Tracking Figures at a Slow Speed
So drawing on location is a fabulous practice. It's something I do quite a lot in my everyday life at home, maybe in a park in a cafe and there's many ways to approach it and people move in all sorts of speeds. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna take it gradually starting here in my home with my husband Jonathan. I'm going to do a drawing of Jonathan where he's really, mostly his body is staying stable and still but he'll be making some subtle motions. This is often something you can practice if you're, you know, if somebody's watching the game on tv and they're lounging on the couch, you could lounge on the couch to and draw them as they're watching the game. Or even if somebody's in the kitchen maybe chopping vegetables. That's another slow action sort of activity that you could track through drawing. So there are really beautiful versions of this throughout our history. Two examples I wanted to show you this one here by Baldini. I love this drawing because there's this sense of t...
he figure, the stability of the of the, of the piano that he's playing. But there's a sense of motion in, in parts of the body and other parts of the body feel a little bit more stable. So there's this relationship between movement and stability which often in a slower motion poses is a good place to start. This is quite possibly one of my all time favorite drawings. It's by Degas and it is obviously a violin player and the figure, the body, the face is almost like almost a refined portrait, but as you move down into the legs, you could almost feel his feet tapping on the ground and his knee moving a little bit, there's a little bit of a sense of motion here and then there's a draw and a sort of redraw and I can almost hear the music exuding from this drawing. So also drawing musicians is a really awesome way to practice this more sort of slow motion drawing. So there's a lot of opportunities in your everyday life to certainly practice this. So today I'm going to draw Jonathan as he's reading a book, maybe having a sip of coffee um in his favorite chair and you know, again this is something that you can find a way to work with in your everyday life as well. So I'm gonna set up to do this now. I tend to like to have rather than so you can certainly have your drawing surface flat. That's a thing you could draw in this way. But I find that when I have my drawing surface flat like this when I'm working observation Aly there tends to be a little bit of distortion, a little bit of a skew to the to what I'm working with. So I tend to like to prop with a pillow or you know, a share to prop up my drawing board on more of an angle like that so that I can look at my drawing paper. I can look at my subject almost simultaneously. And I find that to be a much more fluid way in. So I'm gonna start just by mapping the body, really tracking um the points in space. Just to establish the figure because I know this is gonna be a slow motion situation, he's not going to be moving a lot. I can kind of rely on the fact that you know, I know he likes to sit in this chair for a while and do his reading. So I'm gonna kind of map shoulder to shoulder, shoulder to elbow just establishing kind of um a matrix or a map for the body elbow to wrist here. Um Maybe giving a little sense of where his head is in space in relationship to the shoulders and then coming down to this arm, I'm not gonna get super carried away with the background right now, I might end up putting some background in but right now I just want to map out more or less what his limbs are doing. Um Coming down from the elbow up to the knee. Uh gonna put sort of a knee point in there which is pretty much like right down from his chin. And then from the knee point out to the foot, the foot actually extends beyond the elbow here. So the knee here sort of central down to the region of the ankle and the foot. And then as I come over this way um this hip is planted in in the chair right about here and then his other knee is here, and then that foot drops down lower to the floor. So I'm just making this basic map of his body and this can take a little while. I mean it's really seductive to get in and be like, oh I want to, you know, put the pleats in the pants and I want to put the logo on the t shirt, but without this sort of basic structure first, um those things can feel, feel a little chaotic uh without sort of establishing the map first. So I've established a map that more or less relates to what his body is doing. He has been moving his hands a little bit, but for now I'm just gonna kind of keep these things in place and I'm gonna work up the body just a little bit more with applying some basic volumes. I'm gonna come in and give like a little bit of a volume for the the torso area, um filling out sort of that area. I'm gonna put a nice oval volume for the hip here. Um I'm also gonna put another like, volume in sort of in the, for the the jeans the way they come down um off the leg here and just start to play into building this a little bit more, this knee sort of pokes out from underneath the cross leg. And then you can use the pant leg as sort of a cylindrical form to pull you down towards the ground. You know, really simplifying the shapes. Nothing fancy coming down to the region of the shoe and just sort of planting the foot down at the ground with the shoe. And you might start to relate that a little bit to the bottom of the chair. Just, you know, just a little bit to kind of give it a sense of grounded nous. And as I come back up the body, I might start to imply a little bit of a sense of the t shirt wrapping around the upper arm here. And once I establish the stability of this, then I feel like I can start to track some of the motion, some of the parts that are moving. So this arms coming down out of the t shirt sleeve, it could just be a little bit of a cylinder. This