Every day when I’m waiting for the bus, I’m on the prowl for a face that tells a story. Whether it’s a guy with eyebrow hairs longer than a mile or a woman with a record-breaking overbite, I’m constantly looking out for people with interesting shapes that I can explore within the confines of my sketchbook. I enjoy finding someone and instantly being inspired to inconspicuously sketch their history before my next bus comes. Lately, I’ve been finding that I’m drawn to people with an edge. The more war-torn the face, the better. Wrinkles make for an interesting backstory.
I’ve got a few of my favorite sketches uploaded in this edition of Sketchbook Sundays. In one of my drawings, I sketched this guy that reminded me of a wandering cowboy. When I first saw him, he was too far away for me to really get a good understanding of his face. I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t get a good enough glimpse of him. But then out the blue, we crossed paths again later in the day, so I knew I had to make my time near him count. I had a better vantage point and was able to focus on his key features: his stone-cold stare, his severe hair cut, and his overall serious demeanor. This guy meant business, and according to my sketchbook, this guy’s business was cowboy-related.
When I’m drawing in my sketchbook, I have to work systematically. I never know when a subject is going to leave, and if I will ever see them again. Unlike my experience with the aforementioned cowboy, rarely do I ever get a second chance to draw a character. I approach sketching on the street like I’m sketching in a figure drawing class: I think of drawing strangers as drawing short “poses.” In a class, the model shifts their pose after certain lengths of time. Some poses are only 30 seconds, and some get bumped up to 3 minute poses. Some to 5 minutes, others to 30 and so on. I have to maintain that pose mentality so that I don’t sweat the small stuff while I’m drawing at the bus stop. My favorite poses come to me when I’m at the transfer station. Those are typically 30 minute poses, so I keep a sharp eye out for interesting people that are going to hold my interest for a half hour.
Like I said before, distinctive features keep me interested. In college, they teach you that when drawing, the eyes have it. While that is mostly true, other features can be just as crucial as the so-called “windows to the soul.” With one of my sketches I posted, the Eyebrow Men, the eyebrows “have it” for me. They’re long and severe. They definitely tell a story. A person’s hair is interesting to draw because it hides so much. Beards are particularly interesting to draw because they add character. It’s fun to try uncovering all of the emotions that are shrouded behind a person’s beard.
Perspective is key when drawing. While making sure all of the lines add up, it’s also crucial to understand what you’re trying to say with your drawing. With the flick of a pencil, you can turn someone’s charming gaze into a glaring stare. It’s sometimes an incredible feeling to be able to have that kind of control. Simply put, I’m just trying to understand the shifting perceptions of the people around me through the shifting lens of my sketchbook.