I’ve been challenging myself to draw faces whenever I have a chance. It’s rewarding to find the characteristics that make us look different and see how expression and personality manifest themselves in outward appearance. Above is a recent drawing I made of some of the members of Hoboken City Council.
Illustrator Lynne Chapman draws people on trains and in this blog post she outlines her process. She explains that when drawing people in public it’s important to do so without their knowledge. Otherwise they will strike a pose and the drawing can wind up looking unnatural. It also raises the pressure to create an accurate likeness, like the portrait artists I used to see every day in Times Square. The process has to remain secret because pictures drawn from life can literally take on a character all their own, with the original features of the subject transforming into an entirely different persona. Not everyone can appreciate this and realize it’s not about them.
Many artists draw people on trains, planes and in waiting rooms. I’ve recently been drawing people during public presentations, from musicians to politicians. There’s really not a problem with being secretive since all eyes are on the stage anyway.
There’s a performance aspect to the way the person presents themselves that’s different than how they would act when posing for a portrait, or just living their lives. It’s also fairly easy to figure out how much time I’ll have to draw since I can generally tell how long a song or speech will be. Movement is a challenge, but that’s when internal visualization and memory kick in, as well as imagination.