I just got back from such a fun weekend at the Chicago Sketch Seminar. It was a great event — fantastic organizers, gracious volunteers, enthusiastic instructors and talented participants. If you live near Chicago and get a chance to go to this next year, jump on it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
As a workshop instructor, I taught two workshops and had a chance to attend a couple of others. I love taking workshops and when I have a choice, I always take workshops that involve drawing people since it’s something that I can never get enough practice in.
The Saturday workshop I attended “Be Sneaky: Sketching People To Liven Your Urban Landscape” was taught by Nishant Jain, a writer and cartoonist who loves to draw people. It was great to hear him describe his fearless approach and he had some useful tips for drawing people in an urban environment. We started with quick gesture drawings of people walking on Wabash Ave, and then did a longer one incorporating some of the surroundings on the corner. I started with the lamppost and added the people in after.
He suggests starting with a contour drawing (look at the whole shape, not the individual parts of the figure) and then filling in the details later. I drew this guy the next day while waiting for breakfast.
One of Nishant’s tips was to start your drawing with what interests you. I loved this guy’s hat, which was on his head when I started the drawing. He took it off and put it on his suitcase so I drew the suitcase under the hat and then drew him on another page.
If you’re drawing someone and they walk away, move on to someone else. Or if they change positions, just start again like I did with the guy on the right. Sometimes you get lucky and you’ll catch someone napping which makes it really easy. The point of it all was just get in there and draw without being afraid. The more you practice drawing people, the better you’ll get.