People at Play-an urban sketching workshop

I haven’t posted about my people sketching for a while, although I am always looking to improve my people drawing.  This is because my area of interest, reportage illustration, involves telling stories of people and places through drawing.   Last weekend I attended one of the 10×10 Manchester and Sheffield Urban sketching  ‘Reporting from your city’  workshops.  These types of workshops are  taking place all over the world to celebrate 10 years of the Urban Sketching organisation.  The session on Saturday is one of 4 that I will be attending, entitled : Great Stories.  Each one will cover a separate aspect of drawing the big picture on location. 

The session

Lynne Chapman, founder of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, led the session which took place in the grounds of Sheffield Botanical Gardens.   We were rather fortunate with the weather (it was sunny and warm for most of the afternoon).  We were even more fortunate that there was a large gathering of Steampunk Sheffield.  The outfits made our people stories even more interesting!  Lynne shared several of her many people sketching sketchbooks to illustrate how she uses a combination of watercolour paint and intense pencils.  She also demonstrated a couple of the key techniques including how she sketches people using intense pencils.

The focus of the workshop was simple and quick techniques for drawing people in their setting and we tried 3 key approaches.

1.  Using continuous loose contour to capture people in a scene

2.  Using watercolour paint to capture the key shapes/gesture together with few intense pencil lines to further describe the people in action

3 Using a more sophisticated watercolour approach (4-5 colours) plus intense pencils. This is for times when you have a little longer-5 minutes or more.  Note, you have to judge the times, people have a habit of disappearing when you thought they’d be staying put for a while (or someone stands in front of them)!

These are my attempts during the afternoon:

My key take away messages for people drawing

  • Its not about complete accuracy of line, its about quality and interest of line.
  • I need to use pencil line more effectively.  On the exercise of quick shape and few lines I found I was outlining shapes rather than adding to the description of the gesture with my pencil marks.
  • Keep colours simple both in paint and pencil (they don’t have to be accurate, think more about tonal value than colour).
  • Use glasses as a way of defining the face/head.  You may not need much in the way of additional facial features.  The angle of the glasses cleverly describes the head angle too!
  • Remember to define the creases of the clothing and leave white space in the watercolour approach.  This gives a sense of the light hitting the clothing and enables the image to breath.

I will be reporting more about my 10 x 10  workshop adventures as they happen so please watch this space over the next few weeks!  I will also be publishing a series of blogs about my development of my watercolour approaches so please watch out for those too!

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