More Midsomer sketching

Here are a few more Midsomer Murders sketches (season 22 episode 4). As ever, the rule is that I can’t pause the show.

Previously on Midsomer Sketching:

Midsomer Sketching

More Midsomer Murders sketches! These are from episodes 1, 2 and 3 of Season 22.

I’m really enjoying these speed-sketches. I started them mostly to get/keep in practice using the Procreate app (I’m sticking with a traditional media base for my art, but there’s always some digital editing). TV sketching, however, does require faster reflexes than actual cafe sketching, because while the models viewed from a cafe do walk out of view, the scene is rarely actually cut mid-stride, and there’s no fancy camera work. On a show, however, the views and clothing are more varied, and occasionally the camera angle and lighting are dramatic. Also, it’s cool to look back at a few pages from a single episode and see if there are patterns or colour themes.

(And of course it remains a useful way to draw when excursions are limited.)

The rule continues to be that I am not allowed to pause the show while sketching.

Previously on Midsomer Sketching:

TV sketching — backgrounds

Midsomer Murders — The Sting of Death

I’m practicing with the Procreate app by sketching during shows. Usually I draw people (see: Beyond the Main Event and Sketching Mysteries), but this time wanted to shake myself up and test my (very low) tolerance for drawing backgrounds by sketching sets and buildings instead. The rule for TV sketching is that I can’t pause the show, which makes this mostly painless.

Midsomer Murders — either The Point of Balance or The Miniature Murders

Also my visual memory is indifferent, so I can’t tinker with the drawing for very long after the scene changes. But sometimes it also means I only capture the telling details. Sometimes. (See also: Lots of little bad drawings.)

Midsomer Murders — The Sting of Death

As with most sketches, I find a little colour can do a lot of work — explaining, unifying, contextualising. Colour, more than line alone, is a great aid to memory — both for recalling what I was looking at, and for remembering (or wanting) to look at that particular page of sketches.

Midsomer Murders — The Sting of Death

It’s also been illuminating to work out which bits of architecture I can and can’t extrapolate. Dormers I can work out from first principles, but windows are a more chaotic proposition.

Leverage — The Underground Job (I think)

Art/writing exercise:

  • Try to capture a range of settings from a TV show without pausing the show.
    • This can be in pictures, as above, or in a few jotted sentences — the things that leap out at you, the way you’d capture and describe that place.
    • It’s an interesting little workout, and a pleasant way to keep my hands busy when I don’t want to completely zone out during a show. Also, even if it’s a show set in places I like, I still find it makes me draw (or describe) places I wouldn’t ordinarily choose, and adds them to my mental thesaurus. (So far, I find murder mysteries particularly good at rolling through a range of interesting sets in an episode.)
    • (This is kind of what Travelogues is, of course, if you replace a TV screen with a train window.)
  • Bonus step: Make a note of what was easy and what was difficult (architectural terminology trips me up), and what you enjoyed and resisted.
    • I find this part of exercises occasionally surprising, sometimes affirming (I don’t want to spend my life drawing horizontal blinds), and frequently a checklist for deliberate research.

Sketching mysteries

I’ve been sketching when I watch TV with my housemate in the evenings. Currently, that means I’m sketching Midsomer Murders. This is in the service of (a) having something to do with my hands and (b) test-driving Procreate on an iPad Pro I’ve hired for a month. (It turns out this is an option! I searched for business equipment hire places, and hired it along with an Apple Pencil — they rent Cintiqs, too, and I was planning on trialling both, but the iPad Pro is already very promising and considerably more useful than the very old one I last used.)

This is not my first time sketching Midsomer Murders, but last time I was using it as a source of passers-by in lieu of being able to watch actual people (see Beyond the main event — experiments with sketching).

This time I’m using it for speed-sketching characters (since I’m watching with someone else, I can’t keep pausing). It’s an effective way to watch a fairly familiar show. I definitely notice certain demographic idiosyncrasies more than usual, for good as well as ill — there are lots of great character actors with interesting faces in episodic murder mysteries, and they skew older so there’s more to work with in terms of visible structure.

Also, while people don’t hold their poses, they keep reappearing, so you can try the same person again from different angles.

It was also very good practice to draw people in the act of speaking, the different ways they move their mouths, and how their teeth fit into them, which comes up less in some fields of illustration than in others.

And of course the ongoing reminder that the faster the sketch, the more happy I am likely to be with it. Here are two of my favourites.

Kind-of-sort-of Ruby Wilmott (Julia McKenzie) and Jack Fothergill (Sam Kelly)

Beyond the main event — experiments with sketching

I’m testing ways to sketch in the absence of my usual opportunities to people-watch. (Of course, unusual opportunities still show up.)

2020-04-11-KJennings-sketchbook

I’ve posted about using household objects as stand-ins:Sketching the people glimpsed from the corner of your eye, and A discovery of headstrong obstinate girls.

So in an effort to find people going about their daily lives, I tried sketching people in the background of TV shows.

2020-04-11-KJennings-sketchbookMidsomer

Advantages:

  • The background business is frequently less composed and dramatised than the main action (not always).
  • Generally, the full figures are shown.
  • There’s less detail, and so there are fewer distractions from considerations of pose and movement.
  • It’s pacy, especially with rapid-fire changes of camera angle — you have to sketch or lose the moment.
  • Watching just the background actors and extras is frequently delightful, and also a great way to rewatch shows.
  • Keeps my hands busy while watching Midsomer Murders.

Disadvantages:

  • It’s still cast and staged and costumed of course. I want to try this with background views in news or tourism or documentary footage.
  • Sometimes the camera cuts away too quickly — but then, passersby are often lost to view in the ordinary course of affairs.
  • The temptation is there to freeze-frame and sketch, but that would be defeating the whole purpose. (Leading to thoughts about sketching and temporality.)

I have more experiments to try, but this one was quite enjoyable, a pleasant challenge and an excellent excuse to watching the goings-on on Midsomer.

Writing/art exercises:

  • As above — have a sketchbook (or notebook) handy and sketch (or describe) background characters while watching a show (no pausing the show). Concentrate on movement, distinguishing poses, unusual lines — it’s about noticing, and training your eye and hand to communicate people.
  • When watching (more especially when rewatching) a show, pick a background character and imagine the scene or story from their perspective (sketch or write accordingly). I watch Pride and Prejudice with my dad a lot under ordinary circumstances, and much as I love it, I find myself reframing it as a different person’s story each time.
  • When looking at pictures (Pinterest, an art book, a virtual gallery tour), allow yourself to quickly acknowledge the main action. After that, you can only look at the background. What is going on there? Textures? Sidelong glances? Centurions being thrown off cantankerous horses? Tiny gilt angels no bigger than sea-monkeys? (I tried this with a friend once in a Renaissance exhibition and ended up in a very strange conversation? conspiracy theory? with a guard about rabbits in art).