Recommended Drawing Exercises
SKETCHING PEOPLE IN PUBLIC
WHAT IS IT?
Sketching People in Public is the act of trying to capture a person, by quickly sketching them. This can be done either while people are walking around, allowing you to focus on their motion, or while they’re sitting around, allowing you to try and capture their essence.
WHY DO IT?
It’s an incredibly freeing exercise, if you can get over the fact you won’t be producing works of art. Sketching People in Public, will, over time
- improve your hand-eye coordination
- improve your ability to see the world as shapes
- improve your ability to feel the gesture in things
This exercise will really loosen you up, allowing for more expressive and confident lines. It’s also kind of cool realising how different everyone is too. Even people standing around will stand totally different to the next person. You don’t really notice these sort of things until you start studying people this intently; I find this side of the exercise fascinating.
HOW TO DO IT?
I’ve not yet had the courage to sit in a cafe and sketch people, I’m a bit too self conscious for that at the moment. I therefore focus on trying to capture people in motion. Meaning, sketches are only about five to twenty seconds long. Yes, you’re going to need a lot of sketchbooks for this exercise :) There is very little time for detail, it’s all about asking yourself, what is the most important feature of this person, and than trying to capture it before they’re gone.
If you were to sit in a cafe and sketch people, I would imagine you’d have a bit more time to start adding tone and detail, but either way, you have no idea when the person you’re drawing is going to vanish out of sight. So both ways are challenging, as you’re limited for time.
You only need a sketchbook and pencil, nothing fancy. I believe it’s important to find a place where you feel comfortable, you need a good view of people but you don’t want to feel exposed. That’s key! Sometimes I sit in the wrong place and I just can’t relax, it shows in my sketches too. I find it best to sketch people walking away from me, this way they are less likely to see me sketching them.
Here’s a little extra Sophie Tip. Try to position yourself so you can see cash machines. People have to stop to use them, so you will have about twenty seconds of them standing still; perfect time to sketch them :)
The images below show some of my people sketches.
IS IT FUN?
Very much so. Firstly, it’s fascinating just watching how people move, you learn so much, but it is so rewarding when you manage to capture a persons essence. My hit ratio is very small, I would say one in ten at best. The thing is, it doesn’t matter, they’re over so quickly that you just keep turning pages, becoming lost in the moment.
You start to notice how people are all so different, and you start wondering what they’re thinking too, or where they’re going. You see someone walking along with a big box under their arm, what’s in the box? You start making up stories lol Sometimes someone will walk by and you think to yourself, ‘Oh man I’ve got to sketch you.’ The worst is when this happens but as soon as you put your pencil on the paper, they round a corner and go out of view :(
It’s nice to just be outside with nature too. Watching birds flying around, clouds moving, bees going from flower to flower as if on auto pilot. All this stuff is going on in the world around us all the time, but we’re moving so fast in our lives we become oblivious to it. This exercise connects you to the world in a way I’ve not felt before.
DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO IT?
I thought the same thing. In 2014 my Art Teacher recommended I try people sketching as a way of loosening up. I had never thought of doing this, and honestly, I didn’t really think I would be brave enough to do it. I wanted to at least try, so I found a bench in town, crept over, sat down, stuck some music on and guess what? I wasn’t scared like I thought I would be. In fact … I was actually really content, and before I knew it, hours had past.
It’s funny though, when people notice you drawing them, you feel like you’ve just been busted doing a robbery or something lol People Sketching is such a fun drawing exercise.
“Use a soft pencil lead, such as a 2B or 4B. This will allow for freer, faster lines. You will also have the added ability of being able to produce darker darks, to create contrast more quickly. A great way to add emphasis when people sketching.“
– Sophie’s Top Tip
Below is another Post I did before this one :)
This past week I’ve started studying from the book “Figure Drawing – Design and Invention by Michael Hampton”. It’s like going right back to square one, a.k.a, I’ve spent the week feeling like I can’t draw, doing a load of sucky drawings lol It’s all good fun though!
At the start of the month my Art Teacher recommended I try people sketching in town as a way of loosening up. I had never thought of doing this, and honestly, I didn’t really think I was brave enough to do it. I decided I would at least go into town with my sketchbook and pencils (I’ve found 2B or 4B to be the best for these fast sketches) and see what happened, and after a bit of walking around, I had my sights set on a bench located out of the way and right in front of a load of bushes.
I crept over and sat down, it was a nice sunny day and I decided to put my headphones on and listen to some trance music. I wasn’t scared like I thought I would be, in fact … I was actually really content, and before I knew it hours had past! I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right, and I know my sketches are not the prettiest things, but I’m having so much fun sketching outside I actually don’t really care how bad they look :)
I’ve sketched people in public about 8 times now over the past few weeks, and I’ve located 2 main benches to sit at. Both are kind of out of view and allow me to see people walking down the street, but only for about 20 seconds before they are gone. At first I was trying to sketch everything within that time, but I did some research and found this great website with sketching advice – http://www.makingamark.co.uk/how-to-sketch.html
That site has some pdf files with assignments to try out, and lots of tips for sketching, one of the best ones was about how you don’t have to draw everything, if you get to the legs and they are gone just move onto the next sketch. For some reason that advice helped me a lot, basically, I realised it’s ok to have unfinished sketches.
This really is the complete opposite to doing portraits and I just love the feeling of not caring how your sketches turn out, obviously it would be nice if they looked good, but it’s more just about enjoying it. I love it, and I urge you to go outside right now and give it a go if you’ve never tried (if I can do it, anyone can!). Honestly, it makes you look at people and the world totally differently as well.
You start to notice how people are all so different, and you start to wonder what they are thinking, or where they are going. You see someone walking along with a big box under their arm, what’s in the box? You start making up stories lol Sometimes someone will walk by and you think “Oh man I’ve got to sketch you”, the worst is when this happens but as soon as you put your pencil on the pad they round a corner and go out of view :(
I also love how you start watching birds flying around, the clouds moving, bees going from flower to flower as if on auto pilot, all this stuff is going on in the world around us that we’re almost oblivious to most of the time!
So that’s why I love it! It’s turned out to be the best thing I ever started to do, I just want to work on my confidence so I can sit in better locations. I’ve started dreaming about sitting in a Mcdonalds or something sketching people sitting down, but right now that’s a bit too scary. I have decided it’s one of my mini goals to try and achieve though! :)
Even in the locations I sit at you’re not 100% safe, like a funny thing is when people notice you’re drawing them, you just feel like you’ve been busted doing a robbery or something lol In fact, I was on an Art forum reading some advice for people sketching, and one of the posts I found really funny!
The user said “You must be an art ninja, be one with the shadows and your surroundings and blend so well that no one will even notice you drawing them…” (Quote from within this forum post) – conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/226578-Learning-figure-drawing-where-to-start
I love that, we must become Art Ninjas :) Hiiiii YYAAA!
“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.”