Street scene with figures by Lynda Poole

The main photograph (below left) shows the street that I want to draw. The scene contains people, but I am also including a second photograph (below right) with some extra figures so you can choose just how you want to populate your street scene drawing. You could also add figures of your own – a self-portrait perhaps or use drawings of people you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to suggest that you try working in a different way from how you might normally draw. I want you to try and simplify the scene and to use line very expressively. With the emphasis on expressive line, you might want to have a pure line drawing as your finished work. Alternatively, you could add some tone to your drawing, or block in some bold colours.

Drawing technique

 

 

 

 

Modified contour drawing (above) is a great way to liberate your drawing style. Imagine that you are tracing with your eye each shape that you see and, as you do so, recreate that shape on your paper. Do not look down at your paper while you are drawing; keep looking at the subject all the time. If you start to feel a bit lost, glance down at the paper and reposition your pen before moving on, but always look up again to continue drawing.

If you decide to add tone to your drawing, you can use diluted ink or a good wet wash of black watercolour paint. If you want to add colour, you can use watercolour, pastels, coloured pencils, marker pens, acrylic paint or any coloured medium.

On looking through a recent sketchbook, I saw a loose self-portrait drawing, also drawn using the modified contour drawing method. I thought it would be fun to incorporate this into the drawing and to have myself peering out at the viewer. Finally, using the modified-contour drawing method again, I drew a figure from the second photograph (above right). These three drawings gave me the elements I wanted to combine into my finished composition.

Combining elements

Once I had settled on the different components of the final piece, I thought about how I could drop the figures into the street scene in an interesting way. I cut the figures out and moved them around to help me decide where I wanted them before pasting them in position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew I wanted the self-portrait drawing to be quite big in the frame so that it felt like I was right at the front of the picture, staring back at the viewer. I put myself in place first and then added the other figure – the boy with the ball – quite small in the background. I also reversed this figure as it seemed to me to work better facing and moving in the opposite direction from my self-portrait at the front. You can easily reverse a figure by turning your original drawing over, taping it to a window with a good light source on the other side and tracing the reversed image on to another sheet of paper.

Adding tone and colour

I love the way line works on its own and I often leave pure line drawings just as they are. But a line drawing can also provide the foundation for an expressive tonal or colour study. I made some photocopies of my cut-and-pasted composition, and in my second version of the subject I washed in some tones with diluted ink – just those few key darks, mid and light tones that really struck me as important or which I felt helped balance the picture. I used drawing ink for this, but you could also use washes of black watercolour in much the same way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my third version on another photocopy of the original composition I had fun blocking in some bold colours using soft pastels. I took the colours in the photographs as a starting point, picking out just the ones that really sang out to me, rather than trying to be very literal or detailed. I did not feel I had to cover all the paper and just stopped when I felt I had said enough.

None of the final versions – pure line, tonal study or colour study – are slaves to the subject. I just let myself have fun with the whole process, drawing flowing lines, putting myself in the picture, and responding to tone and colour in a very free way.

This project is an extract from Leisure Painter, April 2006 issue.