Guerilla Sketching – Portraits – Art Exercise

art exerciseGiving yourself pre-defined limitations is often the fastest way to improve your art skills. It gets you to think outside the box and improvise. You don’t grow your leg muscles by sitting on the sofa and you don’t grow your art muscles by doing the same kind of art day in and day out.

Recognizing this, I’ve decided to make a big portion of these posts into a collection of art exercises for folks to try out as just one more way to improve. Tutorials are great, but exercises force us to put what we learn in those tutorials into practice.

What You Need

Really, you could use whatever medium you like for this exercise, but the idea here is stealth, so you’ll often find that smaller is better. A pocket sized sketchbook and a simple pen or pencil is my usual set of tools when doing this particular exercise. Aside from your tools, you will need a place to work that has lots of people. Diners, malls, and festivals are favorites of mine.

How It Works

The idea here is quite simple. Try drawing someone’s portrait without them noticing you. If they see you working on their likeness, then you ‘lose’ the exercise.

How This Helps You

This exercise helps you improve in a few directions:

  1. It helps to make you social. Many artists are loners by their nature. We’re observers of our society. I know that I often find myself hidden away somewhere for a few moments of peace and quiet. If left to my own devices, I might do this a bit too often. This exercise helps to prevent that. In the event that you ‘lose’ with one person, you will often find yourself talking to that person about your work. You might even make a new friend. Which leads us to…
  2. It helps you to market your artwork. I’ve known a number of different types of artists over the years and not many of them have been good at marketing their artwork. Artists want to focus on making art. That much is understandable. But making connections with other people is often when gets the art sold. Selling the artwork allows the artist to keep making art. The cycle breaks if any of these components are missing, and this exercise is on great way to make those connections that often help sell artwork – even if indirectly.
  3. It helps you to prioritize. We often get caught up when we’re working on an image. It’s easy to get overly focussed on the curve of this person’s chin, or the general shape of that person’s hair. Drawing in this ‘guerilla’ fashion makes you get down the necessities fast. Gesture lines are all the more critical to capture someone’s expression.