Workshop 20: What to Leave Out, What to Leave In – Capturing a Sense of Place

Instructor: Richard Briggs

The aim of the workshop is to capture a sense of place through observation, analysis and filtering those findings to produce sketches that in one way are abstract forms, but in another talk coherently about context.

Place is made up of many components, and understanding some of these in isolation can help better understand place as a whole. When establishing what to draw in an urban context, certain clues can be found which start to weave the elements together which makes a place interesting; such as how people use public space, and what are the main components of how a city works. This could be as something as simple be the door details, the chosen method of transportation, the historical aspect of the buildings, what’s important about the city, and how can we capture that in one drawing. Richard will encourage each workshop participant to focus on what can be left out, with the aim to make the sketch stronger, more grounded and connected to the place.

Each participant will be guided through this process, with an emphasis on the why, what, where and how.

Learning goals 

  • Learn how to observe and capture a sense of place
  • Learn how to filter these findings and establish what to leave out and what to draw
  • Learn basic principles of sketching in the street; looking for key lines, shapes and angles of what we see

Workshop Schedule 

The base location for each workshop is yet to be determined, but there will be 2 sites (close to each other) in one workshop session.

Part 1:

After walking to the specified site, the workshop will begin with an introduction to the aims and a group discussion on the observation and analysis of place (architecture, street, people, transport). This will be followed by a short sketch demonstration by Richard Briggs, focusing on quick responses to ideas generated by what you see and how this can be filtered to produce a focused sketch.

Part 2:

The participants will undertake small and quick sketches mocking up ideas and approaches taken from part 1 in their sketch books or notebooks. This will also loosen up the hand and sharpen the eye and the mind.

Group discussion and one on one guidance with all participants 30 – 40 minutes

Part 3:

After choosing one of the subjects explored and sketched out in part two, each participant will complete a drawing at a larger scale. Various approaches to this part will be discussed throughout the workshop. During this part of the workshop Richard will share tips for drawing in the urban context and offer guidance on the rules of thumb such as scale, perspective, and technique.

One on one guidance with all participants approx 1 hour

Repeat the process in a second location. This will be nearby, but will offer a contrasting urban context.

Before finishing the group will hold an analysis, feedback and assessment of work session. (15 minutes)

Workshop output:

At least 2 finished drawings, numerous study sketches, and a good understanding of place.

Supply list 

Each participant can consider the following two options in terms of what to draw on:

Option 1: locally sourced paper sourced paper with text that connects the place to the drawing, such as a flyer information booklet about the city or the history, anything that has enough residual space for drawing.


Option 2: medium sized sketch book (no smaller than A4)

In addition to the above please bring along a small supporting sketch book for roughing out your ideas in part 2 of the workshop. Bring pens (such as Artline 0.4, 0.5 or 0.6), and pencils to use as guides. Other medias are welcome too (such as watercolours etc). Also bring something you can sit on and is easy to carry (such as a milk crate or fold away stool), a solid base to lean on when drawing, and bulldog clips to secure paper if required.


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