OneWeek100people 2021: Day 4 and 5

March 12, 2021 | 15 Comments

So it took me all five days to reach 100 people and I didn’t doany extra (last year I did over 200!)

I feel unbelievably thankful that I was able to spend my afternoons in my local cafe (in NSW it’s over 50 days since the last case of community transmission) as I’m only really interested in sketching people from life. A huge part of the enjoyment I get from sketching is being around people and interacting with the staff who are constantly checking my progress. The connection I make with others is so much stronger when I sketch people rather than just the coffee (or objects on the table). But of course, there is much more pressure when sketching people as a likeness is expected. So I’m always explaining that I’m still working on my skills and then everyone is normally fairly nice about it and we all have a bit of a laugh.

I know that a lot of you are not able to sketch people on location at the moment or cannot see the full face either! But however you tackled the challenge, I hope that you had fun and that you’re happy with your output. (I also hope things open up for you soon!)

In terms of my work yesterday and today…


A few quick sketches during an early morning weekly zoom call. I didn’t want the others to know what I was doing so some of these are a bit rough. At lunchtime, Chantal and I had lunch at Goodfields with the intention of doing some sketching, but I was only able to manage three – we had so many other things to catch up on.

Friday (today)

I changed my approach (more about that shortly) and did a few warmups from photos and then my usual afternoon cafe session. It was really hard to reach 100 today due to the upstairs part of the cafe being totally empty of customers for a while and then when it got busy, I had lengthy conversations with new friends on both sides of me – Jean an 80-year artist (who follows me on Instagram and recognised me) and Jack (14) a comic book artist. I love talking to people like this and these conversations always take priority over my sketching. As a result, I was in the cafe for 2.5 hours and the last few sketches were really quick.

I definitely found it harder this year (even though I felt super comfortable sketching in public) and maybe that’s because the cafe had fewer people (due to social distancing requirements) or maybe it’s because I was so out of practice.

Anyway, it’s time for a few takeaways…

1. Research

This is so incredibly important and sadly I didn’t do enough of it. It would be good to work out a way to do this on an ongoing regular basis as although I want my people sketches to be loose (more about that in the second takeaway) they need to be more accurate.

2. Technique

I started this week wanting to tighten up my drawing a little(to improve accuracy) and so I used the following approach: head shape and feature positions in pale Light Flesh watercolour pencil, then drawing with ink, followed by paint. This is very different from what I normally do: paint, ink and more paint. After the first day of sketching, I got into a rhythm and just kept going with ‘drawing first’ but on Friday I reverted back to paint first. This suits my style and my overall sketching goals better – to say more with less and to strive after beautiful watercolour washes with lots of wet-in-wet and pigment magic. I don’t want to produce precise sketches of people – I want them to be fun with lots of lost edges.

3. Looking Forward

This realisation about what technique feels best for me also made me think about what I really want my people sketches to be.

I suddenly thought about the unplanned sketch (demo) I did of my two videographers for my Watercolour On Location course. I was far from comfortable when I did this sketch but was having so much fun that it didn’t matter. The result is far from perfect but it’s a great record of a very special day.

And that’s what I want my people sketches to be – a record of interactions with others not simply sketches of random people in a cafe. Of course sketching random people is important for practice, but I long to be more confident to sketch friends I know and/or capture gestures and the actions of people I’m connecting with. So sketching Jack today was a good example of this.

Once again this challenge has given me exactly the right push I need!

(BTW for those of you who left a comment about an online course… I already have some videos on people sketching available! Refer Edges Lesson 2 Bonus Material and Watercolour On Location Lesson 3)

How did you go with the OneWeek100People challenge this year?

Note: if you are reading this via email, please click on the link below and add a comment on my blog – thanks!


  • Linda Hackett says:

    I have done 80 “people” in 4 days and am about to start on the last 20. Where I live it is still winter and no one is outside at cafes and indoor dining is still controversial. So I strolled my neighborhood in Manhattan snapping cell phone photos as Marc suggested of people walking. I drew them on double spreads practicing with my Sailor Fude pen. I also practiced with my Pentel brush pen sketching fashion photos from the newspaper. Today I plan to do silhouettes off the internet using my dagger brush with a monochrome paint palette. This challenge has been great practice for techniques but I will now make time to try to achieve accuracy for next year !

