Sunday, January 19, 2020

Quick Sketching at a Football Game

Quick Sketching at a football game...
(Capturing the swagger/body language of the big men who play the game.)

(Ticket stubs collected over the years.)

The game of football is one of my favorite activities to quick sketch.
 Whether flag, Pop Warner, high school, college or pro, the bodies in motion are a sketchers dream.

Professional football is especially challenging and rewarding. Twenty-two bodies, coaches, a chains crew, photographers, radio and television crews, reporters, referees and more in motion simultaneously.

 My eyes are on the football or anticipating where the ball might be going or who even has it...oops, the ball is fumbled and a mad unscheduled tussle for possession of it ensues...and on and on the game plays out presenting an endless array of possibilities to sketch.

What subjects do I choose to sketch in a 60 minute game?

 A few of things I think about before I put pen to paper: solid drawing, is the sketch in proportion and anatomically correct for body type; silhouette value, being mindful that the negative shapes are just as important as the positive shapes, can the sketch be easily 'read', can you tell what is going on, what action is taking place and most importantly, is capturing the body language of the athletes and participants by answering the question, what is the body communicating?

 Quickly in a few lines, my goal is to produce a sketch that is infused with an intangible element, making the sketch fun to look at... eye candy is what I call it.

Analyzing the sketch below: Proportion says "I'm a big man", Silhouette says "I'm even bigger spread out", Negative space between the legs says "I'm walking with a positive gait, long stride with elbows back meaning my chest is thrust forward and "I am definitely a force to be dealt with on the field of play"...did I capture that? be the judge:- )

 I have a chapter devoted to sketching football in my book, Quick Sketching with Ron Husband (Revised and Expanded).

The restraints of writing a book (deadlines, page count, editing etc.) caused me to condense the information and images so I'm addressing some additional things here. My blog is more personal and  I get to elaborate more:-).

The personal touch...
 If you have a personal interest in an experience, it is easier to relate yourself to it. A writer for example can 'connect' to the piano player that is being written about if the writer plays the instrument. Even more in depth can the article be if there is a personal relationship between the writer and the person being written about. Having played the game of football adds to my passion in capturing the actions and activities in pen line.  An added bonus are the inroads that others have contributed to my sketching adventures.

 One of the 'others' who have contributed to my appreciation of the game is my life long friend Wayne Nunnely. We grew up in Monrovia CA, played for the Monrovia High Wildcats on Friday nights and then, some years later, the Owls of  Citrus Junior college. We also both received scholarships to represent the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels on Saturdays.
(Wayne and me in high school)
 Wayne fulfilled his dream of becoming a football coach, retiring after some 36 years making stops at UNLV, USC, and UCLA among others along his college path and professionally in New Orleans,(Saints), San Diego (Chargers), and Denver (Broncos). It was while Wayne was in San Diego, for over a decade, that we reunited and I had opportunity to see him coach the San Diego Charger defensive linemen while I sketched from the bleachers.

 (At times my descriptions of action and players will get detailed. The reason is that some readers of this blog are international (France, Canada, Germany, Nigeria, Singapore, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Netherlands, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Switzerland, India, Australia, Egypt and more) where the terminology of American football is not well known. Even here in America up until the 1800's the words block and tackle were used to describe (farming) equipment:-)

Chronicling a day of sketching professional football...

 My game day would start with an early drive to San Diego, accompanied by wife LaVonne , a friend or my son-in-law, Johann. And then a stop at  'will call' to pick up tickets Wayne had left and a note to meet him at "gate F-1" after the game.

Observation is a must before quick sketching...

 Being an early bird gives me the time to observe the fans, stadium workers, referees, players warming up and any others pregame festivities such as...

Photographers getting ready for their best shot of the game (below)...

  ...Wayne in his coaching posture (below left) and his 'football on a stick' invention (below right) at pregame warm ups...
...Navy jets flew over Qualcomm Stadium followed by a guy entering the stadium with his own set of wings and a cameraman to record it all...
...and cheer leading gets the professional treatment.


