Friday, October 24, 2008

Urban Sketching Part 1: Chicago faces

A few days ago I started enjoying a new blog called Urban Sketchers. Urban Sketching is a name they're giving to a casual kind of amateur art emphasizing simple techniques like line drawing and water coloring, not making a big deal out of making a "finished product" or eliminating flaws, and emphasizing simple subjects found in ordinary life.

I loved this kind of art in Mollie Katzen's self-illustrated cookbooks The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. And a few years back I found another fun book featuring a similar style: The Moonlight Chronicles. Also, there's R. Crumb's sketchbooks and "Waiting for Food" books.

Cartooning was an early love of mine, and in 1997 I returned to drawing to chronicle a trip I took to Finland, Sweden and Russia. During that time, inspired by the excitement of travel, and having a lot of time on trains, planes and boats, I think I became a halfway decent Urban Sketcher.

This is the start of a series of postings featuring some of my better drawings. I'm beginning with the pictures I drew around Chicago after I returned from that trip.

Other parts in this series:
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden

I sketched this woman on the Chicago red line el. I'm pretty pleased with the way I captured her bundled-up posture as she held on to her purse while trying to catch a snooze. People napping, or reading books are the best people to sketch, because they don't catch you in the act and make you feel self-conscious.
Another napper on the red line el. Generally I would start with the forehead, capture the indent of the eye socket, the nose, and the cheek of the subject. If I got that first stroke right, everything else would follow no problem. So that first moment would take incredible concentration and self-confidence, because I hated botching a sketch.
Shannon Russell, my girlfriend at the time, at Heartland Cafe. It's not the best likeness of her, although it captures her beauty.
This is Bill Yost of Parmly Hearing Institute at Loyola University Chicago, where I worked at the time. I was able to sketch Bill because he was concentrating on a seminar speaker---which I was supposed to be doing too. :-)
Yet another person snoozing on the Chicago red line el.

All of my sketches from 1997 can be found in this photo gallery.

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