Everything I’ve ever learned about urban sketching has told me that it’s important to see the big picture – the large shapes, angles, composition, values – before focusing on the details. With life drawing (of both paid and unwitting models), it’s the same thing: Capture the gesture before the eyelash. After working toward this formidable goal for eight years now, I’m finally at that point where I no longer have to slap myself too often for drawing the knob before the door.
Although I’m not the stickler for accuracy and details that I would need to be if I were a scientific illustrator, I’m enjoying my current botanical drawing class and the recent related weekend color workshop for stretching my observational skills in the opposite direction. If plants had eyelashes, I would not only be drawing them – I’d be counting them.
After having drawn the “eyelashes” of pansies a couple of times, I decided to look at the entire pot in a different way. What is its gesture or “big picture”? Instead of using a magnifier, I took off my glasses and squinted for a moment to see just the shadows and shapes. The result might look “looser,” but I must say it wasn’t any easier. It’s a different type of observation that takes just as much attention.
Which do I prefer? Neither. What I relish is learning to draw anything to any degree of accuracy or detail that I choose.