Friday, September 14, 2012


Today I am posting a garden of faces selected from Smith's sketchbooks:

Even with just a quick sketch, Smith captured the personalities of the middle eastern musician (above) or the American housewife (below).

Note how Smith is never lazy.  He does not draw these faces from a template that he learned in art school; he pays attention and works to understand and capture the unique qualities in each face.  Otherwise, what would be the point of sketching?


Anthony Zierhut said...

Looking at every one of these sketches I'm amazed to see the complete lack of construction lines. He knew exactly where to put the pencil to define the shape, even for drawings that presumably no one else was going to see.

Also, I get an "exploratory" feeling from his lines which pretty much underscores what you say about him not "drawing from a template he learned in art school." In the close-up view of these you can see where the pencil stopped for him to look up at the subject, then go again, then stop, look, go... Every mark feels like a new discovery. I can sense, or at least imagine, the joy he must have felt documenting what he was seeing just for the sake of doing it.

Which reminds me of something I've observed working with many different commercial artists, namely that they (we) fall into one of two categories: those who put the pencil down at the end of the day, and won't pick it up unless someone's paying, and those who just can't stop themselves from drawing all the time. I can't be judgmental about that because some of the most talented artists I've known are definitely in the first category, but Mr. Smith appears to happily be a member of the second.

And I love the way he draws ears.

David Apatoff said...

Anthony Zierhut-- Thanks for writing. I share your opinion of these. Mr. Smith is indeed happily in the second category. It seemed to me that, since the Smith family honored me by sharing his sketchbooks with me, the best public service I could perform is to put as many of these drawings out on the internet as possible. Hopefully they will help to round out the public perception of Smith's work.

António Araújo said...

He seems to be drawing in a variation of the so-called "blind drawing" method (the kind of line drawings most people now learn from Nikolaides). If so, there are little or no construction lines involved (in the "pure" method there are none; it is a "local" method, in geometric terms, but in practice, of course, one mixes methods). It is actually the most common method, in one variation or another, among (modern) compulsive sketchers, as far as I have observed (there are exceptions, though; Jim Gurney is another compulsive sketcher that was mentioned in this blog and he uses what could be called "constructive" methods, I think - meaning, starting with simple geometric shapes and honing in on the final shape)

"Blind drawing" is very good when you have to draw a non-cooperating model in a few seconds and it is impractical to take measurements. Pure blind drawing messes up proportions, though, but you can train yourself to deal with that or you can mix methods. Personally I love the look of this method - and I see it a lot as it is ubiquitous in urban sketchers gatherings - but I favor geometric methods for static models. It all depends on the situation - and the situations presented here do seem to favor this kind of method.

Smith sometimes seems to go in with a courser line at first and the correct over it with a sharper point, but both times he goes in with a long, rather brave line, and corrects with another one of the same kind.

Wonderful drawings, by the way. Thank you for this, David.

António Araújo said...

What strikes me most is not how these differ from the common drawings in the sketchbook of the compulsive draughtsman (meaning, the far above average level of Smith's draughtsmanship) but precisely how much they have in common with the contents of the common sketchbook. Meaning that most of your comments, David, would apply to so many sketchbooks of so many of what Anthony refers to as the artists of the second category. Case in point, that ubiquitous pose, that one could call "reverse 3/4", that is what you most easily get when drawing in concerts, waiting lines, buses, and so on and on, if you spend most of your life sketching.

I might add that I am always surprised that the majority of artists fall into Anthony's first category, I don't know why...

william wray said...

Any way one of Smiths sketchbooks might be for sale?. I'm totally taken with them.