Techniques and Tips

13 Tips for Urban Sketching

13 Tips for Urban Sketching

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Take to the Streets With Pen and Brush

Urban sketching isn’t just about drawing buildings. It’s about life and capturing the vibrancy of that life between the pages of your sketchbook. Artists Cathy Johnson and Liz Steel both take to the streets to do just that and have learned tons of urban sketching tips worth sharing.

Take inspiration from their different points of view and be sure to claim your free paper sample giveaway from Winsor Newton that will jump-start your next urban sketch.

Art in Motion

“People at work, play or repose” — that’s what catches Johnson’s eye when she is out sketching. “It’s about history and progress, opulence and urban decay. Teeming markets, public transportation, cafes, museums, jazz clubs, street performers — all are fair game.”

And if you don’t live near a major metropolis, don’t fear. “There’s no hard rule about what is and isn’t urban,” says Johnson. “Small towns have their urban areas, as do places I call ‘ancient urban’ — like the mission of San Juan Capistrano in California, Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park or Pompeii.”

13 Ways of Urban Sketching

Discover 13 more urban sketching tips developed by Johnson to make your experience both productive and fun. Intrigued? Grab a sketchbook and take to the streets!

1 – Keep it simple

A pencil or pen, a journal or sketchbook, and a small set of watercolors are the go-to choice of many sketchers. Brushes and a water container, or a water brush, will see you through any sketching opportunity.

2 – Be prepared

If you don’t have your kit with you, you can’t sketch when the opportunity arises.

3 – Be flexible

Draw on a paper napkin with a borrowed ballpoint.

4 – Draw what speaks to you

5 – Ask permission

Let your sketching subjects know they are your impromptu subjects, if necessary.

6 – Be alert

Keep an eye on what’s going on around you.

7 – Keep a low profile

If you prefer not to be noticed, wear dark glasses or a broad-brimmed hat, or choose a position in a booth or against a wall.

8 – Find a sketch partner

9 – Don’t worry about the end result

Focus on learning to see what’s around you.

10 – Don’t shy away from mixing media

11 – Stop sooner rather than later

That way you don’t overwork a drawing.

12 – Embrace the rich, varied urban life

Not all urban sketchers are architects, and not all urban sketches are drawings of elaborately lined buildings.

13 – Sketch what you see

Don’t confuse that with what you think you see.

Bonus Tip: Get Your Sketch On at SketchKon

Love sketching? Who doesn’t?! Network and Sketchbook Skool have teamed up to present the first ever SketchKon: a big, unkonventional konvention devoted to drawing, painting, creativity, and friendship with other art-loving individuals, just like you!

Join us for three, fun-filled days in Pasadena, California, Nov. 2-4. SketchKon will include visual presentations, inspirational talks, collaborative art projects, technical demonstrations, sketch crawls and one-on-one advice. So, if you live sketching, painting, drawing and art, then you just gotta come join us! Learn more and register here.

Open Your Sketchbook

Did you enjoy these urban sketching tips? Show us a page from your sketchbook! Share it with us on Instagram by tagging @artistsnetwork and using #everywatercolor.

At Winsor Newton, we’ve been creating the world’s finest art materials since 1832. Our introduction of Winsor Newton water colour papers is testament to this commitment to art and science. All of our papers are made on a traditional cylinder mould at the paper mill, following a practice that dates back to the 19th century. But don’t listen to us, try it for yourself.

Watch the video: Urban sketching in Lisbon - a typical corner (August 2022).