After a lot of not-so-happy hours of thumb-drawing (see below) I decided that, even while working on basic skills, I needed to have a bit more fun. I woke up at 5 in the morning the other day and spent an hour or so poring over old sketchbooks and thinking, yes, I could gain a lot more skills, but some of these drawings are perfect the way they are. (Examples to come later.)

The picture above is a semi-realistic portrait of the manager of a coffee shop near my home. He spends a lot of time in the back, and only comes out when he’s needed to help handle customers. So I worked on shading and such from memory until each time he popped up behind the bar. Then I’d scramble to correct what I’d done. (At one point I rotated the angle of the chin about 70 degrees counter clockwise.)

As with many of my portraits, the resemblance to the subject is highly imperfect–although the astronomer at the next table did recognize him. I’m still working my way (happily) through some ear-shape misconceptions. When I’m drawing people they’re often too far away or moving too fast for me to get much detail into the ear. Rather than trying to nail the whole ear thing down, through looking at photos or angling myself to keep my husband’s head in profile, I’ve been sharpening my conception of one anatomic structure at a time, and still pulling some of the curves from my imagination. This is all part of my trying to balance classical methods–like proper observation–with the relatively “naive” approaches I’ve been working with up to now.

I’m pleased, anyway, with the way the picture captures, and makes believable, I think, the rotational symmetry of this guy’s eyes. I feel like his youth and his unpretentiousness come across pretty well.

The astronomer, btw, had a few interesting things to say about astronomy vs. drawing–how astronomy is all about pattern recognition, but he still has trouble drawing. This challenges the adage that “drawing is seeing”–yes, but there’s also the matter of getting the hand on board.

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