Hatching Free Range Ideas

Lesson 6, PEOPLE!!!!

In Sketchnoting, Visual Thinking on June 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm

People exercises – 60 minutes

So much of what’s important to me involves people, so I find that I listen to a lot of presentations and workshops on relationships with people. And, like many of you out there,  I wanted to move beyond stick figures (which are perfectly acceptable, by the way!) but didn’t know how. Then I found some simple people forms that I could create easily and quickly.

So, this lesson is all about drawing simple people.

There are several simple people forms that I’ve seen used in Sketchnoting and in graphic recording. Here are a few. Any time you are drawing people, it’s easier to get them close to proportion if you add the head last.

People symbols – 15 minutes

Star 1

People 1 - Copy - Copy

The arms and legs are four points of a five pointed star and the head makes the fifth and top point. Here’s the process.

  1. Draw a square for the torso, the middle of your person.
  2. Draw two dots out parallel to the top of the torso for where the arms will end.
  3. Draw two dots about a third of the way down the torso box. These are armpit throw lines.
  4. Draw two dots parallel to the left and right side of your square, about twice as far away as the arm dots. These are leg throw lines.
  5. The crotch throw dot is the mid-point of the bottom torso line.
  6. Now throw your lines between those dots.
  7. Add the head.

Do it again.
Add a BIG head. You have a child.star 2 - Copy
To make it look more like a child, draw the features REALLY low on the face.
Do it again.
Add a teeny head. You have a giant.star 3 - Copy - Copy


MW - Copy - Copy

The capital M is the torso and arms. The W is the legs.

  1. Draw a wide M.
  2. Draw a skinny W about twice as tall as the M.
  3. Add the head.

Adding Context – 10 minutes

Let’s play with the star person to add more context.

Draw four torsos. On the first, add a left arm throw dot above the head.

star 1 b - Copy (2)Throw your lines.





On the next, add the left arm throw dot a little ways out but down, next to the torso.  Throw your lines. The arm will point down.

Add the right arm throw dot a bit above the shoulder. The arm will point slightly up. Throw your lines. Add a pointing finger on the raised arm.

star 2 b








Add feet and hands. Add clothes
Add hair
Add a facial expression

star 3 b - Copy - Copy

Make your star person jump, dance, run, move, sing, talk. Think about what arms and legs do. Have a partner pose for you if you’re not clear.

How could you reshape your MW person?

Stick figure exercise – 10 minutes

One more person type, one that is very familiar. Draw a stick figure doing something.

An action stick figure has three parts to it. . . the arm positions, the leg positions and the body position. The easiest way for me to get the stick figure right is first to capture the body position, using what cartoonists call the Action Line. That’s essentially the spine extended from the feet through the top of the head.

  1. Draw an action line that is hunched over. We’ll think of this figure as looking at something on the ground.
  2. In the middle of the action line, draw a curved box to represent the body.
  3. Now anchor the body to the ground with the feet and legs.
  4. Add the head, with the nose pointed toward the ground.
  5. Now think about what the arms might be doing if your figure were falling over. How about looking at something through a magnifying glass?


What does the action line look like for a running figure?  Look at the spine. Which way do the arm and leg joints go?

Now stick figure the running person.

You know what the faces look like to convey emotions. What does the body do to convey a depressed person?
How about happy?

You really don’t have to convey an entire catalog of emotions in your sketchnoting. Just concentrate on the big ones.

What are they? Stick figure each one

Dress your figures – 5 minutes

So, you’ve got these great stick figures, with box bodies. A word about the box body. From the front, the legs go on the outside of the box; the wider the box, the wider the stance. You can dress your stick figures by going over your stick lines to add weight – pants, shirts with stick arms sticking out. Dresses, heck, even ball gowns.

Dress three of your figures up right now.

Crowds – 5 minutes

What if you want to create more than one person? What if you want to represent a crowd? You don’t have to draw individual figures.

massive crowd - Copy - Copy

Massive crowds – doodle long skinny wiggles as open forms, standing close together. Add a small head on top. Place loads of them together.







At a conference – you’ve seen these. Rows of upside down U’s with circles on top to represent us sitting at a conference. I use them sitting around a table too, to represent meetings.

And I almost forgot the actual practice. Try this talk to sketchnote now and use your people.seated crowd - Copy (2)

  1. You make it look so easy. Love the MW person.

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