Looking and re-looking.

Most of us simply assume that we are well aware of ourselves, of the people around us- the way we talk, walk, eat, sleep but most importantly, the way we look when we are occupied by doing things. VSR became a tool for us to realize that people are not as simple as they seem. The tasks of sketching out portraits of people around us, making portraits of ourselves and sketching the postures of people to study their body was a rather interesting one. I have always been fascinated by people who get everything right in their very first attempt of making a portrait. A human drawing another human is a task that appears to be seamless but is a rather complex one. By attempting to sketch people around us, we subconsciously imitate the way they behave in an attempt to try and understand how they’re achieving certain postures and attributes.

The ‘Nava-Rasas’ have boggled artists and performers for centuries. It requires skill and more importantly patience to closely observe people and their way of expressing things. During the initial attempts at making portraits of people around me, every feature seemed fresh and almost fantastical to me. The thought of me having the same features never seemed to cross my mind. With every line being drawn, there came an uncertainty and amusement as to how I had failed to notice those features before. After a few iterations, my hand subconsciously started picking up the features on the very first look and imitated it. The lines seemed to be getting bolder and thicker and this was incidental. This led to the realization of how constant observation and practice can almost impart knowledge about anything and that knowledge remains as a strong memory in our subconscious.

Portraits of people around me

The attempt at sketching portraits of myself was harder because of the preconceived image of myself that I had in my mind. Every time I set out to sketch myself, that image would guide my hand subconsciously instead of what I was observing. There was also a struggle between looking at myself and understanding and then translating that into a sketch. This was overcome by simple drawing out what I see by observing how light fell on my face, how textured my face was and how were my features defines. The few iterations that were made enabled me to understand and automatically recollect the observations in the following iterations. The iterations made had a wide variation. They were all different in terms of what was being observed. For example, in the first portrait, there is emphasis on texture and light and shadow. The second portrait is a directed observation of features on my face. The third one is a look at the tonal variation while the fourth one lays emphasis on the patching of skin and light.


The exercise of sketching out bodies of people around me having various postures and doing various activities was the one which I enjoyed the most. Unlike the portraits, this was a more free-flowing process because of how flexible the human body is. There was freedom in the kinds of strokes relating to the different kinds of postures and strains. The iterations made were focusing mainly on the proportions, postures and the play of light on volumes. This part of the exercise was easier compared to the portraits because here, there was liberty in terms of expressions. The human body spoke better than the human face.

Sketches of body study of people around me

The sketches were made during broad daylight and the sun would be shining bright. It was hard to imagine light entering a completely dark void and creating or highlighting forms and figures. The visual of the light failing on people to create shadow was a much more convenient one. This hindered the usage of a white medium on a black sheet to sketch out. But when I now relook at my sketches, there is a prominent void space created by the outlines. The black medium would have probably given rise to newer realizations of how the body and the face could have been sculpted or scooped out as masses from a big block of flesh.

2 thoughts on “Looking and re-looking.

  1. “By attempting to sketch people around us, we subconsciously imitate the way they behave in an attempt to try and understand how they’re achieving certain postures…” this is a wonderful thought!

    Good documentation and moving reflections.


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