  • Yves Couture says:

    Being quite the beginner for one thing, cafés and bars being closed for another and not having built up, yet, the assurance needed to comfortaby draw in public for yet another good reason, I decided to practice drawing people by copying Van Gogh figures and Toulouse-Lautrec’s characters. In small Moleskine’s accordeon sketchbooks, I copied 30 female figures and 30 male figures from Van Gogh and I am at 48 Toulouse-Lautrec characters. It is fun and encouraging since it gets easier. I cheated, starting this the week you announced the “Oneweekonehundredpeople” challenge just to see if I could do some of it.
    So, yesterday, when I went to buy food, I decided to try my hand at drawing real people going in and coming out of the shopping mall. I sat in my car and managed to (rapidly) draw 4 people and then had to leave. Nothing worth mentioning here but, for me, to be able to sit there and get the movement, the attitude, to capture the figures and be happy with the results, was exhilirating. In the past, when traveling, I did try my hand at people in cafés, bars and airports. However, being convinced then that I could not realy draw, I would stop when I had a few good ones. I enjoyed this yesterday and from now on will dare to put people in my sketches.
    And next year I will pick up the gauntlet…
    Truly, the annoucement you made of this challenge, that it existed, led to an epiphany of sorts for me. I thank you.

  • Jamie C says:

    My goal is to make recognizable likenesses, too, but quick and loose to capture the moment. I’d love to read a post about your favorite research methods and practices that have worked best for you to get as far as you have with theses great people.

  • Janice Troyer says:

    This is my first year doing this challenge. If you had told me a year ago, I would be trying to draw 100 people in a week, I would have said NO WAY! But I’ve surprised myself by enjoying the challenge and it seems to be improving my skills. Granted I am only drawing from photos this year. As others have noted, it’s still full on winter here in Alaska (-3 F on my skijor this am with 12 inches of new snow) and I’m not yet fully vaccinated to go out to a cafe. But what this week has done is build up my confidence enough to look forward to the day that I can try drawing real live people. And next year, I hope to do the challenge as it is meant…from life!

    Liz, I do have one question, do you have suggestions for paint colors that capture the flesh color? Maybe you address that in the two courses you mention neither of which I have signed up for yet. Also, you mention a light flesh colored pencil. Can you give me details like the brand and name of the pencil?

  • Melissa Sabin says:

    This is my first year snd I drew all faces from photos…didn’t realize some of other ways people were approaching it, till I was done. Next year! I saw a big improvement from first day to last which was a thrill. I need some tips snd tricks…and research, like Liz mentions.

  • Bernadette says:

    Love your sketches! I haven’t been able to find a place where I can sketch people. It’s so empty of potential models here in OHIO. I’m able to get a few sketches a day from photos on line.p Any sketches done are worn the effort.
    I hope to continue even beyond the limit this week. Drawing daily is the key to success.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Bernadette – so happy that you are going to continue to draw people… I’m hoping to as well. Can imagine how hard it must be to find people to sketch!

  • Congrats on finishing…and doing so well. I envy that you were able to sketch indoors. Here where I live in NY the restaurants and cafes are only allowed about 50% occupancy. I would feel bad occupying a seat when there are so few of them to start with, and I wouldn’t be comfortable sitting inside at this time anyway. I ended up sketching from my car in quite a few parking lots, but sketching moving people is a real challenge. It is much easier when they are seated somewhere. I sketched by a few of our beaches, a store shopping center, a library entrance, at the park, etc. I was able to find enough people so I was happy.

  • Uta says:

    This was my first time trying this and I drew 100 people, mainly faces, just a few lines, but I am proud of that! I also used fotos and sometimes my family, no outdoors involved sadly. I tried different pens and it was interesting. I think it was more faces in this one week than in my entire life up to now. The last twenty faces I like more than the first twenty so there might be some improvement involved.

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