Workshop 7: Capturing the Crowd: People in Public Spaces

Instructor: James Richards

Workshop description

This workshop builds on many of
the key concepts of my approach to urban sketching, but with an emphasis on people and crowds that animate great
urban spaces.  The most frequent
questions I receive from workshop participants involve incorporating people
into their sketches in a believable way. 
Integrating people into your sketches can take a static scene of a
building, plaza or park and bring it to life with the movement, energy and
exuberance of life in the city.  In this
workshop you will learn the foundational techniques that demystify drawing
figures in context, as well as cool tricks I’ve learned over decades of
incorporating people into bustling city scenes. 
By workshop’s end you will be incorporating lively and convincing
figures and crowds into your sketches to give them new life and energy.

Workshop Schedule

Travel to workshop site

First hour:  Focusing on people/crowds only

remarks/key concepts/demonstration (20 minutes)

exercise:  Draw a crowd in 5 minutes

throwdown, review and comment

Second hour:  The crowd in context

Demonstration:  How to start, people first, entourage next,
buildings as backdrop (20 minutes)

sketch exercise

throwdown, review and comment

Third hour:  Bringing the scene to life

Demonstration:  adding strategic use of darks, color, notes
(15 minutes)

exercise to complete their scene

throwdown, review and comment


Return from workshop site

Learning goals

  • Understanding key human proportions:  the basics and exceptions
  • Using people to create an illusion of depth
  •  Foreground,
    middle and background and corresponding levels of detail
  •  Eye-level
    issues: Artist standing, artist sitting, people on slopes and steps
  •  Diminishing
  • Overlapping
    and grouping
  • Capturing movement:  gesture, walking
  • When and how to incorporate features and details
    on figures
  •  How to begin a city scene incorporating lots of
  • Fleshing out the surrounding scene
  •  Using
    buildings as backdrop
  • Adding
    signs, furnishings and trees
  • Strategic use of darks and color for maximum


Please bring:

  • Watercolor
    sketchbook–size per personal preference
  • Sketching
    pencils and waterproof ink pens (technical or fountain pens)
  • Travel
    watercolor set 
  • Waterbrushes
    or traditional brushes, one large flat, one medium round
  • Small rag
  • Small leak-proof
    plastic container of water
  • Small
    lightweight folding stool (optional)


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