Sometimes I sketch a street, a building, something from the urban landscape around me. And it just doesn’t look right. Usually what I missing is the people. People passing by, crowds, the lone person making their way down an alley- they are all such an integral part of the urban landscape. And drawing them is hard: they don’t sit still like the buildings, they are more fleeting than the light and it is just plain difficult to draw people!

My solution? Quick 5 second studies. Lots of them. The kind that are drawn almost blind-contour, more watching-the-people than watching-my-line. The kind that I draw so quickly, I have no time to judge. And more often than not, they are truer than my long-studies. Here I sketched people at the mall. It is close to Christmas time. Everyone seems to be on a mission. Loaded bags. See the iconic Macy’s star on a bag? Or the stripes of a Victoria’s secret bag?

Another page of studies, this time a little slower, and I’m noticing things other than the people: the mannequins, the signs, lettering styles (the graphic designer in me loves sketching typography!)

By this time, I’ve loosened up and am ready to dive into what I really want to do:capture the atmosphere of the place. I’ve done my little observation sketches. I’ve gotten to where I have a feel for slightly-anxious-people-on-a-mission-at-the-mall. Now I’m ready for my sketch. It’s still a quick sketch, it just has to be, people don’t stand still. 20 minutes. Some splashes of color to recreate garish mall lighting and loud sale signs. Very little color on the people: they’re fleeting, they walk through my scene… And I’m done.

Notice how the sketch looks busier than the photograph? That’s because a sketch is about capturing how a place feels. It never does match up to a photograph. Which one is a truer representation? Always a debate, I guess. It’s easy to guess which way I lean.

More people sketches, some recent some not:
soccer_quicksketches soccer3
And lots more of them in my flickr set People and Places.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in california, Close to home, How to, people, Silicon Valley and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to People

  1. ornbardur says:

    Like your style. I’m going to study your figure sketches to learn. I’m a little hesitant to include figures in my urban sketches but I know if I can master the art it will bring life to my drawings. Thanks, Orn B writing from Iceland.


  2. ornbardur says:

    Hi, Suhita. I’m an Urban Sketcher in Iceland and began with the movement earlier this year. I´m writing to you with a question about marketing your works through Etsy. Once an order drops in do you then print yourself a copy of your work and mail it to the buyer? What about shipping etc.?


  3. Sushita, your world is fascinating.!Reading you and having a look on your crowd of silhouettes help me to guess “how to make it” and give me the envy to start!Thanks and bravo


  4. Lee Kline says:

    Super advice, Suhita


  5. Linda Colgan says:

    Hello, I’m teaching myself drawing, watercolor, and daily art journaling pages. Is there a formula on the quick sketching to follow/ ? I do not know where to start with drawing people and really love the way your doing yours. Is there any advise or books to learn or do you just go for it?
    Thank you so like your drawings a lot,


    • Linda there are just so many books for learning from and inspiration ( if you are looking for a list, the site has a long list of books and tools. But there is just no substitute for a LOT of practice.


  6. Ethna says:

    This was a great post, Suhita… helpful. I went down to the Mall yesterday to give it a go.
    Quite exciting….working very fast…..and a lot of weird results!……..I’m not ready for the full sketch yet but I’m liking this practice of 5 second studies. Thanks so much. I’m a great admirer of your style of sketching!


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  8. Amazing work 😉 Very inspiring!


  9. Diane says:

    I love your sketches and would also like to work on my quick people sketching, as some others have said. Thanks for these pages, maybe I can figure out your plan of attack.


  10. Liza says:

    this is so helpful…even though im an artist and paint musicians…my style is so abstract and I was getting too tight in my people sketches when I tried to work with the group…this is really going to encourage me to just get out there and sketch…anyone/everyone….your tip about putting some color in the background and leaving the people just back and white was an interesting approach. got my pen and paper…im off to play on a rainy day in the mall. thanks, Liza


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