Sketch of Terry and lessons learned

I’ve been meaning to sketch Terry for ages, and I finally sat down with the pencil while he was playing on the xbox (Hence his slightly worried look, he’s probably about to be clobbered by some monster). It’s been a while since I drew anyone from life, and every single time, I find it so daunting. When I don’t work from a model, I find that I have to be quite cerebral, building the face or figure in quite a mechanical way, thinking about where everything joins, moves and pivots. It was great to have a break from that.

I’m often disappointed by sketches, usually because I overthink them. This time, I tried not to put myself under pressure, keeping the pencil skipping lightly over the paper, not trying to make the marks too perfect. As usual when I draw, I can here the echoes of various art teachers that I’ve worked with, both formally and informally . For this drawing, the first voice gently urged me not to worry about single, accurate lines, but rather put down several light lines, and the eye would automatically find the right ones. So I resisted my usual urge to be too precious and felt my way round the sketch, almost like sculpting, and not overthink it.

The second voice told me not to worry too much about following the “lumps and bumps”, but rather to get a sense of Terry’s face as a whole, and get in the basic shapes rather than get bogged down in too much detail. I found that was much more useful for getting the sketch to hang together, and that Terry’s features all seemed to relate to one another in a way that usually takes me a lot of measuring to achieve.

The third voice, and this is the most important one that pops up whenever I sketch from life, was the one that says, “look at the subject, not the paper”. It’s pretty true that many people spend so much time looking at the paper, that they barely observe what they are drawing. It’s something that I can easily fall into, and I made myself look at Terry and barely look at the paper at all. Scary? Yes, but also very satisfying when I looked down after 5 minutes or so and to my surprise, it had shaped up pretty well.

All I needed to do at that point was toughen up some of the lines and fill in some others for a bit of tone. And then leave it, before I was tempted to overwork it. That’s always the very hardest part.

I think Terry likes it 😊