Archive for June, 2013


Lady Liberty Lineup

June 30, 2013

I’ve been to NYC four times, and on each trip I’ve taken a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry and sketched the Statue of Liberty. The first time was in 1999 when I had just started carrying a sketchbook. As bad as this sketch looks, it was actually the gem of the trip. All the others I did back then were atrocious. I’ll put them in the next post, just for laughs.



The second one was from a year later. A lot less ink on this page which means I had gained some confidence in my line.



The third trip was in 2005, but I can’t find the Statue of Liberty sketch from that year. I think I may have given it away.

And here is number four, June of 2013. I often use a couple different gray markers as a quick and dirty way to give the effect of a wash. On this occasion the markers were running dry, which is why I didn’t do anything with the background to indicate that it was night.



If I could go back in time I would eliminate or diminish the black outline on that island in the lower left. That line confuses the background and makes me wince every time I look at it. I’m also not so crazy about the “windows” on her podium thing. Not so much because they are misshapen, but because there are no shadows in there, so it makes it look totally empty or something. The reason I didn’t put any shadow in there was because there was actually a bright light coming from inside, but since this drawing doesn’t indicate that it is nighttime, that part looks weird.

Anyway, I guess my point is that even after 14 years of carrying a sketchbook, I still have a lot to learn. I guess I’ll just have to keep going back to NYC.


Train People

June 28, 2013

I went to NYC a couple weeks ago and brought along two sketchbooks. A 10×10 – for museums, the airplane, and other places where it’s not totally inconvenient – and one small purse-sized notepad for when I want to be inconspicuous.

The small notepad was perfect for the subway, which is often crowded, and which you have to get in and out of quickly.

The sketches I did on the train started out pretty disappointing. The same old quick gesture sketches I always do in those kind of situations. A quick couple of circles, lines, and squares to lay out the basic shapes, and then whatever details I had time to add before the person (or myself) had to exit the train. Bor-ring.

Boring gesture

Boring gesture

Then I suddenly had a flashback from 2005, the last time I visited NYC. I remembered being on the train, being disappointed by the way I was drawing, and feeling almost as if I was trying to draw one way, but my hand and pen were going for a totally different style. I remember thinking, “just go with it.” And so I did, and suddenly these sort of cool little drawings started to occur.

So I found myself having that same battle with my hand/pen and I remembered that moment from eight years ago, and decided to just go with it once again. Instead of laying out the basic shapes and gestures, I switched to a point-to-point method.

TP Gospel

Bible, now on Kindle

I’d start with one detail, generally the person’s nose, and then let the drawing grow from there using that initial point to guide me to the next, and then from that point gage the next point, and so on.

TP cosby

Back to school

For example, on the guy below, the line of his nose extends up into the left eyebrow. From there his forehead line is just a tiny bit longer than the nose and eyebrow combined. Then jump over to the other eye, which is about yey distance from the first, and then onto the ear which is always going to be farther away from the nose than you initially think, and should be no higher than the eyebrow…

TP Ho Hum

Consternation = constipation

Drawing this way can often lead to distorted-looking faces, which is why art teachers generally teach you to begin all drawings with the laying out of basic shapes. But I was just going with it. After I finished the head I would draw add a tiny little body, so that I could work in the details of their clothes and accessories. I did this all in pencil, then inked them later at restaurants or the hotel.

Here are my three favorites…

TP Scruffy


TP Plat Blonde

Legend of Billie Jean continues

TP Mellow


The sketches that came out of this experiment didn’t usually look that much like their real-life counterpart, but they had way more character than my typical gestures drawings, and they made the whole trip a lot more fun. I named them “Train People” and started giving them their own back-stories.

Like this lady, who is French and just wants to be left alone.

TP Frenchy


And this guy who means well, but always screws everything up.

TP Screw Up


You don’t even want to know what this man just got back from doing.

TP Business

Cancer Man

Because I was using this small notebook, they kind of looked like trading cards. Each day as I drew new characters it felt like I was adding to my collection. When we’d get off a train, Richard would say, “How’d you do?” And I’d be like great, “I got two more train people.”

TP studious girl

Bad news text

TP angry asian


Richard is incredibly difficult to impress, but even he liked the Train People. In fact, when were in the airport waiting to fly home, he had me make one of him. So technically, this one is an airport guy.

TP Richard

“Not For Tourists”

Yeah yeah I know it looks nothing like him.