Figures can play an important part of a street scene, helping to bring life and movement to the painting. The original watercolour of The Shambles, York from which this limited edition print of the Shambles in York was taken was actually one of the finalists in the Sunday Times Watercolour competition back 1994 and sold from the Mall Galleries.
I deliberately chose to paint the scene looking into the light to heighten the sense of mood and drama. This meant that the figures produced long shadows which helped to make them feel even more enclosed by the old timber framed buildings hanging over the street. Some of the buildings date back to the 14th Century and are the home to shops selling gifts and such like to the many tourists which flock to York. However, up until as late as 1872, the Shambles was the home to 25 butchers. Today there are none.
Sketching figures on location is very important when painting this kind of subject as it helps you to keep your brush marks loose and fresh. If you rely totally on photography, you run the risk of making the people look too statuesque. I also published a watercolour of York Minster to partner this painting which has lots of figures too. This time though, they are smaller to provide a sense of scale to the cathedral in the background.