Tonight I happened to be downtown when I knew Joëlle Jones (and I thought Terry Blas) would be attending a Dr. Sketchy event at Dante's. I thought this would be fun. I could peek in on what my friends were doing, witness some artists in action.
The Dr. Sketchy concept is easy: you show up at a club, you have a few drinks, you draw models. Instead of being the usual art school boring old poses and outfits, there is a kind of burlesque emphasis, and as their MySpace page suggests, they like to bring the pretty. I knew Joëlle and Terry went with some of Terry's art school friends, so I figure I could meld into the group and doodle in my moleskin and that would be that.
Except school just started back up, so the group was very small and the place wasn't very packed. It also wasn't the best of nights to jump in the ink pool because the event scheduled for after the drawing session was running late on its soundcheck, meaning the drink-and-draw was going to start late and end early.
Even so, I had my pencil, I had my paper, I emphasized to the people around me that I could not draw and that laughter should be kept to a derisive minimum, and we were good to go.
The first model came out for a series of one-minute poses to get started. As Joëlle explained to me after I scurried over my page to try to keep up with the pace, the point of these early sketches was to capture gestures. She showed me how to plot out what I was going to draw by finding the line within the figure that would suggest the shape of her pose, the movement of the body. This is what I managed to get after learning just that simple trick:
If you look at the left-hand page, those are the early starts, closer to the first drawings I had done, very incomplete. You can see me start to figure out the line, though. The right drawing is me getting more of a handle on what she was saying.
Her second lesson was saying that once you had the shape, to figure out where the weight fell and add those lines second. I wasn't so good at this, and those lines tended to be lines I could not cross. In fact, when the model increased her time to five minutes a pose, I found it harder. The speed was an aid to me because I didn't have to think as much.
As you can see, I started to fall backward toward being more incomplete, less defined. I think what was happening was I was hitting a wall of my own frustration. I was seeing how limited my own abilities were, while the artists I was with got more detailed and started to get more complete. From an outsider's standpoint, it was fascinating to watch. They had a whole other level of confidence when it came to the expectations they had of their pencil. Non-artists put a line on the paper, and we feel like we have to commit to it. The simple act of erasing is somehow outside of our understanding. I end up working around that bad line, trying to obliterate it.
This is not so for those who actually pursue drawing as a vocation. They aren't afraid to dispense with a line. Even better, they know how to control their tools to lay down a softer line to build the framework of the figure and then a darker, heavier line to flesh it out. I'd watch Joëlle, and she'd start with a light version that was very sketchy, but she'd work around and over it to a finished product that was really beautiful.
At one point, I started to wonder if maybe I should try to sketch with words, write brief poems, impressions, stories. It came as a quick thought...
...and just as quickly left. This was because of the poses more than anything. The inspiration wasn't there.
The first model then moved into more sustained poses, ten and fifteen minutes in one position. She also tried to incorporate the night's theme of fire by holding lit torches.
After dicking around with some rough drawings similar to the above, I decided to not think so much, to stick with Joëlle's first lesson and then just try to draw, emphasizing shape but not detail. I think I got a little less worrisome and the results were better.
I posted it as a thumbnail in case you want to go in and see it larger (or any of these, once your through to Flickr). Just click on it, and it will carry you there.
After that, the model switched. A man came out, dressed a little like James Dean, but with a touch of farmhand. He was a really good looking guy, I must say. He was well-built and muscular, and he had the kind of face that if he wasn't doing something like modeling with it...well, what the hell else would he do? If that lame dude who plays Superboy on Smallville is ever looking to get out of the show, I've found his replacement.
I don't know if his man pretty was throwing me off my new game, or what, but I ended up against the wall again. It's a kind of mental block, when once I accept that my drawing isn't going to look good, it just stops even coming close. I try to will my hand to move the pencil as I think it should go, but no decent picture emerges.
Ironically, though, these drawings won me a prize. At the end of Dr. Sketchy's, the various models travel around the room and hand out prize packs. Each gives out a prize for their favorite version of themselves, and then they are assigned other categories like "Best Use of Color/Theme" or "Most Realistic." The male model got the category of "Best Drunk Drawing."
Well, I wasn't drunk, and I don't think anyone else in the room was, either. I won the prize by default, simply for being the worst. My drawing looked like it was drawn by a drunk.
This is the prize pack I won:
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup not pictured, because I ate it. If you follow this link, too, you can read the notes on what it all is.
When it comes down to it, I had fun. I got to watch people get into the creative spirit, gab, and try my hand at drawing. It's a different discipline than I am used to, that's to be sure, and I think it's good for me to peer in on the process, to try it, as I end up respecting it more.
That whole forgetting your able to erase a line thing, by the way, is something I think crosses the two art forms. A lot of the visual artists I know have trouble even writing a simple e-mail, as I think they are self-conscious for all the same kinds of reasons that I might be self-conscious about my pencil-to-paper abilities. I think they forget that there is a delete button on the keyboard, that you don't have to commit to a line if it's not right. It's just hard to change our brains to that way of thinking, to throw the switch and send the train down the other side of the tracks. But it's fun to try even for a little while!
Current Soundtrack: Paul Weller, Catch Flame
Current Mood: impressed