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Capturing Cafe Society

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Bill Wright


Enhance your ability to portray authentic people and locations through this course based on London's cafe culture. The focus: capturing with pen, pencil or brush the buzz of human activity where people eat, drink and interact. Fieldwork in street cafes, espresso bars, pubs and parks is interspersed with more reflective studio time and discussions of drawing technique, point of view, body language, overlapping/moving subjects and composition. Tricks of perspective and 'guerrilla drawing' that simplify capturing scenes in public are also reviewed. In each session we’ll explore cafes and gathering spots in another of London's fascinating neighbourhoods.  Studio time includes individual and group critiques but also allows the development of drawings done in the field in greater depth or in other media - for example, turning line drawings into water-colour paintings or collages. Beginners and accomplished artists alike should benefit from immersion in the dynamic atmosphere of London's cafe society - from charming to chic - where subjects and settings are ideal for artistic interpretation. Allow a budget for cups of tea!

Topics covered include:

  • Being at ease when drawing in public
  • Seeing and capturing body language and expression
  • Combining foreground and background elements
  • Capturing the feeling and flavour of locations
  • Scope, framing, composition and cropping of a drawing
  • Guerrilla drawing (drawing with stealth)
  • Reportage drawing and illustration
  • Using new and different drawing materials
  • Simple tricks of observational perspective
  • Online-based drawing/sketching groups and tutorials
  • Developing drawings into more finished illustrations

Course outcomes:

  • Confidence in your ability to draw in public
  • Drawings you’ve done that will help build a sketchbook or portfolio
  • A knowledge of interesting places to draw in London
  • A better grasp of foreground, background and perspective
  • An ability to develop field drawings into more finished illustrations
  • Improved ability to capture character, activities and places
  • Drawings that express a time, place, characters, activities

Level: All levels welcome

Entry requirements: None

Who should take this course?

If you’re someone with a zest for observing people and would like to hone your skills in depicting them and their surroundings, this course is for you.  Any artistic level is fine and those interested in broader fields of endeavour, such as painting, illustration, reportage illustration, fashion illustration or compiling a portfolio or sketchbook will find this course a good springboard.  Whether you’re a beginner sketcher, art  or design student or a professional in fine art or illustration, what you’ll get from Capturing Cafe Society is something you’ll be able to take with you, enjoy and expand upon indefinitely!

Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older

Tutor Description

Hello, Bill Wright here.  I’m passionate about drawing and illustration and love teaching about them and interacting with students in their creative efforts. I start each course by asking, ’What do you hope to get out of this class?’ and I think hearing that from each student is a good beginning.
As for my background, my training in New York City was as an architect and architectural illustrator, but I’ve also worked internationality on films and TV as a set designer and storyboard artist and enjoy collaborating with professionals and students from around the world.  I’ve taught drawing, illustration and design in the US and UK, including ten years at Central Saint Martins, both in BA program and in short courses. 

If you’re after individual input about your work just ask. I love digging into drawings and illustrations and seeing what makes them tick. I’ve created thousands of drawings and illustrations, but I still experience the excitement and awe I felt as a student, so I know how that feels. Similarly, I can’t help the sense of vibrant anticipation I get for how students will grow and achieve. I’m a firm believer in passing on simple techniques, tricks of the trade, approaches and methods that I’ve been fortunate enough to absorb and can share.  And sharing these methods as I do can make image-making more lively, spontaneous, engaging, easier and more fun! 


Please bring with you to the first session:

  • A4 cartridge pad - spiral bound is best - or an A4 sketchbook
  • Drawing pencils (HB, 2B, 4B and 6B)
  • Felt-tipped pens (fine, medium and/or bold)
  • Pencil sharpener 
  • Rubber and putty rubber (a/k/a eraser and kneaded eraser) 
  • Please bring other drawing materials you like or would like to explore. 

Studio Materials:      

There will also be studio time during which drawings produced in the field can be developed with paint, inks, collage or other means. We’ll have lots of these materials in school, so you don’t have to bring anything for this part of the course. 

Available dates