Ready for some action...

 After the kickoff, the action centers around the quarterback. In this most coveted position, whether warming up or in action, I observed that their individual throwing motions are unique...over the top, straight on or slightly side arm.

            The running back...


 One of the great running backs in NFL and Charger history was LaDainian Tomlinson #21, I got to watch and sketch him in action many seasons...he signed (left) one of the sketches:- )

The receivers...
They catch the ball and can display the balance of a ballerino (male ballet dancer) and the tenacity of a wrestler. When the ball is thrown, if it is within reach or not, he makes a supreme effort to make the catch...

...against the opposition...

...over the shoulder...
...almost grounded...
...sometimes with the difficulty of one arm being held...

... high in the air as he can leap...


...the catch is made.

Linemen in action...
All the action of the quarterback, receivers and running backs are made possible by the linemen who do the 'heavy lifting', the blocking and tackling.

The action starts with the center (below) hiking the ball and then a flurry of activity ensues.

 Defense verses Offense - One player against another... Who is the best player this down? series of downs? And eventually who scores the most points by the end of the game.

 Catching the individual battles that take place on the field and the time spent getting up off the turf (above right and below)...





...defensive signals, verbally or by hand (below)...

...and a chest bump (above) for a good play or touchdown.

Coaches in action...
The head coach with a small army of assistants plan each play with live pieces on a 100 yard x 53 yard chess board called a field...each armed with the game plan on paper and headphones to be in contact with others of the staff located at the top of the stadium.

Coach Nunnely on the sideline talking it over with a defensive lineman.
The coach takes various positions and their body language explains the situation, whether tossing the flag in protest of a referees call (above) or the 'What's going on?!!'  pose (below).

Also entertaining is the enforcer of the rules...the Referee.

 Gathered together in discussion (below) to make sure they make or made the correct call.



The player's body language says, "What did I do ref?" (above). There are  a number of situations that could bring about this gesture but the flag gives context and reason to the pose.

 Coach asking for an explanation of the referees call.

Not only is the referee responsible to throw the flag for infractions of the rules (a player who has never broken a rule in his playing career) but is also called upon to restore order to the controlled chaos that happens each snap of the ball (below right). 

 And last but not least, The Fan, for whom the game is played.

There is as much action to sketch in the stands as there is on the field. Some prefer to watch the game nonchalantly or give a pleasant 'high five' for a positive play(above).

Others get more involved with their team, especially after a imbibing a little alcohol :-)
Body language will let you know whether their team scored, made a first down or they disagree with the referees call.      


 These acts of exuberance are temporary. A quick eye and hand is needed to catch the actions.
Look for silhouette and the extreme thrusting hand/arms in the air in triumph.

This fan (above) gives us body language, silhouette, hand gestures and direction, all we need to enjoy the game of quick sketching.

Until next time...  


  1. Amazing work Huz! Great writing as well as sketching.

  2. My daughter is an 8th grader but has a desire to become an imagineer for Disney. In research, she has considered full sail university on Florida and SCAD University in GA, are there any other institutions you would recommend for such a career?

    1. This IS my child!!! We attended SCAD last summer. She wants to be an illustrator or animator. She is in the 10th grade. I would so love to chat with you re:direction. Her grades are excellent and I think her work is too. (But I'm the mom therefore I'm partial) :)

    2. She received an scholarship because of her work.

    3. I'm writing as

    4. Cal-Arts in Valencia, CA Ringling in FL have classes that would prepare her for these careers...

  3. Good afternoon Ron just read your biography on Facebook very proud of you. My dream was to be a car designer sorry it didn't work out but the fire still burns once n awhile.

  4. Bill,
    you're never too old or never too late to pursue your dream, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step:-)

  5. Hi Ron,

    these sketches are awesome, you really captured the essence of the poses.

    best regards,

  6. Appreciate your kind words and insights to the poses...hope they continue to inspire and encourage you.