I love the way urban sketching explicitly celebrates the different ways we respond to a location. Here’s an example from Monday when I had the opportunity to sketch in Bath with Gary Yeung (a member of the USK Hong Kong group who’s visiting the UK), and local sketcher Jim (who shares his artistic explorations and discoveries here). It was raining, again, so we sheltered in the Abbey and settled to sketch for an hour in our various ways…
I sat right at the back and focussed on drawing the many visitors, who were draped over, leaning on, and sitting in the pews. I was using a bamboo dip-pen in a large sketchbook, looking for the key expressive lines that described the figures as simply and speedily as possible. I added the colour when I got home, and the overall effect is ‘cartoony’; Jim thought so too and later added some speech bubbles…
Jim also drew figures, but used pencil in a small Moleskine. He worked on capturing tone alongside the more subtle shapes and structural lines. Jim’s sketches are careful studies that also carry enough information to inform future works; I think they reflect the time he has spent researching and experimenting with technical aspects of drawing and painting.Gary focussed on the building, capturing the height and light of the interior space. He used very light pencil to plan the composition, then worked confidently in watercolour, followed by black pen to build and focus the darker elements of the sketch; the complete opposite to my usual sequence (ink lines, then paint). Figures appear as outlines framing white space, giving scale but allowing the building to speak for itself.
I love seeing how other people sketch the world, and hope I can continue to learn by enjoying the diverse results, both online and in person. Thanks to Gary and Jim for a great afternoon!
Always fascinating to see other sketching and interesting your observations about figures, they are always a little bug bear with me and I tend to be very sparing with keeping people in or I tend to draw through them or have another coffee until they have gone but my confidence is growing. Started leaving them as a white silloette (sp) in some circumstances but much happier catching the back of their heads and shoulders. Are you back over Tenby or Pembrokeshire way this year at any point. Great blog. Love the variety. Graham
Hi Graham, thanks for the comments. Getting convincing figures into my sketches continues to be my main obsession, trying to make sure the sketches don’t look like either town planning proposals/architect’s presentations with curious abstract/symbolic people, or post apocalyptic with all traces of the living removed! White silhouettes is a good approach, allowing the viewer to fill in the details. Another top-tip I heard, and use, is to draw whet you can of a figure (legs?) and if they move off just draw the upper half of someone else on top of the legs. You can add heads this way too! A bit Frankenstein’s Monster, but usually works… My confidence was helped by drawing crowds from a distance, and Tenby beaches, from the cliffs, are great for this; getting the overall shape and movement lines of a figure in a inky scrawls. We’ve just got a puppy, so are effectively grounded for the Summer, but looking forward to revisiting Tenby again sometime, a very rich sketching location. Best wishes Ed
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