Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sketching through the Keyhole

Daniel Niklaus Chodowiecki (1726 – 1801) was a Polish-German artist who became the head of the Berlin Academy of Art.

He drew devotedly from life. In his autobiography, he said that he would sketch ordinary people without asking permission, “doing everything as clandestinely as possible.”

(Left: Soldier’s wife begging)
He continued, “For if a woman (and sometimes also a man) knows that one is trying to draw her, she wants to present herself favorably and ruins everything; her posture becomes forced.

I didn’t let it bother me if people ran off when I was only half done, for I had gained so much! What wonderful groups with light and shadow I sometimes entered in to my pocketbook, with every advantage that Nature has over all the vaunted ideals if left to herself...”

“I drew standing, walking, riding on horseback; through the keyhole, I sketched girls in bed in the most lovely positions left entirely to themselves.”

Quoted from the book Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth-Century Berlin

Wikipedia on Daniel Niklaus Chodowiecki 
Previously: Caught Looking 


MrCachet said...

LOL. Perhaps a better name for Daniel would have been Tom - Peeping...

Julian Wong said...

Whatever that could motivate you draw is a good way.

K_tigress said...

Yeah I have studied people in the wild like the library but as soon as they are discovered people do act unnatural and occasionally creeped out. I think some how using other techniques like a mirror might help and or build some kind of camouflaged shade of some sort might help. ;) :D

jytte said...

I am secretly sketching train passengers in the shortest possible time. it forces you to look for the essentiel features in a face. :o)

António Araújo said...

I've been playing that game on a daily base for close to 10 years now. :) Funny enough it was only last week that a librarian from hell gave me a reprimand:
-"did you ask permission from your colleague to draw her?"
I am still trying to understand which part of sketching a portrait requires permission: the part where my ayeballs face where I please or the part where my hand draws what it pleases on my sketchbook with my pencil :).

Be that as it may, if indeed it is a crime, then I am an unashamed criminal, and I'll keep being one until they throw me in the dungeon, and then I'll draw the rats and the jailer. :)

(btw, the girl, who was unaware until then, was rather pleased to find she was being so "disturbed" - the librarian was the only person disturbing anyone in an umpleasant way; but she did manage to ruin the drawing, because, as mentioned in the text, a model who is aware of you will immediately become unnatural)

James Gurney said...

Antonio -- What a story! My sympathies. I shall be a fellow criminal sketching that rat alongside you.

A few days we got an odd comment, too. We were sitting on a curb in front of a restaurant that was still closed, and a guy came up and said, apparently as a joke: "What are you doing? Protesting the restaurant, or drawing a picture?" It took me so long to understand what he was saying that I didn't have an answer.

My experience is that once people notice I'm sketching them, I just tell them and show them what I'm doing so they don't get a creepy feeling. And sometimes I just ask strangers up front to pose.

António Araújo said...

> I shall be a fellow criminal >sketching that rat alongside you.

Hours of fun! Lookind forward to prolongued sentence for bad behaviour! :D

> It took me so long to understand >what he was saying that I didn't >have an answer.

I also got caught by surprise by the librarian! By the time I had a witty riposte about the dangers of incurring the wrath of sketchers (involving Michelangelo painting Biago in hell :)) she had moved on to torture some students for sitting three in a table for two (kid you not :D).

Or, I could have told her quite truthfully I was relieved and flattered that she could tell from the drawing *which* student the portrait was meant to represent. :)

But, actually all I said, with a raised eyebrow and a smirk that communicated, I hope, "surely you jest, Helga?", was that I hadn't realised such an act required permission. Pretty lame, but next time I'll be prepared with a canned witty saying! :D (as a small revenge I did sketch the librarian in full Gestapo uniform! :D)

But speaking of unexpected reactions, here is the best one I recall: once I got a tender pat in the head from a gay fellow who was standing behind me for some time while I sketched someone else in the London Underground. :D :D He first watched the drawing, then when his station arrived he laughed, suddenly patted me tenderly in the head, said something to the effect of "so cute" (I incredibly forgot the exact words :D), and left. A pity he was not my type!! :D :D :D I must have blushed, I'm sure! :D :D

>My experience is that once people >notice I'm sketching them, I just >tell them and show them what I'm >doing so they don't get a creepy >feeling.

Yep. Whenever I get found out in the metro I just smile a "you got me" smile and turn the sketchbook around so they understand. They're always amused. But if you don't do that people get uncomfortable, not knowing why you are watching them (not staring, I just glance, but if they catch the glances it is just as bad as staring, so better give up and let them know what's up).

>And sometimes I just ask >strangers up front to pose.

Curiously I'm more shy about that than about getting caught :). Mostly I ask only after I made a first sketch to show them. I think I only asked for people to pose if they already had seen me draw someone else...:)

Anonymous said...

"...through the keyhole, I sketched girls in bed in the most lovely positions left entirely to themselves.”