Category Archives: Pt 4/project 5

Part 4, Project 5, Exercise 2: Groups of figures

‘People watching’ is a good way to understand human movement and interaction. This might be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in a pub or café, cinema queue or takeaway. Night or day, observe different kinds of people – how they stand, how they interact, what they carry, what they’re doing with their hands, and how they dress. If you can do a few small and quick sketches on the spot, that’s great. If not, take a few discreet photos and try to keep the atmosphere of the scene in your memory until you return home, then try to recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.

How successful were your attempts to retain an image of a scene to draw later? How might you tackle this in future? Make some notes in your learning log.


This is a sketch done from the car at an athletics training meeting.  In essence I think it captures the moment and I had time to observe different people coming and going.  I spoilt the picture by trying to use a brush pen to enhance it- I wish I had taken a photo before I added that.


In this sketch I was experimenting- trying to capture the feel of a crowd/ milling group of people without getting bogged down in detail (a bad habit I would love to break!!)  I think it is much more effective than the sketch above as it leaves the viewers imagination to fill in the blanks, whilst still being very clear about what it is meant to be!  It has a sense of movement- people are entering and leaving the space!


I tried doing some drawing in a cafe- this is a composite picture- again people arrived and left during the time I was drawing.  They did at least sit relatively still!  I have not had time to develop this into a final picture.


Again- I tried drawing a group of people sat around tables in the sun outside the window from where I was sitting.  This was a greater challenge as they were all quite dynamic and kept moving/ and going in and out of the cafe!  I would have loved more time to really work on this- but in the time I had the dimensions/ perspective and general drawing was all wrong!!

These are both sketches that might be used to lead onto a more finished picture.  I have a feeling they are neither one thing nor the other.  As reference material to be used later in a final drawing they are a little staid- I got bogged down in detail again rather than thinking about the sense of place and atmosphere.  I didn’t have time for detail really as people moved about far more than I would have liked!!  I took some photos and will try to work on them later.

recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.


I am really pleased with this drawing.  It is only on a piece of A4 black paper but I really like the effect and the atmosphere the style captures.  I was influenced to try using aquarelle crayons on black card after looking at the work of Fred Hatt– which I really like.  The lines in this are in a completely different style to his work, but I liked the way the people were lovely built up in layers starting from mid tones and slowly overlaying light and darker tones to encourage the forms to emerge.

Part 4, Project 5, Exercise 1: Single moving figure

Drawing a moving figure is different from drawing a posed figure – the person won’t slow down or wait patiently for you to finish. You’ve already had some practice in producing quick figure drawings but this project may be more of a challenge because you’ll need to draw quickly to record your subject in motion. This will probably mean looking up and out, concentrating on the subject in front of you while drawing ‘blind’, rather than looking down and concentrating on the sheet of paper. As well as working outdoors and indoors you can draw people from a window, car, etc. Wherever you are, draw quickly and keep your eyes on the figure in action. Try to capture the vitality of the movement through fast and confident marks and lines, and don’t be tempted to repair or overwork the final image. 

Use quick exploratory lines to express the overall flow and movement rather than seeking a perfect reproduction. Think about the speed and purpose of the figure in movement and how to capture the energy through stance, mark-making, etc. For example, someone running for a bus may have their coat flying and head thrust forward; the figure will have momentum and intention. Try to express this.  While working, make notes about your observation of moving figures and why they’ve caught your attention. Think about:

  • Narrative – the story that reveals the reason for the activity, such as running for a bus or dancing.
  • Interaction – merging the moving figure with its surroundings, considering its relation to the environment and other figures, buildings, etc.

Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. Try to fill a page a day; this will be a rich resource for future work as well as improving your figure drawing through regular practice.

This exercise is HARD!!  It’s driven me mad trying to capture what I can see in my mind as the perfect representation of a moving figure but which appears on the page as rather an awkward, disproportioned attempt!!  However, I think in places I have definitely captured a sense of movement- a moment mid-action- although most of these images are not really looking like “People”!!  On the whole my pictures are of just an individual, without a sense of narrative or context.  I was so taken up with observing the individual at that moment that this seemed to get lost.  I will continue to dry to do this exercise as I completely understand the need to practice this skill and would LOVE to be good at capturing people in drawings.

I did try to draw a scene on the playing field with various children playing to try to capture the narrative and interaction of the moment.  This is more effective- even though the figures are still not great, putting them into a scene gave them extra “life” because there was more of a story and a sense of time and place depicted.

As well as working from real life I also drew a few pictures from photos, just because I wanted to practice the form taken by the human body during motion.  These are (obviously) more realistic in their finish, but the objective was to practice looking rather than to cheat and produce the perfect drawing.

I also watched videos of moving figures (because I didn’t really have the opportunity to draw  people from life doing anything more than running, walking, or playing football.  I felt that people walking on the street  was fairly a boring, repetitive exercise, so i looked for videos of more interesting movements like dancing! (I wish I was allowed in my daughter’s dancing classes).  This was useful because the movements I was looking for were repetitive in nature (pirouettes etc) and I was able to capture the receptive shape in my mind- I tried to do a lot of these sketches “blind”.