#oneweek100people2019 - my takeaways

April 13, 2019 | 2 Comments

Well it’s been a fantastic challenge and it’s been so super inspiring to see people all over the globe push themselves to sketch as many people as they can. Well done to everyone who attempted this challenge – I hope that you sketched more people than normal and that it pushed you forward in some way.

Massive thanks to Marc and Suhita – the other hosts. Marc’s idea for this challenge is brilliant! What more can I say? It was an amazing event.

The 100 number is why oneweek100people is so challenging.Whether you hit it or not isn’t the big issue but it does have a big impact on the pressure (the challenge) of the week. Because I’m a super quick sketcher I know that 100 line drawings is relatively easy for me but adding paint this year made it much harder and took more time. I had a massive week in terms of workload so the time pressure was my number one struggle. All the social media side of thing – posting daily here and lots of activity on Instagram – also took up a lot of my time and energy this week. But I’m so glad that I was able to be present this week and I got all my work done. So I’m very happy.

On the other hand, the big number is liberating. When it comes to people sketching it’s easy to become discouraged when one of your sketches turns out horribly. For some reason a ‘disastrous’ sketch of a person feels so much worse than a bad sketch of other subject matters. But when you have to do 20 people sketches per day, you just have to keep going. There is incredible safety in the quantity as the bad sketches get absorbed into the collection. So there is definitely something special in the 100.

Note. This article contains a selection from my sketches done this week – the full collection can be found in the previous articles  – Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 & 5.

As for my takeaways I have many, but here are a few:

1. Research

The biggest takeaway is that this challenge is a good reminder that I have to keep up regular anatomy research. I know this, but the challenge just reinforces the point and in particular I need to focus on arms and hands. A few people have asked for book recommendations, more info about how I research etc etc. That’s another huge topic which I will come back to later, okay?

(Note. I had wanted to sketch more than heads this year, but I realised early in the week that the focus on watercolour people was enough)

2. Watercolour

Making sure that I sketched at least 100 watercolour people this week was a great goal. It made it a lot more fun and there was some real development in my painting of people. I was mainly alternating between line and colour and most of the time started with paint. This slowed me down a lot as I was switching paint colours all the time and at times I had to wait for washes to dry. I tried drawing a few people in ink and then applying colour in batch but that lost a lot of the magic of sketching the individual people.

My pre-mix skin colour worked great and I went through two pans in the five days. I won’t be keeping the pan in my palette but it was great for this challenge. Having dirty mixing wells, dirty water and a soaked napkin was another part of this year’s challenge.

I feel as if I have gotten some great results with my painting this week. Not only am I thinking in terms of the planes of the face more, but I achieved some lovely washes with my dagger brush, especially when painting clothing. This is the area of biggest development for me.

I have even begun to love painting black clothing! Look at these washes.

3. Quick Visual Thinking

This challenge is a great reminder of how important the thinking part of sketching really is. This is something that I was discussing with Chris Haldane on Thursday night. You have to think first, and define what it is about your subject that is interesting to sketch, what it is about their features which makes them unique. You then have to decide what to record and what to leave out.

4. Minimal Lines but thinking in detail and three dimensions

I am more convinced after this week that less lines are better, but they have to be ‘right’ ie. they have to be based on thinking about the person in 3D, based on thinking in volumes and based on a solid knowledge of features, anatomy etc.

I’m also interested in saying more with paint which has the advantage of easily representing the soft edges of the face. And this will lead into my Group Run-Through of Edges starting next week.

5. Social connection – don’t be afraid to get caught!

This year’s challenge was mega social for me. I could not begin to count the number of conversations I have had this week as I sketched and the involvement of the staff at my local cafes was a huge part of experience.

I think that if you sketch people in public that you should be prepared to share what you are doing. If you are still learning (most of us are!) then share that with the people you talk with – this then switches the conversation away from how ‘good’ your sketches are (and the issue of capturing likeness). You can discuss how anyone can learn to sketch and what you are doing to learn to draw people better.

I have had the best time this week chatting to strangers and my cafe friends. Connecting with people and sharing my love of watercolour sketching is by far the best part of urban sketching (for me anyway!)

6. Confidence and flow

Trying to sketch 100 people in 5 days always does wonderful things for my confidence and flow. This year was no exception and I had a few watercolour break-throughs at the end of my epic 3 hour stint on Wednesday.

This leads on the the final point….

7. Continuing on

This challenge loses its impact if we all don’t keep sketching people. I know I didn’t continue on after the challenges in 2017 and 2018. This year it will be different (won’t it????) as sketching people is a regular part of my life now.

But my big on-going challenge is to include people in my travel sketchbooks. I have an epic European trip just around the corner so it’s a golden opportunity to implement.

Well, I’ve still got a long way to go with my people sketching, but after a few years of focusing on it, I am now at the point where I am having a lot of fun and not afraid to go for it in public. The oneweek100people challenge has certainly helped each time.

It’s been such an amazing week. Thanks again to everyone that took part and made it so much fun.

So what about you? I would love to hear your takeaways


  • Ilse says:

    I tried out different approaches each day and found two new ones I liked very much. I put the people I sketched connected in a fluent row on my page. That made a nice page design, made the lesser ones not so prominent and still gave to opportunity to vary in size.
    And I tried out watercolour silhouettes which are acnice way to include people in an urban sketches without fuzzing on details, and I learned an easy was to sketch a group of people. See @noordling at IG.

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