Friday, August 28, 2009

7 Strategies on Drawing People Discretely in Public

I remember when I first started drawing people in public: it was not only difficult as most people do not freeze in position for sneaky artists to draw, but also quite nerve wracking since you're probably hoping not to get caught. The fear of receiving evil cut-eye, or worse, a grande latte to the face makes starting out quite treacherous.

So I thought it would be fun share a few things with you that I found helpful when I first started out. Enjoy!

1. Get a smaller sketchbook.
Getting a sketchbook that's 5"x7" or smaller is probably the easiest way to keep you and your new hobby a secret from your victim. Or if you're on a budget, simply get some printer paper, cut it into quarters, and staple it together and voila, you're very own pocket sketchbook.

2. Draw on your lap
Take that small sketchbook and draw on your lap instead of the table. Now your victim will not see the sketchbook and will probably just wonder why you enjoy staring into your lap. Either way, your victim will probably shrug it off and leave you alone.

3. Litter the table with other things
"Things" being newspapers, magazines, books, a laptop, textbooks, comic books, socks, your dog...whatever it is you can find that will hide what you're doing from your victim. Your victim will naturally assume that you're working on whatever it is in front of you, rather than his or her face.

4. Avoid erasing
Having to erase requires vigorous movement of your body and probably causes some rattling of the table, which might cause your coffee to spill, resulting in you cursing to yourself aloud. So it's best to not do it. Don't draw attention to yourself. This is another reason why I enjoy using a pen.

5. Use your peripherals
In other words, treat your victim like an eclipse, do not look directly at it. Look around the person; like at that lamp to their left or the window behind them, but keep the person in your field of view. Use your peripheral vision to notice whether they're looking in your direction or not. Then as they direct their attention elsewhere, you take a quick peek and start doodling what you see. This is also important to keep in mind when your head pops back up for a 2nd glance afterward. Start from your peripherals.

6. Memory Sketch
This method is a good exercise that was introduced to me by Stephen Silver. It's best to choose someone not staring in your general direction(obviously). All you do is take 30 seconds to observe and memorize everything you can about the victim; pose, line of action, proportions, key features, personality, etc. Then you take the next 5 minutes or even 5 months to regurgitate everything you remember. Not only does this improve your observational skills, but it also virtually hides the fact that you are drawing your victim. To onlookers it seems like you're drawing straight out of your imagination.

7. Just blatently do it
Ok maybe you shouldn't wave the sketchbook in your victim's face and announce that you're drawing them. But don't be afraid to just draw and let people around you see. Most people I run into are fascinated with what you're doing. The victims usually can't tell that you're doodling them based on the drawing anyway (hmm don't know if that's good or bad actually). The only thing to remember is not to stare and make them feel uncomfortable (refer to #5 above). An easy way to ignore people around you and to stay focused is to listen to music while you're doing this. The music distracts you enough to ignore onlookers but keeps you in your bubble enough to maintain your focus.

I hope this encourages a few of you to get out there and try it if you haven't already. Be sure to drop a line and let me know how it goes. Don't forget to RSS the blog.


KevinC said...

I always freeze up terribly drawing in public so it's really reassuring seeing that you went through the same thing and have compiled this great list of tips!

A couple of extra ones that I've found useful (which I use when I actually dare to take out my sketchbook - which isn't often because even thinking about drawing in public breaks me into cold sweats):

Swivel your sketchbook so the open flap side faces the target. I only draw on one side of the page, so with the other side I angle it towards the person I'm drawing which acts as a shield. If the person is to my right, I turn the sketchbook upside down - ahead of me, on it's side..etc

And you might have noticed people taking less notice when you draw on the Nintendo DS. Same with the iPhone too, and there's some great drawing apps available for that.

Love your blog, keep updating :)

Amok said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for your kind comment and the feedback!

That's a handy tip I never even thought of, good thinking.

Look forward to hearing more from you!

Sam Watterson said...

Nice advice, will give that a go, am fine drawing people when not right next to them, i.e. people at stations and bus stops, but would be good to draw people closer up