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?
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:
And lots more of them in my flickr set People and Places.