Art Blog

A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started With Urban Sketching

Urban sketching is a fantastic way to document the world around you. Whether you’re among a bustling metropolis or small downtown, these places never lack interesting subjects to draw. If you’ve wanted to try this type of drawing but are unsure of how to approach it, this beginner’s guide to urban sketching will help you get started.

There are three things to consider before you start urban sketching: supplies, location and technique.

Each can be tweaked to your exact liking, but when you’re just starting out, these will show you the path to drawing. Although it’s not a requirement to have experience drawing, it definitely helps — especially as you consider what tools you’ll use and where you’ll use them.

Supplies

Ultimately, the supplies you use for urban sketching are up to you. Before you embark outdoors, ask yourself, “What’s my favorite tool? Is it easy to carry with me?” Picking the right supplies is about comfort, both figuratively and literally.

First is your comfort handling the tool.

If you’re a pro at cross-hatching and wielding a pen, use that to draw with. But if graphite is more your speed, grab your favorite pencils. You could even use charcoal or a small watercolor set if you prefer. The point is: It’s easier to start something new when you already have some familiarity with your tools. It will make the task of drawing less daunting.

The other comfort to consider is portability.

When you’re sitting on a bench or at a table, you might have to move at a moment’s notice; the weather could change, a crowd could appear, or some other environmental factor will get in your way. If that’s the case, you need to be able to pick up things easily and go. It’s best to pack supplies that can easily fit in a tote bag or book bag.

And don’t forget your sketchbook!

Make sure that it too is portable and the paper can handle your media.

Read more about choosing supplies for urban sketching.

Location

Picking a location is the key to having fun with urban sketching. To make things easy, pick a place that’s close to home. You probably have a favorite building that’s within blocks of your doorstep. Start by drawing that; not only will you be familiar, but you’ll understand the joy of recreating something you know so well.

A common issue that would-be urban sketchers face is that they’re too shy or don’t want to be that person — drawing in public. If that’s the case, pick a friend to go with you and sketch, too! Making art is always more fun with a friend.

Read more about urban sketching in busy locations.

Sketching techniques

Before you begin drawing, remind yourself that this is urban sketching — as much as you like perfection, your artwork isn’t going to be a masterpiece that’s full of meticulously etched details. And that’s not a bad thing! Enjoy creating something that’s loose, gestural and — mos importantly — in the moment. 

Sketching approaches like hatching, cross-hatching and even the scribbling will allow you to build form and depth while still being able to record everything quickly and convey the essence of what you see. 

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