I’ve been attending the original Renaissance Faire in Southern California every spring for more years than I care to admit. I’ve worked for a booth owner, worked for the Faire organization, volunteered for their 50th anniversary museum, and written and illustrated for the Faire participants’ underground magazine. But over the years I’ve mostly been a visitor, allowing myself to still feel the magic of going back in time (even though I have worked behind the scenes, where the magic is created).
Part of the enjoyment for me has been sketching at the Faire. I try to keep my supplies lightweight—there’s lots of walking on the site, and as the day progresses my bag gets heavier and heavier. A backpack is not my style, and would ruin my authentic 16th century look! So I take a sketchbook (5” x 7”) and a selection of pens in a plastic bag. Right now my favorites are black ‘micron’ pens (#s 01, 03 and 08). I also like their sepia pens, and sanguine Faber-Castell Pitt artists’ pens, #s B and F. At times I have taken a (very) few markers or Prismacolor colored pencils, which are fun for drawing the bright colors of belly dancers or gypsy costumes.
I usually draw people, since the crowds often block off booths and carts. The Faire gives us a rare opportunity to sketch people in a variety of costumes, hairdos and accessories. Decide fast when you see someone you want to draw—you can’t count on anyone being still for long! Singers, musicians and even dancers may hold positions long enough for a quick sketch. Check the audience at stage shows—even lively children will hold still when watching a juggler!
If you’re not used to sketching in public, don’t worry. I’ve found people are always nice, and they don’t stay long to watch—too many other sights to see! More importantly, don’t be critical of yourself. If a line is wrong, put in the corrected line—or not. Sketching is a fun pastime! At the same time it’s useful to improve your skills, plus you’ll probably enjoy revisiting your sketches—they’re reminders of the fun you had during your day at Faire!