One of the first urban sketchers I started trying to mimic was Pete Scully. When I was getting started in sketching he was creating small building portraits (often two to a page in Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks). He also got me hooked on drawing fire hydrants and I continue to learn from his sketches.
Today, though, I want to talk about Pete’s new book, 5-Minute Sketching: People. It’s part of what may become a series from Firefly books. When I reviewed Liz Steel’s book in this series I made some comments about how structured, and to my mind limiting, the publisher-dictated format was and if you haven’t read that review I encourage you to do do so here.
While some of those limitations do affect discussion of sketching people, I think it’s less limiting than for sketching buildings for a couple reasons. I think, far more real-time people sketching is done in less than 5-minutes than is building sketching and, for so many people, quick-sketching is so foreign that there are a lot of useful tips one can provide that are quite separate from the actual drawing itself. Pete does a great job of talking about how to capture people quickly, how to put yourself in good positions to do so, and how to make those captures interesting.
Section one is titled How To See, and Pete starts out with some basic dimensional anatomy of the human form. There are sections on arms and legs, faces, and all the things you’d expect to find in a ‘how to see humans’ section. This expands into sections regarding quick composition and simple backgrounds, to bring your sketches to life. He talks about playing with perspective and using negative space to position people in a scene as you draw and each of these sections is a series of hints and tips to related to each topic.
Section two is titled Quick On The Draw and here Pete emphasizes the need for speed. His discussions run the gamet from drawing quick portraits to some great tips for drawing a crowd of people quickly. There’s an interesting section on capturing conversation in sketch form and another on how to capture passers-by using compositing ideas and building up your visual memory capabilities. This section, and the next, form the meat and potatoes of the book with a bundle of great ideas, some of which I’ve done, some not… yet.
Section three of the 5-Minute Sketching series is titled Time-Saving Techniques and here Pete emphasizes the use of different line techniques; how to do simple tonal sketching; how to sketch over color and other approaches that help to provide quicker, but more satisfying sketches.
Section four is titled Speedy Supplies and Pete provides series of tips to help when using pencil, pen and ink, markers, pastels, etc. as well as providing some advice on things like paper choice and even a bit on using digital media. I confess that I didn’t get much from this section but I’m fairly myopic in my choice of medium so that’s probably the reason.
While this book won’t teach you how to draw, it should be very helpful for those wanting to get out and draw people on location. If you’ve never done it, it’s a daunting task but Pete’s tips should put your mind at ease and provide a gentle nudge to get you out the door.