I spent last weekend at Oz Comic-Con. After a panel with the very excellent author Trent Jamieson (on “Pinning Magic to the Page” with Trent Jamieson, hosted by Angela who did a fabulous job interviewing us both), I spent most of the weekend at a table selling books and stickers and some little original pen and ink drawings. It was a really lovely, convivial weekend.
And of course, my table was prime real estate for being able to sketch passers-by (the only drawback was that the table blocked my view of feet when people were close by). It was further enhanced by being next to Thor of Oz, with whom people kept stopping to pose for pictures.
So here are my sketches of various cosplayers from Oz Comic-Con Homegrown Brisbane 2022, beginning with a close-up of the only sketch for which I interrupted a conversation: Kermit holding Mjolnir.
If you’re in these pictures and would like to repost the picture of you online for personal use, you’re very welcome to — just please credit it to me (Kathleen Jennings — I’m @tanaudel on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, tanaudel.wordpress.com or kathleenjennings.com otherwise). But if you’d like to buy me a virtual coffee (see below), that is very welcome, too!
If you’d like to follow me / support artists (me) / buy things with (my) art on them here are some options!
Here are all the pages from my sketchbook from last night at the wild, impressive, ribald and hilarious cabaret/performance Boy&Girl (from Oscar Production Company) at the Brisbane Powerhouse (it’s still on for two more nights).
The joy of this sort of sketching is in capturing the movements.
The physical personalities of the people on stage.
(And it was delightful meeting more of the cast afterwards, and watching them pick out people — even the ones without the super-obvious costumes.)
Lighting is tricky in this medium, at this speed, in a show with LED and fire components.
But occasionally — as with the audience members at the table below, and the crew on the first page, I can capture a hint of what the light was doing.
Boots and heels!
Lyrical dance and sequins and shadows and fire!
As posted yesterday, here is my little setup in the balcony — the crew let me borrow a stand and light, which was great. If I get to sneak in to sketch a show like this again, I’m going to experiment with some sort of low-powered booklight.
This evening I went to Boy&Girl (from Oscar Production Company) at the Brisbane Powerhouse — I’d been on Saturday to watch it with friends, but they (specifically Em and Bryce) let me back this evening to sketch from the balcony!
I’ll post more pictures later, but there are only two more nights of shows. so if you’re in Brisbane and want some ribald, lyrical, raunchy, acrobatic cabaret-style fun (and it certainly is having enormous fun, as well as being very skilful), head to the Powerhouse website to book.
I was working mostly in the dark, so had to limit my colour choices severely to be able to find anything. Usually, as posted about previously, I’d default to blue and gold. But given the colour and spangles (and fire, etc) of the show, I added in hot pink and a lighter pink, which actually gave a reasonable range.
More pictures soon. In the meantime, here is my setup in the balcony, on one of the lit music stands being used by the crew.
Support directly. E.g. ReLove is one of my favourite cafes, where I edited a lot of Flyaway (it’s in the acknowledgements) and where I get a lot of my odder art reference materials. I’ve been washing vintage plates and running bags of microfibre towels through the dryer. They have a GoFundMe to replace destroyed equipment (or their PayPal address is firstname.lastname@example.org).
Just before Christmas, Avid Reader had a 36 hour trading session, with cocktails and early morning yoga and scavenger hunts.
I was there for the 8-9pm author signing. It was lovely and convivial. As well as signing we all got to stand up and recommend a few books by other people, which was delightful and interesting (and expensive).
I also planned to sketch, so it worked out well that I was sitting near Trent Dalton, whose queue of lovely readers made for some very good people-watching.
Then just relaxing on the back deck late on a balmy summer evening, while music played and people bought books and read quietly.
A month after the residency at Concordia, I went back for their 75th anniversary. Here’s a sketch of a portion of the choir. I wish I’d had more time to draw them — it was delightful — the hairstyles, the hats, the attitudes, the varying degrees to which uniforms had been bought to be grown into.
It’s good practice, of course — it increases speed and as well as observing motion and proportions you need to watch how these interact, and how people interact in groups. How they respond and evade, how they make different movements to reflect the same emotion or to distinguish themselves from the people nearest, or how they choose to ally themselves with another. Who is distracted, who is peering over shoulders.
I think the picture below was of a game of Werewolf at the end of IMC 2017. This is also when I started trying to draw groups more often, thanks to Irene Gallo’s advice.
