Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Live Portraits at Last


4/21/23 Cafe Javasti patron 

Needing a warmup after sketching the new Macrina Bakery site, I stopped in at Café Javasti. A smallish coffee shop, its main attraction is its to-die-for scones, as it’s a bit dark for sketching other patrons. On this morning, however, I found a table facing the windows, which cast a nice backlight on the people seated next to them – a perfect opportunity for live portraiture.

Compared to the Before Times, when I used to sketch regularly in coffee shops throughout the bad-weather seasons, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve spent doing that during the past three years. I’m feeling rusty, but I must say that it has helped to have made so many portraits (more than 150 since October) from Earthsworld reference photos. Drawing from life is always more challenging than from photos, of course, and in cafes, I can’t hold up my pencil to the subject’s face to measure (that might be a tad suspicious!). But that’s where the photo practice has helped: I’ve been trying not to measure as much with photos, and it has made me faster and more accurate at gauging proportions by eyeballing.

I would like to say that the practice has made me more confident when I sketch portraits from life now, but I’m not sure I am. It’s always hit and miss. In this case, I’m pleased that I got a reasonably strong resemblance of the first two women. Something went wrong with the third one shown here, however, and I gave her a decade of additional years and at least 20 pounds (oopsy – sorry, lady!). But I’m happy if I can get two out of three.

Speaking of confidence, about a month ago in On the Spot, Gabi Campanario’s newsletter about reportage sketching, Gabi quoted an interview with veteran visual reporter Lynn Pauley. In response to the interviewer’s comment that she has been “sketchbooking for a long time,” Pauley responded: “I don’t sketch, I draw. I make one true line. I don’t try to draw, I draw. My marks are immediate, raw and sure. Many have said I draw like a man.”

I’m not sure what to make of the comparison to drawing like a man, but my immediate reaction was, What must it be like to draw with that much confidence?

I wish for all of us that we will one day know.


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