Drawing people on the move – Berlin 2017

To book contact: isabel@pushingyoursketchingboundaries.comA4_PYSB_Berlin_poster_01 (1)Berlin is a destination for visitors from all over the world – not only for holidays but also for living here a longer amount of time. It is not obviously its picturesque beauty that attracts visitors – compared with other European metropolis it has few – it is build on flat lands which did not force unique solutions but allowed a quick and quite monotonous growth in the second half of the 19th century and due to its following history the city is full of breaks and scars.

Anyway Berlin attracted and attracts migrants and visitors. If it is not hardship, that pulls people here, it might be certain kinds of freedoms, absurdly even during the times of the division, and now obviously after its end, where extra space has opened for cultural experiments. The layered mix of people of multiple origins and cultures and with varying aims and expectations shape the spirit of the city, more than its ‘hardware’ of buildings and infrastructure.

We are going to draw the people, and explore the city by depicting its inhabitants, its people, who are in a way its creators.

Our ‘base’ will be situated at the river Spree, that at this part separated The West-Berlin District of Kreuzberg and the East Berlin district Friedrichshain –  from 1948 to 1990 (with the unpassable wall from 1961). So we will have pedestrian access to Friedrichshain, workers and industrial district in GDR-times, whose industrial buildings gave space to a lot of subcultural enterprises after the fall of the wall and that became home to international migrants, that mix (and compete) with its long-time-locals – and Kreuzberg, one of the focus areas of West-Berlin subculture, that did persist and develop.

After a short introduction at our ‘baseroom’ at the ‘Spreefeld’ in the mornings we will walk, or sometimes maybe even use public transport, to get to our sketching spots, that will be Heinrichplatz and Oranienstraße (one of Kreuzbergs Pub and Restaurant Areas), Markthalle Neun (a covered food market in a historical hall), markets at Boxhagener Platz and Maybachufer, a flea market at Leopoldplatz, U-train-stations at Warschauer Strasse and Schlesisches Tor. In case of rain some of the outdoor locations might be substituted by libraries or other indoor facilities.

We will find and sketch locals and visitors using the cities places for joy, transport, work, leisure etc., following different approaches.

People in Context (Isabel)

When drawing and sketching people to me there are two things – one the person in its own right – the character and personality, what they do/what they are… and then the context – the room/street/square, the action they are doing – selling/playing/talking.

As we are going to be in busy places, we will need to attain some degree of sensation of mass of people and individuals we want to focus on and depict more carefully.  Isa1We will practice painting people in watercolour at speed and defining the space by the placement of the people on it first.EPSON MFP imageWhen drawing larger groups of people – the bar/ the market/the beach/people around a table, the context brings them together creating the scene. It is this setting the scene that tells us the story of what is going on, we need to decide how and how much we will include or if an element will stand out in colour.Isa3Isa4 We will try exercises where the people are drawn and then their context – or viceversa, set up the context and then focus on the the people in more detail. Colour will help us to abstract the context.Isa5We will experiment with diverse treatments for the scene (setting) and the action (people) – watercolour wash and line and diversifying the marks for foreground and background, trying out what happens when you draw the background first or the people first or together.  Isa6Isa7Isaa8

Among the People (Rolf)

When we draw a lively place we normally do it driven by our own curiosity. The impulse to report follows an interest and enjoyment, that we share with our fellow people on the spot. So we should take care that the process of sketching does not block our source impulse to perceive, enjoy, and participate.

We want to find a way to integrate our sketching into our normal moves, so we can spontaneously sketch, whenever we spot something we like to record.

We will work with some essential tools only and try out strategies and exercises, that enable us to quickly and spontaneously ink down our social experience. We want to automate our sketching, so we can deal with our double occupation as visitor and reporting sketcher.

We want to deal with this challenge by trying and exercising different strategies:

  •  quick drawings of figures, in order to loosen our marks and to automate the pens movement
  • experiment with degrees of abstraction – what does it need, to make a shape on paper a living thing?
  • separate our drawing of a figure in batches, in order to deal with unpredictable vanishing models.
  • understand the role of own viewpoint in relation to create an impression of space with depth and impact
  • use all the prior to sketch our individual experience of a lively spot


above left: drawing walking by people quickly with loose, long and partly ‘blind’ lines, in order to loosen and automate the drawing process.
above  right: incomplete, but finished (for good or for bad, musician has left the train)


above left: drawing a figure in batches (sequence may vary), in order to have a ‘finished’ incomplete figure on paper, when model walks away
above right:  the role of own viewpoint and eye-level, when positioning figures in space

