3.2 Working with external visual impetus

The purpose of this exercise ‘is to introduce you to observing figures’.

Key words from the brief:

Single figure

  • Start with someone you know
  • Draw them doing what they do everyday or when you usually see them
  • Do some quick drawings and at least one longer sketch
  • You may just focus on the face, part of the figure or the entire person and may include key props
  • Some are made with only a few considered lines and details and others made with solid shapes and possibly more visual information
  • As you draw think about the process of choosing adjectives and focus on what you are saying about your subject, or what features are interesting to you

Crowds and activities

  • Choose somewhere that is populated
  • Think also about how you might approach drawing groups of people
  • It should help if you concentrate not on them as an individual character or personality but describing their basic shapes, or the shape of the activity or crowd as a the whole, or how they connect with the space they are in
  • If you’re still inspired by it, go back to your first route. Build up sketches of different people on the same page of the sketchbook

Single figures

I draw figures very frequently on my daily commute and have included the ones drawn during the two weeks I was working on this exercise. It’s one of the few places I’ve found where the subject will stay still for 15-minutes usually reading or checking social media.

All the drawings were made in an A5 sketchbook.

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Additionally I also did some sketches at home with family as they watched TV – a good time to get them to stay still for any length of time.

I had a lightbulb moment (which in hindsight is blindingly obvious but for some reason I hadn’t tried it before), and started using my dip pen with Ecoline liquid watercolour. This was a real revelation and I was quite excited by the results.

The pictures are A3 sized.

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Crowds and activities

I used this exercise to develop what I’d started in Assignment 1 Recording and sharing your work. I was comfortable drawing crowds of commuters at Waterloo Station but felt that I needed to develop my visual language and/or drawing skills to more accurately describe posture and achieve greater fidelity with the figure drawing.

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Rapid crowd drawings

I’ve split these rapid drawings out from the rest of the sketchbook because they were a mini project in their own right and it’s interesting to see how the visual language evolved over the two-weeks.

I wanted to use my observational drawing to capture people walking purposely to work. It became clear to me from drawing individuals at Waterloo Station that I needed a different approach. I can’t work fast enough or accurately enough to meaningfully capture travellers waiting for their trains let alone pedestrians walking past me on a pavement.

I found a perfect spot. A coffee shop that sells reasonable coffee and overlooks a fairly busy London street very close to the Guild Hall. I stopped at this cafe on my way into work, ordered a black americano and took up a seat in the window. I did this for 7-days and sketched for around 25-minutes each day.

The window was narrow and it took a pedestrian about 2-seconds to walk past. I knew this would force me to think and draw differently.

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I realised I found drawing legs that give a realistic sense of movement a real challenge.

Sunday football

For my final crowd drawing experiments I drew parents and coaches watching kids playing Sunday football. I thought this would be a good subject because it’s easily accessible for me; my house overlooks playing fields that are always packed with Sunday footballers. Unlike the Waterloo Station commuters who may stay still for a couple of minutes at best, parents watching football stay still for much longer.

Sunday football – Liquid watercolour and dip pen – A2 sized


What went well

  • The rapid drawings demonstrate an interesting progression in visual language. They were fun to draw.
  • Using liquid watercolour with a dip pen was a great discovery.
  • I feel much more confident drawing in crowds.

What I could do differently/better

  • When I was drawing at a rush hour Waterloo Station I just couldn’t draw fast enough to capture figures with any level of fidelity. I’ll need to take photographic reference as well as rapid sketching to collect this level of reference.
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