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Internal Travelogue: Imaginary People

December 19, 2015


I’m still under house arrest. Drawing every day for my character design book. I had to pass up a drawing trip with friends today! It’s kind of weird, taking a long break from drawing on the street. But I probably would be taking time off for winter anyway. It’s always a struggle finding enough interesting indoor locations to make it through the winter.

No matter! I have big plans for drawing expeditions next year. I’m just keeping that reward in my head through these long winter nights in front of the computer :)


So it seems appropriate to post a few more pages from the imagination sketchbook. Last time I showed some imaginary places. This time, some of the imaginary people.

Drawing people from imagination takes a bit of practice. For me, it’s not really imagination at all – more like drawing from memory. I’ve done a lot of drawing from live models, so the data bank is there.

Inventing (vs. looking at) faces and figures is both more formulaic and more freeing at the same time. Your imaginary people might tend to look a little doll-like. A bit caricatured, a bit abstracted. Stylized to fit some kind of memory-model you’ve installed over time. But what you set aside in realism, you gain back in creativity. When will you ever get to meet people like this for real?


I don’t know if this stuff is as interesting to you guys :)  That’s the other thing about sketching from imagination. It makes you self conscious! Drawing a real event, you have a valid story to tell. It’s not about your own head, it’s reportage: I was here, this is what I saw, this really happened. Once you’re inventing, things get a bit shaky. Sometimes you second guess the value of doing it.


But like any kind of art – it has to be something you do for yourself. Partially – I’m simply having fun in this sketchbook. Trying to draw without a filter. Letting the subconscious choose subjects. I have this feeling that I have to put recurring motifs down on paper or I’ll forget them.


When I don’t have a sketchbook handy, I just write lists of paintings I want to do someday.

Does anyone else do that I wonder? That does sound a little crazy. But it’s not like I’m sticking these lists all over the bathroom mirror. I keep them on my phone mostly.

It’s probably not necessary. There will always be ideas for paintings, and I don’t think you forget your own major motifs. But it is interesting to see what keeps on coming back year after year. Of all the things you draw, which ones have staying power in your imagination.

That’s the real value of keeping a journal. Looking back at them years later.



16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2015 10:29 AM

    Hi Marc–enjoy your drawings whether captured from life or streaming from your imagination. My take on your question: Since all drawing/painting etc is an abstraction, does it really matter whether the source is real or from our memory/imagination? Some of us are just better at one or another, and if we’re lucky able to do both excellently. And we need to keep practicing both, because our brains are the filter for both. Both sources are legitimate/real when translated by our hands to the page. Happy Holidays!

  2. December 19, 2015 12:01 PM

    These are great!

  3. December 19, 2015 12:35 PM

    I love seeing your imaginary people – not boring at all!

  4. December 19, 2015 2:32 PM

    I agree: Your drawings real or imagined always inspire me!

  5. December 19, 2015 2:44 PM

    I love all the posts you’ve done related to your concept book. It seems to me that drawing and memory/imagination is an interesting juxtaposition. Early on we’re told to shove the ‘symbols’ out of your head and draw what you see. Excellent and necessary advice. But somewhere along the line you actually have to start assembling an internal vocabulary that atuned to more complete drawing skills. Drawing from imagination regularly engages the brain to look at ‘stuff’ for purposes of remembrance along with for the immediate need to draw said stuff. Once stocked you need to exercise the brain by trying by drawing things from memory (even realistic things). I don’t do enough of it. — Larry

  6. Rene Wojcik permalink
    December 19, 2015 2:45 PM

    I admire your sketches from memory. It is not something I can do at all. Perhaps it is because I don’t have a data bank in my head to access. The creativity gene is not in my brain. I can draw and sketch but I have see the person or thing to be able to do it. Phantasmagoric figures belong to a younger generation. Back in the 1950’s, as kids, we drew concept cars, airplanes, rockets and things like that. Nothing like what is presented in today’s video games or science fiction movies. Your experience in illustration gives you a leg-up on me and others. Your minds eye is very acute and your hard work has paid off.

  7. December 19, 2015 3:44 PM

    Hello, Marc, I am so in love with your work! I’ve enjoyed your book, also enjoy sketching in public. I was a bronze sculptor for many years, was a fairly successful career. Making the transition with one’s own work to imaginary is certainly a leap of faith, isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem likely it would be a piece of cake, as you once had a career creating imaginary beings? But when it comes to not having the back up authenticity of, like you said, the valid story of a street scene, or in the case of your prior career, it was your job, one becomes vulnerable to criticism. I’ve taken to enjoying a technique of spilled pigment on wet watercolor paper, and when dry, elaborating the mystical (imaginary) beings with colored pencil and paintbrush when it’s dry. I do it specifically for myself. It’s wonderful! But more and more, I’ve had folks ask me for prints lately. Validation. It’s proving to me that going with inspiration finds it’s own audience.

    • December 19, 2015 3:52 PM

      Those are really interesting- the abstracts you turn into characters and such. Like looking at clouds :) It would be revealing to see if different people find different things in it, or if it’s more like the random forms reveal themselves. Have you ever run a workshop doing it with other people?

      And yes it’s true! when creativity is your job, you’re a bit immune to criticism. When it’s on professional level, it doesn’t matter *that* much what people think about it – it’s just a product we’re designing :) But it gets instantly tricky-er as soon as it’s your own work!

      • December 20, 2015 12:01 AM

        Thanks, Marc, I have taught a few folks, one on one, but have often thought of having a workshop. After all, it doesn’t really take skill or talent to do this, and the results the following morning are often spectacular. Especially with randomly placed salt or cling wrap. I find the finished product a great meditation facilitator, for that very reason you mentioned…like staring into the clouds! Keep up the great work!

  8. December 19, 2015 4:01 PM

    Just saw Grayson Perry’s exhibition in Sydney which included his sketch books. He commented that all those images were ideas that he didn’t want to waste. So keeping and digging into those books was his source for future work. A visual list. Great idea for writing down a list of what paintings you want to draw in future.

    • December 19, 2015 11:56 PM

      I don’t know Perry – but I’ll look him up! I always remember seeing an encyclopedic exhibition of Ferdinand Hodler, and was interested to see that he moved though every major art philosophy from a kind of patriotic genre art to realism, symbolism, art nouveau and finally expressionist painting – by the end of his life he was exclusively painting from his own paintings. Using past work as models for new paintings. So yes! It’s a thing. Stocking up ideas to mine later.

  9. December 19, 2015 5:22 PM

    Hello Marc,
    I try to internalize my list. Unfortunately some items can stay there months or even years, showing off my dark procrastinator side.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. December 19, 2015 6:25 PM

    I make lists on my phone of ideas for sketches/paintings too :) A lot of it is to count as homework exercises from your Craftsy classes!

  11. Kaushik Chakraborty permalink
    December 19, 2015 11:08 PM

    Thank you Marc for sharing this post. I am following your blog for quite some time but never wrote before. What important I find here is you inspire yourself (what’s great ! all of us do that) and you inspire others (that is the great thing). You provide plenty of information here, share your experiences in your insightful writings. Your overall approach is very much positive and helpful for the community . All the best wishes.

  12. January 7, 2016 8:43 AM

    Wonderfully creative people you have captured and shared. They make me think of a circus full of tattooed and scarified people who have found each other and now have a home together! Beautiful work.

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