Sketching People Part 3: Advice

October 24, 2017 | 8 Comments

To wrap up this three-part article on my recent breakthrough sketching people, I want to finish with three pieces of advice which I have formulated as a result of my journey (so far).

If you missed it, here are the previous articles:

Part 1 – summary of my people sketching this year

Part 2 – summary of the breakthrough I experienced at seanwes conference in Austin.


1. Practice vs research

Practice is very important but without serious research into anatomy and analysing your own work to find errors, it can simply reinforce bad habits. So there must be research, but without the practice it will get you nowhere, as you have to develop your own shorthand for drawing people and drawing features. So make sure you couple regular practice with regular research!

2. Keep pushing through the fear

There is a huge pressure drawing people you know but you just have to push through the fear and the cringey feeling you have about your own work. The reactions are always so much more positive (overall) that you expect.

3. An option for adjustment

If possible try to find a way of working that allows you a little bit of adjustment. For most people this would be some kind of pencil (graphite or watercolour pencils), but for me it is watercolour.

Mixing line and wash has made the big difference for me as the ability to correct or lift a watercolour stroke has given me the freedom to push through my fears. I can switch to paint when I’m unsure (normally due to my subject moving). In addition, the colour and loose textured washes also becomes a distraction so that I am not focusing on the accuracy of my lines so much.

It’s also more fun, and ultimately that is the most important thing. Even when you are in the intensive learning stage and working hard at improving your skills it’s important not to take it all too seriously! It’s only a sketch after all!

Well, this has been a momentous series of articles for me to write! I would love to hear your thoughts or answers any questions you have.

BTW I haven’t shared all my conference sketches yet… next up will be a report on seanwes2017 (finally!)



  • Caroline Greene says:

    Hi Liz, I’m glad to have found you online and I’m going through your blog posts from beginning to end! I’ve been tentatively sketching people and not particularly improving for a long time, so I read your articles with interest. I wondered how you manage with people seeing you sketching them – do they mind?! I set myself a challenge of drawing every face in a Sunday newspaper magazine, to push me out of my comfort zone. I agree wholeheartedly about regular practice being all very well as long as you don’t get stuck repeating the same mistakes. I found a great book on sketching people which has helped me observe much more carefully (the little shaded areas around the nose, for example). It’s ‘Sketching People: an urban sketcher’s guide to drawing figures and faces’ by Lynne Chapman. Reading that, following your blog posts and PRACTISING are definitely a good combo and helping a lot! Thanks for sharing so much helpful guidance.

  • Nicola Bartholomew says:

    As always your advice is always so insightful and generous and more importantly for me, inspirIng. Thank you.

  • Lisa Woodward says:

    Liz, I’d love to know more about the “serious research” aspect of your learning curve. Are there particular resources you found helpful?

  • Chris Juricich says:

    Fear is always the biggest component against growth for anyone. Completely agree. When I was much younger and got interested in cartooning, drawing the human figure was the most important thing to me. I always figured that nature, buildings, basic geometry, would be less challenging (it was) but now I divide my drawing time between sketching and doing comics.

    Thanks for the articles, though–good, common sense approach. I always encourage people to ‘Just do it.’ A teacher of mine long ago said that each of us has 10,000/5,000/1000 whatever ‘bad drawings’ inside of us we need to do and get out before they become skilled. So…let’s get to the 1001st drawing as soon as possible!

  • Flory says:

    WOW, Liz, I did not know I could do this! Watercolor shapes, ink, a few more back and forth, and wham, a person emerges. Today, models from Sktchy; tomorrow, or very soon, from life. Thank you so much for sharing your breakthrough, which has inspired one of my own! Xoxo Flory

  • Ginny says:

    Yes, the research part as Lisa points out needs more fleshing out. WHERE?

  • Peejay says:

    A great 3 parter…loved it ?

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