Once a week after our golf game, our group eats supper at a restaurant. My companions don’t seem to mind that I sketch quick portraits of some of them on the flip side of placemats. Of course, when dining on romantic evening at a restaurant I don’t practice this activity.
Who or what to sketch
For example, you can choose to sketch tableware or the decor if that is what strikes you as interesting. If you are at your first attempt at sketching in a restaurant and are not yet too confident drawing people, then by all means look around for the still life setups. Plants, flowers or the view outside the window could be your subject matter. The important thing is that you put down some marks on paper no matter how incomplete. These quick drawings are intended as practice. Process is more important than results here.
My favorite drawing subject in restaurants is people. I am discrete in that I never draw the person sitting close by. I sketch the customers sitting farther away. Most restaurants are lit with indirect lighting. This usually illuminates the figures well. In general people at table remain relatively still or at least return to the same position over and over.
Sketching a figure in profile or in a three-quarter view is easier than drawing a frontal portrait in these situations. It is also more discrete since the person you are drawing is looking away. A customer well lit against a dim-lit background will be easier to draw because you will perceive well defined shapes. The opposite is also advantageous – a dimly lit figure in profile set against a bright backdrop will be easier to decipher because you will be drawing a flat shape.
My general strategy
Before I put pencil or pen to paper I usually observe very closely the subject I am about to draw to see what position he or she returns to over and over again. Then, without looking at my paper but rather looking very attentively at the model, I draw part of the contour of the face. I occasionally look down and restate a more correct line beside a tentative one. The portrait evolves as I randomly add such elements as ear, neck line, hair contour and clothing. If my model moves too much or leaves I start another drawing elsewhere on the paper.
Waiter or waitress reaction
Most of the time, I leave the placemat at the restaurant. I have yet to see a waiter or waitress that is displeased. Rather, these quick sketches usually initiate favorable remarks. Some servers will ask me to sign the placemat and keep it.
Raynald Murphy sca