Preparing for #USkManchester2016: People Practice

In my last blog: A change is as good as a rest, I mentioned that I would be posting something of my actual sketching practice in the lead up to the Urban sketching symposium in Manchester at the end of the month.  This is the first of a couple of posts I hope to do and reflects some of my people drawing sketching practice.  In preparation, I have been looking at several books, blogs, Craftsy and other on line video courses so particular thanks to  James Richards, Suhita Shirodkar, Marc Taro Holmes, Melanie Reim, Lynnne Chapman and Gabi Campanario for their inspiration and direction.  I’ve also been doing some sketching!  All I can say is, its work in progress for me!!



IMG_3664As a way of focusing my thoughts, I have tried to identify from all the useful information, my top 10 tips that I will try to remember and apply during my correspondent role during the symposium (even if I consider a few of them, I will be happy!).  So, in no particular order:

  • Keep it loose, especially for people in motion and don’t close line, ensure shapes are of human proportions.
  • Pay attention to body language: the eyes and mouth show emotion so try to capture that, the body posture (line of action) is critical, Emphasise by exaggerating gesture, vary line weight for greater expressiveness with softer line conveying calmness and harder line conveying energy.
  • Use curved rather than straight lines and keep them fluid.  Short straight lines will stiffen up a figured make them less life-like and try to make sure that you keep your pencil moving, using your whole arm rather than just the wrist.
  • Think not only about the gesture of the person but the connection between the person and something else, it could be another person or another element of the scene e.g. stretching across a market stall for some fruit or vegetables.  This makes the scene more interesting and somehow draws the viewer into the story.
  • Note that people standing in the same plane all have their heads placed at about the same height on the page, regardless of distance.
  • Drawing the context of what is happening around the people is important to set the scene and tell the story and there are two ways of doing it, by drawing the people then adding the background in the space left between them or by drawing the scene and placing the people (or a variation).  I have tried both but find it depends upon the scene and importance of the surroundings to the sketch as to which I do first. Sometimes I go back and forth between the two depending upon what the surroundings are.   Remember that you are only adding enough detail to give the context, not everything!
  • When drawing crowds, go from detail, capturing aspects of the persons hair, face, clothing etc(closest to you) to suggestion, just an outline, limited textural detail (further away).
  • Working quickly is essential when capturing people doing tasks so it is important to have an organised (and not overly elaborate!!) kit.  This is really where I need to sort myself out as I am currently taking too much with me and this just gets in the way of quick capture!
  • Use a variety of pens/pencils for mark-making depending upon the circumstance.  When using pen, vary the line weight (The Sailor pen creates fine lines and much thicker lines depending upon the way you hold the pen), don’t forget the darks to provide depth and clarity (I use a brush pen for this).  Pencil is great for quick capture as its glides over the paper very easily (but never use a rubber!).  I also find the Koh-i-nor pencil holder with multicoloured leads very nice because of its ability to glide over the paper and the looseness that can be achieved with it.
  • Introduce colour in a variety of ways but always ways that can be achieved in the time frame of the sketch ! (I have an issue with leaving the addition of colour until later and there will be no time for this sort of approach during the symposium!)   I’m sticking to watercolour pencil and watercolour paint for this.  Sometimes combined and sometimes using watercolour paint first then adding detail and definition with pencils (if the paper is still wet) or lamy fountain pen.  Alternatively I will use fountain pen first  and then add watercolour at the end.  Sometimes adding colour just to the background, sometimes the people and sometimes in combination but never in entirety, white paper is needed for highlights and to let the whole drawing breath!





Most of the drawings here were done in the last few days but some were done last month.  Watch this space for further blogs in the run up to the symposium!



3 thoughts on “Preparing for #USkManchester2016: People Practice

  1. A great summary. Thanks for helping me focus, especially regarding colour. . My thoughts are in the same space at the moment, sketching at 20 events all next week, before flying out the next Saturday for Manchester. I think If I have colour it will by sketched in colour (at a children storytelling event). You Manchester sketches are going to be great !

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