Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Flash-Glance Method

When you’re sketching people or animals in the real world, it’s pretty rare to find a subject that holds still for a long time. When I was a teenager, I used to wait for my parents to fall asleep in front of the TV on their Barcaloungers. Then I’d grab my sketchbook and get started, because I knew they’d be snoring away for an hour or two.

A few other subjects are guaranteed rock-steady—Irish flutists, for example, especially if they are playing into a microphone. They tend not to budge an inch, so you can settle into a careful drawing.

But what do you do when you want to sketch a person or an animal that is moving constantly? First off, don’t bother trying to fill the page with just one pose. What I do is start in the upper left and draw a lot of quick little sketches. Each sketch shows one basic pose taken like a snapshot from the continuous action going on in front of you.


I did these pencil sketches of a hen, for example, at a friend’s farm. We dumped a big pile of compost in the yard and let the chickens run around pecking and strutting. All I was able to observe from each momentary phase of action was the basic shape and pose.


Here’s a tip for making your eyes work like a high-speed camera. As you watch your subject, snap your eyes closed from time to time. The last pose will hover for a few seconds on your eyelids. Once you get used to doing this, you can work from the short-term memory or the “flash-glance” as I call it, enough to do a quick sketch anyway. These sketches of a symphonic conductor were done that way. Give it a try, and let me know if it works for you.

8 comments:

Donna said...
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Donna said...

I've just come home from a few hours of sketching at a local Literary Arts festival. I was trying to catch the postures and gestures of all the people milling about and now I just may have to go back armed with the "flash-glance" technique! thanks.

Michael said...

I actually do that in coffee houses! I've realised that you can actually make out the personality of the person just by sketching them or watching them in deep concentration (well, watching them for only so long until they notice you watching them.) I love to watch people in public places because there seems to be so many stories behind those faces, so many experiences. Each person's life could probably fill several books. It's absolutely fascinating.

Bill said...

Interesting that you've brought up another technique animators use often - gesture drawing. I've taken classes on the subject and done a fair amount of it, but have never tried the shutting-your-eyes method...I'll have to put that one to the test. Beautiful sketches of the conductor and hen!

tlc illustration said...

What a great sounding idea. I'm sure I'll have to 'practice' remembering enough detail to get it down on paper, but this sounds like a terrific start;

Tony C. said...

This is a good tip! Thanks!

Found the blog through Drawn.ca and will definitely be back.

Murat Kayi said...

I do the flash glance when I do gesture sketches on the playground while my daughter plays... I actually asked other people to find out if anybody else does it and now I find there's a cool name out there for this...:D

Anonymous said...

This is a great help. In airports the people always fidget and then leave. Now I have another tool. Thanks...this whole site is fabulous, I can't say how much I appreciate it.