Rolf5Rolf6above: 2 Sketches of people and stuff from inside the flea market on Berlin Leopoldplatz

media: Every participant may use the tools, he is most comfortable with (since they are quick at hand), I suggest soft pencil, all kind of markers, fountain – and brush pen. ‘Casual’ sketchbook or loose papers – there will be a lot of quick and scrawly results …

Let’s tell people’s stories (Swasky)

People moving, people going around, back and forth,… We do not have time, we need to capture them we want to depict them in our sketchbook. Using a loose and unpredictable technique like watercolour instead of a fountain pen or a ballpoint pen lowers our likeness standards, details become less important and our goal is to capture gestures, expressions, moods and feelings. Brush and watercolour markers (or watercolour pencils) will be our drawing tools. Nevertheless the most important thing is to tell a story.

Some themes we will explore:

  1. Expression. We are going to pay attention to people’s face features and we will try to communicate what they are expressing with them. Just using a pencil and a simple line as our drawing tool, we are going to draw people faces, paying attention to eyebrows, expression wrinkles, mouth, eyes,…


  2. Depicting interaction. What people do and how we interact with each other is the moment when we start telling a story. Now we are going to start drawing the way people interact with each other. Even not interacting is a way of interacting, we are sharing a same space and we are occupying it with our presence. After working faces we are going to draw hands, which are the second part more communicative part of our body.Swasky5Swasky6
  3. Context. Now we will observe also context as part of the human being as I have mentioned before here will notice the link between someone and his or her context. We will be among stalls, benches, customers,… people and space and we will tell their stories.Swasky7Swasky8

This session will help attendees to successfully deal the fear of drawing people. Because drawing people is less scary than drawing skyscrapers, too many windows.

Learning goals

  • Pushing participants out of their comfort zone, at their own level. From beginners starting to sketch to more confident participants, we aim to teach you something new and push you outside your boundaries, helping you experiment.
  • Experiment with different techniques and ways of approaching a live sketching people situation, helping you find your own self expression.
  • Using and trying different approaches to drawing people – line drawing with brushes,  marker pens and watercolour pencils, painting with watercolours, light and shade,
  • Develop your own way of representing what you see in colour with confidence
  • Improving mark making ability – with pen, with brush,
  • Losing the fear to draw people
  • Sketching people and their stories as they move.

Workshop Schedule

Wednesday 27th Sep
5pm Welcome at our base in ‘Spreefeld’
Thursday 28th Sep
9am -10am Welcome and get together at our base in ‘Spreefeld’
10.30am-1.30pm Morning worskhops with Swasky, Rolf and Isabel
1.30pm – 2.30pm Lunch
2.30 – 5.30pm Afternoon workshops with Swasky, Rolf  and Isabel
6.00pm Return to Spreefeld – review and share work of the day on line
Friday 29th Sep
9am -10am Welcome and get together at our base in ‘Spreefeld’
10.30am-1.30pm Morning worskhops with Swasky, Rolf and Isabel
1.30pm – 2.30pm Lunch
2.30 – 5.30pm Afternoon workshops with Swasky, Rolf  and Isabel
6.00pm Return to Spreefeld – review and share work of the day on line
Saturday 30th Sep
9am -10am Welcome and get together at our base in ‘Spreefeld’
10.30am-1.30pm Morning worskhops with Swasky, Rolf and Isabel
1.30pm – 2.30pm Lunch
2.30 – 5.30pm Afternoon workshops with Swasky, Rolf  and Isabel
6.00pm Return to Spreefeld – review and share work of the day on line
Sunday 1st Oct
10.00am to 3pm Meet at Spreefeld  for coffee and start sketchcrawl

30 attendees maximum, 18 minimum. Any level of drawing experience is welcome
You need to arrange your own accommodation.

Check the map of the workshop here – the nearest stations to Spreefeld are Berlin OstBanhof  (S and U bahn) or Heinrinch Heine Strasse (U-bahn).Supply list
A list will be provided for participants – generally bring what you normally draw with.

Registration fee

£ 225 – (£180 concessions – 20% discount for students or unwaged (with proof of concession status)). or if paying in Euros 275 (220 Euros concessions)
To book, email Isabel – isabel@pushingyoursketchingboundaries.com for registration form.

Cancellation policy: All fees are refundable if cancelled prior to 29th September 2017. Bank charges will be deducted from the refund in the case of an attendee cancellation. If cancelled after 29th September, a £25 cancellation fee (30 Euros) will be retained. In the event of too few registrants, all monies will be refunded.

Workshop map

Berlin workshop map here

About the instructors

This workshop combines the abilities of:

Victor Swasky, Rolf Schroeter and Isabel Carmona

You can read their short biographies by following the links above