People ... people who need(s) people?

Winter Walk, watercolour, 11 x 15 inches

Excuse the liberties taken with Ms. Streisand's lyrics. Just my sneaky introduction to a discovery I made some time ago, in a workshop with ArtCunanan, I think, that inserting people into a landscape painting adds both scale and interest to the subject. I also discovered that I had great difficulty actually drawing them.

When it came to inserting a figure or two into a painting, it was hit and miss. The figures often looked clumsy and distorted and did nothing to enhance the work. And so I was hesitant, fearing I would ruin the piece. "Winter Walk" is the exception, thank goodness. (It's long since found a new home).

Kensington Pedestrian Day October 2015
Typically awkward figures

In the meantime, I have begun sketching en plein air. In this, I am following in the footsteps – or sketchbooks – of thousands and thousands of artists worldwide who enjoy the phenomenon known as urban sketching. Of course, once I got outside with my pens, brushes, and pocket watercolour kit, I came face to face with … people. What to do?

Practice, practice
No faces in this one!

Turning to Google for help in finding sites and videos, I came across Felix Scheinberger. Eureka!  His book: Urban Watercolor Sketching opened my eyes. Where I had been trying to draw people realistically (and failing due to lack of expertise), Felix showed me how to loosen up and draw what amounts to caricatures. Perfect. I started filling sketchbooks with imitations of his work and variations on the theme

A page from my studio sketchbook
There are many more

 However, I felt I could only go so far with these odd characters. I needed something between the caricature and an impression; similar to the way I have developed my watercolour painting.

The "Eye Line" and figure proportions
per James Richards
Enter James Richards and his course Sketching the Energy of Places on the Craftsy web site. In this short six-lesson video, I picked up more information on sketching in the urban environment than I could possibly find in a dozen books. 

There are many artists providing sketching information on the web; those that I recommend include Cathy Johnson, Liz Steel and the gang at Sketchbook Skool – and, of course, James Richards - links below. Be sure to subscribe to their various blogs and/or newsletters. (Liz Steel seems to produce a blog entry per day)

Putting the Eye Line into practice

There’s still a lot of plein air to go around, albeit somewhat chilly at the moment. However, one may still recall the feel of summer from the warmth of the studio.



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