In the past, I used to strive to make every portrait look exactly like the person I was drawing. Now, I look for the essence of the person. I try to capture their mannerisms, gestures, posture, energy and personality. Demonstrating these traits is much more important than aiming for an exact likeness. What seems to happen is that by capturing those other elements, the drawing will often end up looking more like the person than if my first concern was creating that exact likeness.
At times, I draw people as part of a landscape. For example, a group of people crossing a street; teenagers hanging out on a street corner; neighbors talking in front of a store. At those times, I actually treat the people in my drawings very impressionistically. I still concentrate on the person’s posture and gesture, so even though it might look like a few smudges of color…one can still see the humanity. It may look a bit the way a group of people might appear as you drive slowly past them. The details are blurred but you certainly know what the subject is.
The angle of a shoulder, the tilt of a head, the jutting of a jaw or even how someone may shove their hands in their pockets are examples of the kinds of things I try to capture and interpret on paper.
People have expressed that with my few smudges and suggestions of people, I have captured their energy and movement. That’s quite a compliment because I’m forever striving to bring the sense of energy, movement and character to everything I draw…even inanimate things.