Sketching is about solving problems, sometimes very quickly and–interestingly, in most successful art, according to professional artists–over-riding what your analytic brain is telling you. It involves careful observation, composition, shading, meaning, and even purpose (including story-telling and “narratives”) usually within some constraints related to time or weather or materials or ability. This week just having a pencil in my bag has made a brief ride on the subway more interesting.
But sketching people “live” is fraught with complications. At a minimum, when people know they are being sketched, they typically no longer act naturally. Some people are intrigued, or even flattered, while others–especially women, it seems to me–are mildly alarmed or annoyed.
Experienced teacher-sketchers advise inviting the subject to see (or even accept as a gift) the sketch if you, the sketcher, are detected sketching; that will sometimes ease tensions.
In some countries, the idea of sketching people without their approval seems to cross a line of propriety.
In any case, a sketch is generally not a finished painting-like piece, but a way to practice and even expose your weaknesses in drawing. The sketch below, done in a brief spurt this week while waiting in a cafe for someone to arrive, shows my botched effort to depict a drawing of a planter painted on the wall to the rear.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter because it’s sketching, which falls into the category of rehearsals, practice, and education. Even focusing on an umbrella, or a toe, can be a useful sketching practice. I was using ArtGraf sepia graphite in water-soluble form for the first time, and that was really fun.