arm comes across as sort of resting on the thigh as he's reading his book. And there's a little bit of a sense of, you know, there's a cushion sticking out from behind it a little bit. There's also a place where the cushion hits the chair and the place where the chair sort of gives way to the weight of the hip. You can sort of establish a little bit of relationship to those things. And then you might start to work with some of the variations in the details. So, you know, the book is resting on the knee, uh it's coming down and and it's being held by the hand here, the other side of the book is coming up towards the arm actually quite far, and then it's angling down towards the hand and then the hand is coming up and the pages turning and you can almost track the turning of the page as it comes across, which gives it a nice sense of motion, a nice sense of gesture to sort of imply that this is a person I'm observing and they're not static. I'm not working from a photograph, um working from real life on location and there are going to be variations happening as I do that we can add. Now, I'm sort of adding in some of the background detail as it connects to the body. Oh, and now his arm has just reached out, he's now drinking his coffee. So I could, you know, maybe even imply a coffee mug up towards the face as the arm comes down, and then he replaced it. Uh And so I could even start to draw a little bit of the side table here, and there's a sense of action and motion through that. So, as you start to observe more and more, and he's turning the page again as you start to observe the figure more as you sit here, you start to see more. So I'm noticing how the back of the chair um comes out from behind the shoulder here, how there's a sense of the window um sort of slipping to the left of his head, but also coming out through behind the chair. And that actually gives a nice sense of space. I'm just going to make some very simple notations for for the face, it's not really going to be like a portrait, portrait, but there'll be a sense of the fact that there's a you know, human um head here that is actually looking down. Um and sometimes looking up at, you know, into the room and yeah, and again sort of just working with the movement of the upper body and establishing establishing actually where he is sitting a little bit more because in doing in establishing the stability of that, you're actually allowing space for some of the motion to happen. So if he ends up taking another sip of his coffee, I can track the arm in that direction and then again, sort of track it coming the elbow coming up towards the face again. You know, using the mug, using the mug as a movable um thing to track in space and even maybe finding its resting place. So there's this idea of moving here, moving here and being put back. So this this motion, this tracking motion and this motion of the book um as he turns the pages is a really kind of wonderful thing to to track over time. So as I'm working here stabilizing the lower body and working with some of these forms, you know, I'm sort of noticing that I'm enjoying the fact that there's multiple coffee cups. I'm enjoying the fact that there are multiple pages. Um And because it's almost this animated realization of what's happening with the figure in space where most of the body is staying rather stable. Um but but some of the body is is moving um as we move along. So I'm gonna just bring in a couple more um notations for the room, I'm gonna come in and uh make a few more notations for um you know, again, not being super detailed with the face, but having some of some of the face detailed in coming into the circle of the neck of the T shirt and again, tracking the arm across. And maybe even this foot needs some rendering to. But notice that I'm not like pressing super hard with my pencil, I'm actually using the side of the pencil so I can build it gradually, like I build it to a point. I build it to a point. And then when I sort of decide, oh, you know, that's the angle I want, that's the line I want, then I can um firm it up a little bit more so that's something that can be something to sort of pay attention to, is that it's there's another coffee movement. So now we have about five coffee cups, we have several pages turned, we've got a window, we've got the chair developing, we've got a foot in space. We might even put a few floorboards in to start to kind of create a sense of um space and distance. But this practice of drawing a very still figure, having the stability of the body there, but tracking the motion just with a couple of key things, pages being turned, a coffee cup being lifted up to the head, up to the face and down again, so that there's some places that are very stable and grounded and other situations that have motion. This is a great way to start drawing on location, where you can kind of rely on the stability of the body, but just start varying some of the movement of the limbs, or some of the movement of the props, the book, the cup and have that relate to to the body and then ultimately bringing in some of the details of what's happening around the body to give a sense of a situation, the body in space. So, I highly recommend this practice, do it at home, do it with your family, do it with your friends, do it out in public on location, even take a sketchbook, it doesn't have to be as big as this. You can work in something smaller if you're out on location, like working outdoors, but I think it's a really great thing to start at home and if you feel feel like drawing the body in motion is actually daunting. You can even start with a sleeping figure. You know, you can start with someone who's not moving at all and then start to gradually move in some subtle motion. So it's a really fun thing to practice. It's a really great way to connect with family and friends, and it's a great pastime, so give it a try.