A step-by-step street scene

A few weeks back someone asked me how much of a scene I draw in pencil before I add paint to my sketches. I haven’t had much time this semester for any instructional posts, but today I took some quick phone shots of the process so I could illustrate the steps.

Lately I’ve been finding places to sketch right near my school so I can paint as long as possible and then scoot over to class. This is the type of scene I often sketch on the way to work. Time spent sketching in the car for this one: about an hour. Time spent adding details at home: about 15 minutes.


The first step is to add some quick pencil lines. I chose this scene because I like the way all the utility poles on this street are leaning to the right. I don’t draw in a lot of details that I can add later with a brush such as writing on the street signs or details on the buildings. Just a general placement of things on the page.


The first wash I put down is the sky and the road — both grey this week. I didn’t have time to draw in a full double-page spread but I did go over the middle of the book a little bit.


The next step is to add in the middle values, using a limited palette of Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Gold (for that late autumn warmth).


After that I frame the little white building in the distance with some good darks, and I try to vary them as I go — gold to green to red to brown. I use a bit of blue for the trash cans and house shadow, and I start to add in some of the finer details but realize that my rigger brush is at home, and my class is about to start.


After school, I add in the details with a finer brush: the wires, the signage, and a few details on the buildings. Sketched in a Handbook Journal, 8 x 8″.