Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Making Drawings of Commuters  

If you decide to use my suggestions for doing your own gestural drawings, let me know how it goes and leave  questions in the comments section if you like.  

For some time now I have been drawing commuters on the Greater Boston public transit system. Drawing on public transit is a good way to train yourself to look very carefully and to draw quickly. People are usually not interested in you. They will maintain their private space reading, listening to music, playing games, or daydreaming while you sketch as long as you take care not to make them become aware of your gaze, an interesting challenge in and of itself.  

If you are a regular user of public transit you know that people board the train, sit or stand somewhere and remain mostly not moving and usually for no more than a few minutes.  Soon they will leave so you will have very little time to draw them.  Use this opportunity to improve on your skill to quickly capture the most important features of a face, posture, gestures, and the cut and fit of clothing. Even if you only capture a few lines or so you must strive to make those count by training yourself to notice what features about the person you select stand out the most about them. Learn to trust your eyes and not to question what you see. Be quick!

Sometimes I might inadvertently make someone feel uncomfortable when they notice I'm drawing them. If that happens I stop drawing them and look for another subject or just wait for someone else to settle down nearby. Choosing a subject is part of the challenge.  I have learned that my attention on others might be felt even if they are not looking up so I stress to you that if you want to do this you must work on being as unobtrusive and respectful as possible of others' personal space. City life demands this of people so you need to observe and cultivate respect for the upspoken rules of private personal space.  

That said it could seem close to impossible to begin, but if I can do it you can do it, also.  From my own process of trial and error I learned that a good method for drawing is to watch carefully but ever so briefly with attention on some feature, say a facial feature, chin, nose, mouth or hair that will capture a bit of the personality of the person. The image of what you look at stays on the retina just long enough for you to get the marks down on the page. It will take some practice to develop this. However, by choosing features to focus on, ones that especially capture your attentionyou can begin to get a pretty good likeness.

Sometimes I can't even see the person's face but they look interesting in other ways. The figure just below was a guy with a big mass of dreads that hid his face. He sat there reading for a while and I tried to figure out how to draw him.  The main thing was his hair, his arms and hands and his posture.  So I just drew what I could see and even though his face wasn't visible because his head was bent down with his dreads hanging forward I still felt that I caught a good sense of the strong focus he had on his reading.

A man on the greenline kept his head down while reading his book. I never got a chance to see his face, however his dreads had a lot of character and offered me the challenge of figuring out how to draw them. 

A  woman with a young boy at Broadway Station on the redline

Woman waits in Broadway Station as a gust of wind blows her hair

Man seated on the redline looks pensive. A second face appears just below his face.This was another commuter who boarded the train after the first fellow got off. 
Some Shoe Styles

Unfinished drawing

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