Archive for the ‘Gesture’ Category


NYC circa 1999

July 8, 2013

As promised, here are some cringe-worthy sketches from my Fall of 1999 sketchbook. These are all from the first time I ever visited New York City. I was 22 years old, an art student at ASU, and had been carrying a sketchbook for less than a year. I was traveling with my friends Satin and Kevin. We only had 24 hours in the city and were determined to cram every single NYC experience into that time.

Now it’s time to play… “What the heck is that???”

Ah, the perfunctory interior airplane sketch. The first of many that I would do over the years. I still have a hell of a time getting those seats right. I see that I’ve made sure to note that “Cookies Fortune” was the inflight movie. Obviously I felt that was an important detail and feared that the image I drew on the video screen would not make this clear.


Next up we’ve got another scene from inside the plane. What, this doesn’t look like the inside of an airplane to you? Please note the carefully rendered tray tables on the right. That heap of scribbles in the middle is my college pal Satin sleeping under a blanket. And to help capture the essence of the moment, I’ve skillfully added some “ZZZ” above what is quite clearly the top of her head peeking out of the blanket. IMG_0315

Okay now it is approximately 11:50 PM on Friday night. We have arrived in New York and are at the rental car place where we’ve just learned that we are 3 years shy of being able to legally rent a car. Which means that we have no way of getting to the hotel we had reserved in New Jersey.

That big scribble on the left is Satin. I was a big fan of the cross-out method in the early days. My pre-2K sketchbooks are full of X-heads. In the middle is Kevin at the counter talking to the Hertz employee. And over on the right side of the page we’ve got Satin using an ancient relic we called a “phone booth”.


Eventually we got a cab and wound up at a no-tell motel in Queens somewhere around 2 AM. We had to BEG the manager to let us rent a room for the entire night because this was normally a rent by the hour type of establishment. We crashed out for a few hours, then took another cab to Manhattan. When the driver asked us where, specifically, in Manhattan we wanted to go we just shrugged and said, “wherever.”

So he dropped us at the Empire State Building. We went to the top and I sketched pigeons while Kevin took pics with his new camera and chatted up the ladies.



Then we went to Central Park where we said, “I can’t believe we’re in New York” over and over again. As you can see, the sketch below is something of a montage of the Central Park experience. We’ve got Kev using one of those new-fangled cell phones at the top, a homeless person on a bench in the middle, and some light reflecting on the pond in the lower left there.

Actually, that was the first time I had ever (somewhat) successfully rendered the surface of water. Also, according to my notes at the bottom, the quote of the day was when Satin pondered, “I wonder if there is such a thing as a genius duck.”


Here is another scene from Central Park. A mom and some kids yelling at the (possibly) genius ducks. Across the pond we’ve got some painstakingly rendered foliage.

From there we ventured into the subway. Here is Satin on the subway platform singing “On broadway!” It’s hard to tell from my sketch whether she is crouching, or sitting, or if her legs are just broken.

Next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was way too busy talking Satin and Kev’s heads off about 19th century European paintings to do any sketching.

(Side note: that crash course in art history later proved useful when Kevin used his new found knowledge to impress a woman he met on the plane ride home. You’re welcome Kev.)

After the Met closed we found this cool-looking restaurant called “Jekyll and Hyde.” We decided to go because we like monsters. And also because we were starving and exhausted. I did this sketch of the building as we waited in line to get in. What? This doesn’t look like a building to you? Come on people, use your imagination.


Here’s my attempt at sketching the interior of the restaurant. It had this awesome haunted house theme and I really wanted to capture all the cool details. I may have overdone it just a tad. When I showed this sketch to Richard the other day he said, “Oh my god.” As in “oh my god, my eyes, they’ve been over-loaded, they cannot take in all this information at once, remove this from my view.”


Here is another attempt. This place was so neat I really wanted to remember it. And I totally do. That’s one of the reasons sketching is better than photos. It really forces you to take time to look at things and notice details. So even though I was unable to convey the awesomeness of this place through my sketch, the act of sketching it imprinted those details into my memory. And when I look at this scribbly mess I can remember everything.


Check out these pics on the restaurant’s website to see what it’s really like.

After dinner we hung out at a bar in Times Square for a while, then headed downtown. We had a bit of a snafu with the subway, hence Satin’s confusion re: the E train.


Somehow we managed to get down to Battery Park and then took a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry, where I did this final sketch. Hey check out the reflection on the water. Look familiar? I learned how to do that at Central Park.


When the ferry landed in Staten Island we got off, then turned around and got right back on. The three of us stood at the front of the boat as it skimmed across the water toward Manhattan. I can still remember the cold October air on our faces, the city lights twinkling as we approached, and Satin calling out “I’m flying Jack, I’m flying” as our amazing 24-hour adventure came to a close.

