How the nose is angled,  are the eyes wide open or narrow, the brows high or low etc.   And then once you’ve grasped the essentials in your head you then have the harder task of making the pencil recreate them.  Not easy.

That’s enough sketching for now – more painting needed I think.

Travel Sketches – Airports

Last week was a work trip which involved much loitering around airports.   As I had my trusty sketchbook and pencil with me I could easily get my quota of 30 minutes drawing in.    The first sketch is of a lady who was sitting in front of me on the opposite side of the aisle.   People tend to move about a lot but she stayed put long enough for me to get the essentials in and its a pretty good likeness.

There are many good things about drawing in airports – some more challenging than others.     First of all there are the planes.    These are fun to draw as they have nice curvy shapes but with lots of interesting twiddly bits.  Also I don’t come across them very often on a day to day basis so sketching them is something of a novelty.   These two were done at the beginning of the trip before I’d taken off from Logan.  I was still getting to grips with how everything is put together so these are a little shaky.  I got better at the shapes as the trip progressed.



People are the next good thing about airports.   There are lots of them and they are pretty distracted so you can easily sit and sketch without them cottoning on.  These were also done at the start of the trip while waiting for the gate to open at Logan.

The downside about people is THEY KEEP MOVING AROUND!!!  Even when sitting down they’re fidgeting and changing position constantly.  However, this is good for training you to memorize quickly the main shapes/postures.  After you have the basics down you then have to improvise the details when they’ve disappeared from view.   Sadly it doesn’t make for very good drawings but does sharpen up your observational skills in short order.  These were mostly done within a 2 and 30 second window to get down the essentials.  

Note how most of the moving ones are done from the back.  People get a bit disconcerted if they’re walking towards you and see you staring intently at their body parts.

More planes.  I was getting more into the swing of things by now.   Here’s one from Edinburgh and one from Dublin.   I also discovered the blindingly obvious thing about planes in airports.  THEY KEEP FLYING AWAY!!  Even though I was only spending 5-10 minutes on each sketch every time I found a plane in a position that was interesting to sketch the doors would shut,  the elephants trunk would retreret and it would taxi away.

These were on the return journey at Edinburgh.   The first is a view of the other side of the terminal and a few sketches of ‘planes from different angles’.   Planes are nice to draw.  I could get used to this.

More planes – all flew away.

These were right at the end of the trip waiting to board to go back to Logan.    These were the most successful figure sketches.  I managed to get more of the ‘gesture’ in these with the fewest number of lines.  Quite happy.
More pre-boarding waiting.     Everyone has these HUGE backpacks as well as the wheely trucks – what do they put in them?

Finally on board and on the home stretch.    A couple of the cabin crew and a view from the window.

My tools.   My drawing implement of choice right now is something a little more exotic than usual.   I usually like to keep things simple but I’m currently favoring a water-soluble graphite pencil made by Derwent.   I like this even if I’m not using water because it looks and handles like graphite but doesn’t rub off on your hands.  And, if you’re me, rub off on your face,  your neck, and any other exposed skin that I happen to touch.   I do also carry a nifty niji waterbrush.  You fill the handle up with water which seeps down into the brush so you can paint with it.    
The paper is nothing special but the pad was made by the Bee Paper Company and who doesn’t like bees?   It’s also fairly small and not too thick so I can carry it in my bag at all times without it getting in the way.
The big grey thing is a pencil sharpener.  I’m a sucker for a new style of pencil sharpener and have collected a lot of sub performing sharpeners over the years.  This one is one of my faves.    It has 3 different shaped holes and 2 sealed compartments for shavings.    Shavings is another reason why I like the water soluble pencils – graphite shavings get EVERYWHERE every if you use a sealed sharpener.   Unless you seal everything up in a ziploc (and sometimes not even then) the shavings escape and everything gets grey – your bag,  your hands,  your phone, your earbuds – everything.

Finally, and this isn’t essential but I like it,  I insert my pencil in a pencil extender so I can use them down to the nubs.   They’re cheap but somehow make me feel like a professional đŸ™‚