Start sketching people, On the Go

Strong Drawing/Sketching skill is the foundation for a good painting.  If you want your paintings to have a bold confident look, you must develop good drawing ability to do so.

Most beginning artists, who have NOT gone to art school, typically start this hobby by drawing from photographs and magazines.  This greatly simplifies the visual challenge for the new-bee artists, because the transfer takes place from 2D photograph to a 2D surface of the drawing book.  But this becomes a crutch for some and they never try to translate 3D into 2D.  The freedom and joy of making objects as they appear in front of you, is an amazing feeling.  You should try it.

Drawing from life teaches one to see values, (darkness/lightness) as they are, under the prevailing light conditions.  You learn to discern hue from value, which is a great skill to have when you are painting.  Also you learn to see proportions, foreshortening, and perspective.

A problem that I have (as most people do) is that time comes in a limited supply.  I don’t want to spend too much time on an elaborate drawing setup.  I would rather spend that time painting, so a good alternative is to sketch on the go.

Keep small drawing books,  and a mechanical HB pencil (7mm or 5mm) in your car, in your house or on your person.  Spend around 1/2 an hour sketching during lunch break, every day if possible, the more you practice the better you will get, quickly.  I typically head to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore near my place of work.   When at home, sketch your family members watching TV, reading a book e.t.c.  You can sketch while waiting at the doctors office, at the mall e.t.c.  If you have nothing else to draw, draw your hands.

At first your work will be very disappointing which can be disheartening.  Don’t worry you will improve,… keep at it.

We, as budding artists, show our good work to people and hide our work that is not worthy.  The last thing we want is for people to say or think that our work is mediocre.  This is where these sketching practice comes in handy.  You can build your skills secretly and don’t have to show your drawing books to anyone, at least not in the beginning.

The first hundred sketches will not look good, give yourself permission for them to be bad, gradually you will bloom.  If you have a bad drawing, think of it as one less bad drawing out of the way, as you make your way towards better drawings.  With time the whole effort will become effortless and you will itch to sketch. (Itch-A-Sketch anyone).


Items Needed:  A Small Drawing book, A 7mm or 5mm HB mechanical pencil.


Use a drawing book that has a plain cover and does not scream for attention.  You don’t want people to become aware that they are being drawn, otherwise they may become to stiff.

I like using the mechanical pencil because I don’t want to sharpen when I am sketching in a hurry.  One click and I have a sharp point.  However, I keep the tip of my pencil chisel shaped and I draw with the flat of the chiseled surface.  I always draw with a light touch.  I don’t dig in, you must not indent the paper.  I do apply pressure to darken my lines, but I never leave grooves in the paper.

I create the chisel, by simply rubbing the tip of my pencil on the side of the drawing book.  I have to do it several times while sketching.

Before every session, do a little warmup,  draw squiggly lines and draw anything that catches your eye, to loosen up.  It does not have to look nice at all.  I feel that this warm-up exercise would greatly improve anyones ability to simplify and see the essence of how things are (as shown below).  Don’t fix these drawings with erasers.  Whatever you have put down on the paper needs to be left alone.

If you are totally new to drawing/sketching, start by drawing  inanimate objects first.  Once you have built a little confidence, you can head out to public places and start drawing people.

Draw people who are sitting down and are holding a pose or keep coming back to the same pose, for example someone reading or eating.  You will eventually overcome the obstacle of people moving around, you will place your strokes in the correct location, and even if they move you will be able to capture their likeness.  When I look back, I am totally surprised at how far I have come.

These portrait drawings may need tweaking to get the placement right, so do use erasers where needed and fix the problem.

Like someone said, perfect practice makes one perfect, so it is important to put a good concerted effort into getting the likeness, don’t just draw the lines, make sure you are putting in a good effort, eventually this will become second nature to you and you will be able to capture your subject with little effort.

6 thoughts on “Start sketching people, On the Go

  1. Gina Dalkin Davis

    Hi Faisal, Thanks so much for the tips about drawing. Like so many, I’m impatient to get started with oils so frequently skip the all important drawing stage …. only to find myself in such a mess re proportion, etc. So, your comment about 1/2 hour a day committed to perfection is such an encouraging boost. Thanks. Gina.

    1. Faisal Tariq Post author

      Thanks Gina, Yes! You will be surprised at your growth. Just try it, but initially put in a little effort in getting the proportions right and shading right, don’t worry about failure, that is just one bad painting out of your system towards beautiful paintings. After a while it will become a second nature and you will see yourself bloom.

      These days I am trying to translate my sketching ability in pencil to sketching in paint, I eventually would like to paint people. Now this is a little sloppy and you can’t take paint everywhere, so I am painting myself and that is a little more challenging than painting other people. I hope to master this one and hopefully post on this topic. I think it will be a while… 🙂

  2. Judy Filarecki

    I’m enjoying your blog very much. Seeing your sketch of your hand reminded me that I have an entire notebook of sketches of my hand done during very boring Psychology 101 lectures when I was a freshman in college. I didn’t learn much from the class, but I did develop skill in drawing hands. LOL


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