Epilogue: A few months later Kevin’s nifty new camera–which contained ALL the pictures from our trip–was stolen. Which leads me to reason #2 of why sketches are better than pictures. Without my sketchbook, there would be no evidence of the trip at all. Without my sketchbook I would have completely forgotten about the eyes that moved behind the portrait at Jekyll and Hyde’s, and the reflections on the pond at Central Park, and the E train, and the pigeons and the genius duck. All the details of one of the greatest days of my life would have eventually disappeared, and I would have never EVER remembered that Cookies Fortune was the movie on the plane. And that would have been a damn shame.


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.


Pub Sketchin’

April 9, 2013

I’m not a big fan of bars – the noise, the crowds, the socializing – that’s not for me. Unless I can sketch people without being noticed, in which case, don’t worry about me, I’m fine, go about your business. Every once in a while the stars will align and I will be at a bar where they have those little cardboard coaster things, and one side will be blank.

Those things are perfect for sketching – small enough to draw on without anyone noticing, but big enough that one mistake won’t totally ruin it (as is generally the case with the back side of a business card). And if they are a square that makes you think a little differently when making a composition, because most  sketchbooks and drawing papers are rectangle shaped.


The best part is that because they are this little throwaway thing, you have this freedom to just draw and not worry about trying to make it good. With a sketchbook I sometimes get intimidated by that perfect blank page – a whole world of amazing possibilities that I am about to destroy when I make my first mark. But here it’s just the coaster and a ballpoint pen. There’s no sweating the small stuff. Or the big stuff. Or any of the stuff. Just start drawing and see what appears. I don’t know why, but it’s so much more fun.

Maybe if those coasters were available everywhere they would lose their magic. But since they’re so rare, they’re like this awesome gift. Next time you’re at the bar and you see one of these coasters, don’t waste the opportunity. Draw on it. Or save it for me.


Old man sketches Talking Heads (not the band)

March 24, 2013

Here is a link to a short article  from the NPR website about an old man that watches C-SPAN and sketches the talking heads. I think the drawings are great. I often (attempt to) sketch faces while I watch TV as well, but they usually turn out pretty lousy because it’s so rare that the camera is on the same shot for more than a couple seconds at a time. That’s why this guy watches C-SPAN, not because he’s into politics, but because it’s the only place where you can see a talking head long enough to sketch it out. Now that’s one smart old man!


You can see more drawings on the man’s website. According to the article, he’s had no formal art training. Pretty dang impressive.

There is a more extensive article about him here.



January 28, 2013

With that Lincoln movie up for an Oscar this year, it got me thinking about all the sketches I’ve done of Lincoln over the years. He was kind of an odd looking guy with that long gaunt face and weird beard, which makes him very fun to draw.  Lucky for me, there seems to be more statues of him around than anyone else in history. So whenever I come across one, I sketch it.

bust of lincoln

Disneyland art gallery, 2011

Rushmore 2

Mount Rushmore, 2003



Abe Mem 1

Lincoln Memorial, 2009


Abe Mem 2

Lincoln Memorial, 2nd attempt, 2009

Mount Rushmore, 2012

abe statue

A park in Portland, 2004

Great Moments with Abe

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Disneyland, 2012 (I did this one in the dark)



January 16, 2013

From an old sketchbook, circa 2003-04. A bunch of people sitting at tables…

Wonder what became of these two.
couple flirting at bar

man at table gesture

A cougar looking to pounce
cougar on the prowl

A serious artist. A sad artist.
moustache man drawing

Kickin’ it at Macayos
girls at macayos

Day dreamer
boy writing and looking up

Sad, sleepy, or drunk?sleeping at table


A friend, a brother, some strangers, and a duck.

January 11, 2013

These sketches don’t share any sort of theme or anything. Just some random stuff from the past month or so…

Here is my friend Jess at her baby shower (obviously). Since I am neither a mother, nor motherly, I made sure to bring my sketchbook so that I would have something to do while all the other women were talking about boppies and rompers and whatever the hell baby parents are into these days.  Of course I totally forgot that a sketchbook is basically a kid magnet. Shortly after beginning this sketch I looked up to find a whole crowd of little girls sitting around watching me. The most common question they asked: “Are you drawing?”
jess shower

Here we have Richard in a waiting room. If you want to know why he is nervous, the answer is that he is always nervous. I like this drawing because I actually managed to pull off that whole across the page thing. Richard likes it because I gave him cool hair.
nervous richard

Here we have Scrooge McDuck. I copied this from the cover of an old comic book I found. Kind of a nostalgic thing for me. I first learned to draw by copying Disney characters out of comic books.

scrooge mcduck

Next up is a guy from a play reading that I went to a couple weeks ago. With this guy I was trying to focus on the wrinkles in his clothing, and in doing so I forgot to pay attention to the angles on his glasses. I see now that I’ve drawn them askew.
Sp55 reading man

Here is another gal from that same reading.

