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How to get started as an urban sketcher.

Who are Urban Sketchers?

An Urban Sketcher is anyone who creates art on location, either indoors or outdoors.

Do I need to be talented?

Everyone has their own individual talent. As long as you have a desire to sketch, that’s all you need to start. Self doubt has no place in creation. You need to trust that you have a unique perspective and that no one can create what you can.

Instead of comparing your talent to someone with more experience, try to learn from those people and use their techniques. Do you like the way someone uses color? Try to implement it in your own work.

What tools are needed?

At the most minimum, you need a pencil and sheet of paper. You don’t need fancy paints or pens to start. Look in your desk and get started with what you have.

If you’re like me, I’ve been hoarding unused sketchbook for years! It’s time to give your supplies the life it deserves by finally using them. Honor your art supplies by giving them a purpose with your sketches.

To make your life easier, you may find the following tools of the trade helpful :

• A lightweight, foldable seat

• A hard surface (I use a square piece of 1/4 inch wood)

• A hat and/or sunglasses for sunny days

Where do I go?

Anywhere your heart desires! The best place to start is where you are. Go outside and start drawing your own home or your car.

Research historic areas near you that have interesting architecture. Maybe there’s a botanical garden that has beautiful blossoms near you. Perhaps a coffee shop you frequent has an interesting layout or colors that you think would make a great sketch.

You are allowed to sketch in many museums but call ahead to check. For the safety of paintings, water and ink usually aren’t allowed so bring pencils.

As you commute to work or run errands, you’ll begin to see interesting locations everywhere!

What do I sketch?

What you sketch will depend on where you go. Once you get to a location, walk around until you see something that catches your eye. Don’t rush to find something and don’t second guess yourself. Follow your instincts however odd they may seem. I’ve seen people only sketch fire hydrants.

The easiest things to sketch are ones that stay relatively still like buildings or flowers. Drawing people is difficult since they move around so much. However, if you are trying to get better at drawing people, go to a library or coffee shop where people are sitting rather than standing. Standing people move too much.

Should I go alone?

It depends on the kind of person you are. I like to go at my own pace so I tend to go solo on sketch trips.

If you are interested in meeting other fellow Urban Sketchers, check out the official Urban Sketchers non-profit organization website and find a community in your country/city. If there isn’t one in your area, consider looking on Meetup.com or seeing if there is a Facebook group near you for artists. If not, start one!

Related Article: Why I Urban Sketch And You Should, Too!

Are you ready to start?

If you found this helpful, consider sharing it!

~ Jojo 

sketchbook ideas cover image

This post may contain affiliate links as mentioned in our disclosure. This site is not connected with, affiliated with, approved by, or endorsed by the Urban Sketchers organization.

Are you feeling unmotivated, bored, or stagnant with your art? Do you find yourself avoiding your sketchbook like the plague? Sometimes we need to shake up our routine to feel excited about art again.

Try one or all of these 5 ideas that prolific artists use to spice up your own sketchbook. There is no right or wrong way to create art. So grab your sketchbook and get inspired.

1. Pick the same object repeatedly.

sketch the same thing image

For artist Liz Steel, sketching coffee cups is a staple in her sketchbooks. She spends so much time in coffee shops, that it came naturally to paint what was in front of her. Over time, she has accumulated a massive amount of teacup sketches that define her style.

By sketching the same object found in different locations, you are able to build a link among your art. What do you come across often and appreciate the form of? Shopping bags? Graffiti? Pick an everyday object or subject to sketch and keep an eye out for it wherever you go. You’ll soon have a series collection in your sketchbook to look back on.

2. Stick to a limited palette of color.

color combos to try image

It can be overwhelming when you get a new set of paints or markers. There are some sets of paint that come with 72 colors! That’s not necessary for sketching. Some artists have a palette with 12 colors. Others choose only 3. The more limited colors you choose, the more creative you are forced to be.

So try starting with a warm color and a cool color. Try complementary colors. Mix up what colors you use. You may surprised at what you are able to create with just a handful of colors.

3. Implement a fade.

There’s no need to feel rushed to finishing a sketch. In fact, you can add more focus to a sketch by leaving white space. This effect can be especially impactful for landscapes.

Next time you are sketching, decide to focus on one point and allow the rest of the scene to fade. This can be accomplished by making the color saturated on the focal point and diluting the color on the non focal points.

4. Combine multiple images into one.

drawing a double exposure image

The method is often called “double exposure” in photography, where two images overlap. This technique of overlapping sketches can be tricky. It is difficult to know exactly where to place objects so that the finished piece doesn’t look overcrowded.

Start with just line drawings of two objects in one piece. As you start to add color (if you choose to add color), don’t overlap the colors. If you do, it could make the colors too muddy. Add selective color on parts you want to highlight.

The final piece is wholly original and very fun to look at!

5. Go BIGGER or smaller.

draw bigger or smaller image

If you have been sketching in primarily one size for a long time, consider going bigger or going smaller. Lots of artists stick to whatever size their sketchbook is, but changing the size of your sketch will require some creativity.

Some artists like Alvero Castagnet like to sketch on a large sheet of watercolor paper on location. He’s able to use a large paintbrush to start and then go into finer details to finish.

A painting as large as his will require more water and space to paint. It also will take more time, but you can capture more buildings and people in larger sketches.

Another artist Katie Woodward, does her sketches on tiny postage stamp sized pieces of paper. An advantage of this style is that it requires very little supplies to use so you aren’t carrying a lot with you. You can also finish a sketch in a very short amount of time and therefore create more of them in shorter time. And by sketching so small, you can focus on one particular point of interest.

Have you tried any of these sketchbook ideas?

What other techniques have you tried?

~ Jojo