Ups & Downs of Urban Sketching


Can urban sketching—the art of drawing what you observe in a city—ever become a truly comfortable and relaxing pastime for amateurs? By way of curiosity, commitment, and courage the answer is a resounding YES!


Here’s the first thing to know about urban sketching: It really is okay to stand on a downtown street or sit on an urban park bench and simply draw what goes on around you. Unless you’re blocking the entrance to a Starbucks, most people in the city don’t even notice you exist, let alone notice you drawing rows of windows on a vintage hotel building. Occasionally, curious bystanders might wonder why you’re on the corner of 1st and Main, at rush hour, with a pencil in your hand.


Timing is everything: Expect the unexpected. When choosing a location to sketch, be mindful of the curbside situation before getting deep into drawing. Delivery trucks have a way of showing up to block your view, just as you settle in to sketch the people across the street. Also, practice sketching only the essence of your subject rather than adding all the little details. Within a couple of minutes, the scene you’re sketching can change dramatically.

I know the joy and frustration of drawing in the streets, the ups and downs of urban sketching. I thoroughly enjoy sharing tips and advice—online and during my workshops. How can I help you improve your drawing? Connect with me right now.

Travel light, be brave, and sketch like the wind!

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Founder and drawing coach at the Scribbles Institute, Rob helps adults and kids learn basic drawing skills for work, school, and enjoyment. He is the author of a number of how-to-draw books.

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