Drawing people

Whilst landscape is my main subject material, I am fascinated by people – not just as small figures within the landscape environment, but as subjects in themselves, especially those with plenty of character. Most of the time I draw them without them realising I am doing so, but occasionally I ask if they would make a particularly interesting study. Overseas I do sometimes get asked to draw them, even if they just see me drawing a plant or a landscape, and it can lead to fascinating encounters.

Cafes, trains, stations and all forms of gatherings are all good places to find people worth sketching, though I’ve also done such sketching in really diverse places. If you feel bashful you can always keep your sketchbook hidden inside a copy of the Beano or similar comic, and use a stub of a pencil so that it’s not obvious that you are drawing. The last thing you want to do is attract unwanted attention by being too blatant about it! Rather than aiming to achieve a great likeness to the person, I tend to be more interested in the way people hold themselves, whatever they are doing. Action drawings are fine, but what do people do with their hands, arms and legs when they are just sitting or standing? This can be a real problem for artists if you have no reference material.
The key is often where the main weight of the body lies, and how it is balanced. Begin with an overall faint, loose drawing and when you are confident that you have everything where it should be, then you can apply bolder strokes of the pen, pencil, or whatever you use. Note how the head appears: is it bent forward, held straight or to one side, or what? If you go straight for the detail you will miss these vital points, whether you are doing a serious character study or a madcap caricature.

The scene (the sort of thing you would best avoid if possible!) is from The Grog Invasion, an illustrated tale about the Llandoddies, the water-folk of Llandrindod Wells, and available on our website,  http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk

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