I finished my Narrative Portraits class with Oliver Hoeller over a week ago. What an amazing class! We learned many design skills and how to combine elements into a sketch. An example he gave us was to highlight Mark Twain in a narrative portrait. We had several photos of his head, plus photos of things that told something about him– paddle boat, boys fishing, his home, etc… Oliver showed us how to combine these elements with the portrait to tell a story. I chose his house and a boy fishing and completed the sketch below:
The challenge of doing a narrative portrait is to make the person you are drawing the star of the show in your sketch. And then work other elements around them. This works well when you are in the studio and use photos. On location, I find it much more of a challenge.
As a final project, we were tasked with doing our own sketch of a person of our choice. I chose a man, Tom, whom I had met sketching last summer. He was a tennis instructor in Florida and also a bicyclist. He enjoyed sketching cowboys and bicyclists with red shoes. So, armed with a photo of him and photos of these other elements, I created a narrative portrait.
I learned many other techniques to work on narrative portraits on location. I sketched at “Riffs, Rails, and Cocktails”, at the Union Depot in St. Paul, to try out some of these techniques. Though not a narrative portrait, I enjoyed the process of combining elements, like the jazz guitarist, food/drink from Station 81 restuarant, other patrons, and the environment.
I am choosing to try and sketch people whenever I can. I attended a mid-week sketch event with other Urban sketcher friends at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. It was rainy, so I spent most of my time indoors at the Sea Salt seafood eatery. I sketched people there, and kept the sketch very informal, layering elements and people. I chose to use gray Tombow markers and red watercolors to keep a very limited palette. Once again, not a narrative portrait, where the person is the star of the show, but a collage.
I have a lot of practicing to do to learn the skills of narrative portraits. I plan to challenge myself to work on these skills these next months, and like anything else, it takes a lot of practice. I hope to work on drawing faces from photos to learn the anatomical features first. One step at a time. Watch how things progress in future posts!