(This is also why I like to sit close enough to see the orchestra at classical music performances — all the little dramas and differences among people who are allegedly working on the same task.)
And then there is the study of ways to unite people into a coherent group — overlapping them, demonstrating attention, using colour and shadow to create larger overarching shapes, ie. the blue shadow above, and the green cameo-backgrounds below (vs the independent shape of the roving photographer). These sketches were from Library Next at the State Library of Queensland.
Sometimes they are joined by light or props or patterns (of light, of poses, of uniform).
All the little problems of perspective and distance this creates are charming, too — dancing is particularly enjoyable to sketch because while no-one holds still, they often repeat key movements so you get a chance to confirm your impressions.
And then there is all the variance and variegation of a group of people even engaged on the same very pointed activity. I’ve mentioned before, in relation to many of these same images, that sketching makes me like individual people more. However it also makes groups (as entities) more interesting.
I love this crowd around the Rosetta stone, with all their various easy-to-judge behaviours (I didn’t feel so benevolent when I sat down to draw them).
A generic specificity of the description, describing a group by the sub-groups (rather than individuals) within it.
The contrast/linking effect of only describing one element of each group’s appearance.
The pleasing way hats/aprons etc falls into the repetition of cuffs/cuffs/cufflinks.
And here’s a great episode of Every Frame a Painting which touches on (among other things) the movement in Akira Kurosawa’s crowd scenes (and also the effect of emotion in a crowd scene):
Find a clip of a crowd scene (not CGI) — movies, documentaries, train station cameras, news footage (movies obviously are usually more choreographed). Search “good crowd scenes” or perhaps “[your large railway station of choice] at rush hour”, etc. (Or find a real-life crowd, if that’s a reasonable option where you are.)
Do a quick sketch of the people in the scene. This is fastest and least rigorous if you don’t actually stop the video (you could try playing it at a slower speed rather than stopping it). I recommend this step even if you aren’t an illustrator, because it’s a good way to make sure you look closely at what’s going on.
Write a paragraph novelising the scene. Try to get across the effect of that particular crowd scene. Can you keep a similar pace/mood to the original video? I recommend this step even if you aren’t trying to be a writer — some things (e.g. movement and noise) can be more obvious when writing.
My week as artist in residence at Concordia Lutheran College was wonderful (lively, inventive, intense), but without much time for drawing. So, since I finished just before lunch on the Friday, I sat out in the quadrangle and did some very quick sketches.
The uniforms have changed since I was there (ours were brown, white and yellow). (Also I hardly ever sat in the quadrangle when I was there — I mostly spent lunch hours in the library).
I don’t draw groups as often as I’d like to, but it’s always worthwhile — the different attitudes and interaction, the necessary speed.
The flocking which happens in any group of people with overlapping interests, but concentrated, like birds wheeling on the sound of a bell.
I’ve been scanning in some sketchbooks and found this page. I was in a queue by an upstairs window, so I passed the time drawing people passing along the street outside, below, in the morning sun.
I often need to remind myself not to draw (or write) the obvious, eye-level view of things. When I actually do this, new details (the location of parts in hair or the structural role of boat-neck tops) abruptly become important. Sometimes the part of the sketch doing the heavy lifting (explaining where things are in space, hinting at movement, orienting the viewer) shifts from the figure to the shadow.
Some previous thoughts on viewpoints (and points of view):
Viewpoints — Tirra-Lirra, Cinderella, camera levels, descriptions and drawings
Last week I snuck out to visit GOMA with Shayna, and see the exhibition of European Masterpieces from the Met. They’re renovating, we’re briefly not in lockdown…
I don’t sketch much when I’m visiting galleries with friends — there are important conversations to have, the backgrounds of Renaissance paintings to examine, people with cameras to dodge.
But I did get to do some of my favourite gallery sketching, which is sketching OTHER people sketching.
But I did get in a sketch of one of my favourites — which is MUCH larger than I imagined. I like it because it is so direct and frank, odd in its blank expanses and then unexpectedly detailed, not unlovely but far more concerned with what the sitter is doing. And if you look at it too long, it feels exactly like when a friend is drawing you and staring very hard at you but never quite meeting your eyes because they’re fixated on the shadows of your nose.
Here is the portrait — you can find out more about it on the Met’s page.