Monday Motivator: Don’t Try to Freeze the Action

Monsieur P painting “It is tempting to ‘freeze’ a moving subject by taking photographs … This makes it easy to analyze the split-second motion recorded on film, but it tells you nothing of what came before or after or how the movement fell within a pattern.”

Mastering Sketching by Judy Martin, p100

It can feel as if you’ll never be able to sketch a figure or animal or bird because they’re moving too fast. Now you see them, now you don’t. And saying it does get easier with practice as you learn to observe more rapidly, doesn’t really help when you’re faced with the frustration of a blank page or a few sketchy lines when what you want is a perfect sketch.

Initially, try to capture one specific thing only, for instance the angle of the shoulders and arms, the position of the wings. Look hard for a bit, take a mental snapshot, then use a pen or pencil to transfer this snippet of information onto your sketchbook page. Don’t overthink it: look for a minute, draw for 30 seconds. Repeat a dozen times. Repeat again, and again with another aspect. (Be patient while you learn: remind yourself that learning to write all those years ago took time too, it didn’t happen overnight.)

I remember a wildlife photographer telling me that to get the perfect photo you had to take several and, more importantly, anticipate what an animal was likely going to do by having studied the species’ behaviour. What he presented as the one perfect shot was part of a process.

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