Sunday, January 16, 2011

Metro Sketching Part 2.

So from Metro Sketching Part One we learned why we should sketch on the metro now we will explore a little more of the process and some tips.

To start off I'll go over me tools of the trade.  First my sketchbook, currently I'm using the Handbook  8.25 x 5.5  Portrait Journal.  Moleskins are also a nice choice.  I like using a sketchbook with thicker paper and that can fit in my coat pocket (makes it very easy to put away when the train gets full).  And it's also nice that I can go back and add some lighter watercolor washes later at home.  I perfer handbook over moleskin just because the covers are a little easier to customize for me.  I like to name and paint the covers of  my sketchbooks.  I'll show some covers in a later post.  My current sketchbook is named Early Bird.

For drawing utensils I use a plain old Bic Ultra Roundh Stic Grip.  I have used these for a number of years and I'm fairly comfortable drawing in pen.  I can get really dark lines and also light lines just by adjusting the pressure.  Some reasons I like using a pen over a pencil are:

-  It doesn't need to be sharpened. Sharpening on a somewhat bumpy metro/bus ride is not desirable. And you'll also have to carry a sharpener that you can store the shavings in or you'll get nasty looks from your fellow riders. It's just more hassle.  

-You can't erase.  Some of you might raise a questionable eyebrow at this. But by not being able to erase you'll find that you'll have to think a little more about each stroke that you put down rather than making lines to just be making lines. 

- Probably the biggest reason that I use pen, is that it doesn't smear and dirty up my paper.  You might get some smearing if the pen's ink globs up but it will dry quickly and won't dirty up the opposite page of the sketchbook.  This also allows me to draw cleanly  on both sides of the pages which saves me some money and save some trees. 

For locations placing yourself in an optimal spot is key. So usually sitting down on the window seat or standing up in back and leaning against the wall is your best bet.  I usually prefer to lean against a wall at the back of the train mainly because if I sit down there is usually without fail an elderly/pregnant/family with kids that comes and stands next to me. And being the gentlemen that I am I have to offer my seat.  And I am left standing holding onto a pole and unable to sketch. :o(  

When riding on the Metro Bus I found that the second seat facing forward after the row of seats facing inward is the best.  It allows you to view people from a different angle more of a side/ 3/4 view instead of just the back of their head.  And I choose the second over the first just mainly because so that when your drawing the people sitting in the inward seats it's not so very noticable that your drawing them.  

So now we have our materials, and we have chosen out our prime location. now its time to draw.  When I'm set and getting ready to choose a subject I first take a look and see possible subjects that I could draw.  You don't want to choose a subject that a couple inches away or a subject that is facing you directly. It could get a little awkward.  I like to choose subjects that are sleeping or preoccupied with something else (a book, phone, etc).  And I study those subjects and see if something catches my eye about them. Are they wearing interesting clothing? Position in a certain way? Is the lighting making interesting patterns?  I like to keep in mind one a goal while I'm sketching. what am I trying to learn here? Am I trying to see the anatomy underneath? Am I trying capture a likeness? A mood? Proportion training? Is this a training to differenatiate values?  Its always good to have a goal and not  just drawing to be drawing.

So while there are many subjects and opportunities to get some good life drawing in while riding the Metro.  I also sometimes take this opportunity to draw out and think about painting ideas.  I will draw out thumbnails to explore compositions and values in a idea. I'll also write notes on colors,moods,subject matter, and  take these and sketches back home to work them into a more refined piece.  I have gotten my best ideas on this commute and I find that half an hour to an hour of imagination concentration can really get me motivated to create some art.  



So I hope you have enjoyed this little discussion.  I just wanted to share with you all something that has become a part of my 5 day work week and has helped me with my drawing skills. And I hope it can help you too. Sketching on the Metro can be an enriching experience for the artist ,and it can help your daily commute be a little more tolerable.  

So on that note, this is my first article that I ever written and realize that my English writing 101 skills are not the best. So I apologize if some stuff doesn't make sense, it will get better over time.  Please if you have any questions, comments, tips of your own,  how I could have improved this article, or articles that you would like to see in the future let me know. Help me help you ha ha!   It has been fun writing this and putting it together,I look forward to the next one.    Thanks for reading!


  1. Nice sketches here! You know your stuff. Drawing is the foundation for everything. Keep at it!

  2. English writing 101 did you well—your wordsmithing is great along with your sketches. And I'm completely with you on the Bic best work and ideas come while sitting in meetings scribbling with a blue Bic pen on lined notepad paper...Keep writing and sketching.