Of Sketching, Observing, Deliberating

The four-week long exercise wherein we had to draw portraits of family members, of ourselves and make body sketches was more than an exercise for me, it became an experience in itself. Initially was skeptical about waking up an hour early before class every day of the week to make drawings. What was the point of this? I could easily get an hour more of sleep or maybe even do the studio exercise for a bit. But I was to realize that this whole cycle of waking up and making these drawings would set the tone for the whole day, it was vital.
This newly established routine that I initially disliked, let me spend a solid one hour with my family or myself, simply enjoying the company or for once, actually observing what was happening under the same roof I lived under. I began to truly enjoy this process.

body sketches of a very unwilling sister. source: author’s collection

The portraits were a truly interesting experience. I have always shied away from drawing portraits. I have just never been able to do them well. To confront this hesitation and actually get down to the nuances of making portraits was something completely outside my comfort zone. Starting with face of the shape (to the best of my ability), I would then move on to the features, the eyes and nose specifically, then I would draw the mouth and then the hair, ears and everything else. I would finish by then adding light and shadow. This was a simple order I followed through the whole process after experimenting with different sequences and then settling on what worked best for me.

From my face, to my sister’s to my mother’s, to my grandmother’s, as I drew them, I was starting to pick up their defining features, how would I use the medium to best show this? how do I use the same medium to show light and dark as well the lines and in case of colour how do I get the skin tone right and also show shadow?

In all my sketches I used a darker medium on light page to represent. Somehow it never occurred to me to try anything else, that it might be interesting to flip it around. Perhaps I was so caught up in trying to make it look accurate, that the whole facet of ‘representation’ completely slipped my mind. Could lighter medium on a dark page have revealed completely new dimensions to portrait making and drawing? Or maybe it was also the fact that I’m so used to using a dark medium on a white page, I was simply succumbing to habit. In any case, this could be an interesting experiment to try out in future sketches.

self portrait; ink on paper. source: author’s collection

Drawing body postures was another interesting part to the exercise. Apart from the fact that I was now observing the kind of postures that people were taking when they were going out their everyday lives, I was also observing how they occupy space. Given a space making element, why were they drawn to it? What about it, made it so comfortable to lean on or sit on? I was also beginning to observe certain similarities in the way different people, including myself, were interacting with a certain element and at the same time picking quirks in postures that were unique to a particular person. I don’t think I would have noticed most of these (except the most obvious ones) usually, but sketching proved to be a wonderful medium for documenting these observations and more importantly, a means to reach these observations.

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