Sp55 reading scarf woman

This woman was also from that reading. When I did this one I was trying to capture her posture in the chair, and also her Chuck Taylors. I kinda blew the proportions. Her head is too big.

Sp55 reading woman

Here is a quick gesture of a couple eating together at a restaurant in Sedona. I thought it was kind of weird how close they were sitting together. They must have been a newly in love couple.

couple eating gesture

This is what my little brother Tanner would look like if he had an enormous chin. I don’t know what’s up with the chin. I think I was sitting at a weird angle or something. Yeah that’s it. The angle. Nothing to do with my lack of ability. Anyway, I remember a long time ago, like 10+ years ago, I was doing a sketch of my family one night when we were out to dinner, and I ran out of room before I got a chance to draw Tanner. So basically I had drawn a family portrait sans Tanner. When he looked at it and saw that he’d been excluded it made him cry (he was like 7 at the time). I felt horrible. So now I try to draw that kid whenever I get a chance.  (You’d think by now I’d get his chin right.)

tanner profile


Cups and Caps

July 2, 2012

This is a quick sketch that I did at a bar recently. To the naked eye this is pretty insignificant, but to me this represents a lifetime of sketching practice. Why? Two reasons:

1) One of the hardest things to draw is a person in a damn baseball cap. There is something about the bill of the hat, the way it covers part of the face and has that curve, it almost always comes out looking all distorted and weird.

2) Catching this guy mid-drink, figuring out how to show the nose and the mouth through the glass…well, it was harder than it looks.



June 3, 2012

Of all the people in the world, my very very favorite person to draw happens to be my husband Richard. I suppose you’d expect everyone to say that about their spouse, because they love them oh-so-much, but in my case it is just a coincidence. Don’t get me wrong, I do love him oh-so-much, but if I was married to someone else I think Richard would still be my favorite person to draw.

Aside from the fact that he is a very handsome guy (I mean seriously, just look at him) he also has this face that is really fun to draw…

His eyes and his eyebrows are pretty expressive and he’s got this awesome nose that is kinda big and rounded, and which I usually get wrong (see below).

Also, he wears a goatee, which makes him easier draw.

When it comes to faces, I say the more features the better. Beards, wrinkles, glasses, scars…all of that stuff helps map out the face. It’s a lot easier to judge the distance from this to that when you’ve got a lot of anchor points.

Another thing that’s cool is that as long as we’re together, I never get bored. If we run out of stuff to talk about, I just draw him. Which often happens at restaurants when we’re waiting to order.

Luckily his favorite hobby is “thinking”. So he thinks and I draw, and he usually comes out looking pretty thoughtful…

Richard is really good at sitting still, and he doesn’t seem to mind me following him around the house…

This one (below) I did at the bar at the Biltmore while I was very intoxicated. Not bad huh? Check out that hair. I usually have a tough time with hair, but that is some damn good sketchy hair right there.

I did this one when we went to see that movie The Artist and we were in the theater waiting for the movie to start. He looks really bored in this picture, which incidentally was something of a premonition because he thought the movie was really boring. (For the record, I loved it.)

Here he is at the zoo looking at monkeys. Even at the zoo I am more interested in drawing him than the animals.

Sometimes Richard sings in the car…

And sometimes he sleeps…

Sometimes he looks off into space…

But mostly he just looks cool…


Now in Technicolor!

May 24, 2012

My tentative journey into the world of color continues…

I recently had the pleasure of working with Corel Painter and I never want to go back. Here are a couple of sketches that I scanned and painted using Corel. I tried to give myself a 10 minute time limit in an attempt to create some sort of fresh, dashed off look, but then I got into what I was doing and lost track of time. Each of these probably took about 30 minutes to paint. Having the option to erase mistakes and undo regrets is at once the benefit and the curse of digital painting.

The above drawing is of my husband and my brother at Disneyland. I talked a lot about this and other drawings from that trip in a previous post. In this drawing I committed the sin of mixing moments, resulting in a very unenthusiastic looking Richard and Tanner among a crowd of happy theme park goers. The truth is I actually did the drawing of R&T after a long first day as they were sitting on a bench outside the park waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel. The crowd of people in the middle ground was added here and there as we waited in various lines the next day.

This fountain was in the courtyard of the Sheraton Anaheim where we stayed during our trip. I must have drawn this in the morning on the day that we checked out, as I can’t imagine I would have been willing to sacrifice much Disneyland time on a drawing back at the hotel. I do remember being quite happy with it when I was done, and it was nice to rediscover it again and freshen it up with some fake paint.