Drawing more people into your sketches

Prepping for my workshop titled People and Places: Life in Contrast at 7th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester. The workshop uses the gesture-sketching style I teach in my online craftsy class and uses it as a basis to build up complete sketches.

Have you wanted to add more people into your sketches but find you don’t because you’re afraid to? Here’s my best tip: Sketch them first. By getting to what you find hardest first, you avoid the extra burden of worrying if you’ll mess up a sketch once you’ve put considerable time and effort into it. Next, move on to the rest. Take your time building in around your figures. The longer you wait to draw in people into your scenes, the more chance you’ll draw in tight and stilted figures.

Here’s how I created this little vignette: 1) People first in brushpen. I’m judging their size and placement relative to each other as I draw them in. 2) Simple lines add in my background building and a few lines indicate the street and connect all the figures in my sketch. I switched to graphite for a line that is similar in looseness to my brushpen lines but has less contrast to the paper so the background wouldn’t compete with my figures. 3) And then came color.losGatos_walk1.jpg

You can apply that same process to a longer sketch and take your time over it.This time my people are sketched in graphite, a softer medium and you can see how they appear quieter in the scene that my first sketch.


I worked at the piece below the other way around: The buildings and cars and trees, line and color, went in first. And then I used a brush pen to sketch in people. downtown_los_gatos_1.jpg

The end result looks really similar to the earlier sketch, but I find I am more reluctant to draw loosely and boldly into a piece when I sketch this way. All three pieces are sketched in downtown Los Gatos, California.


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.

6 Responses to Drawing more people into your sketches

  1. It looks so easy in your sketches but I do know it is not:-)


  2. Lee Kline says:

    Thanks, Suhita. I once was told that when sketching people in a crowd, concentrate on a couple of foreground characters then simply “make carrot shapes in the background.” Sounds silly, I know, but it has worked for me when I have been in a hurry. Good luck to you in Manchester. Wish I was going so I could be in your workshop.


  3. deb rossi says:

    I enjoy the way you use line weight to bring people and other elements forward or back.


  4. Mona says:

    Thanks for the tips, Suhita! I will keep them in mind next time I am out and about.


  5. LauraLu says:

    Beautiful!! I love your sketches. Thank you for sharing.


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