Sketching for Inspiration
What is Sketching?
Sketching is a loose art form that can be done from practically anywhere with any supplies you’d like to use. Urban Sketching is done on location, usually outdoors but we’ve got some winters here in Chicago and we take it indoors. In sketching, rather than working towards the goal of creating a finished art work, you’re focus is on style and mood. There are lots of ways to incorporate sketching into your every day and for many, it offers a creative and relaxing break, even meditative.
Below I go through some of these methods and share with you what I use in my workshops and what’s in my personal kit. There are also a few books that I wanted to share which I feel offer a good mix of instruction and inspiration. The three things I find important when it comes to sketching are:
- Your supplies should fit your lifestyle. Get a sketchbook that fits into your everyday bag.
- Sketch what you love. To keep yourself engaged, pick subjects that spark your interest.
- No pressure! Sketching is a loose art form meant to offer you freedom and creativity. This is not the time for judgements.
Where to Sketch
Here are some ideas on where you can sketch.
Sketch What You Love
First and foremost, you have to sketch what you love. You won’t be inspired or motivated to sit and sketch something that brings you no joy. So first, think about what you’d like to sketch.
Sketching outside, on location, can make you a tourist in your home town. Visit your favorite neighborhood spots and look around to see what captures your imagination. It may be an entire skyline, the creek behind your home, a plain, vista, or row of homes, just as it could be an ornate bench or lamp post.
Indoor spaces like lobbies and museums can also bring inspiration but I also love to capture the little things. I like to sketch on the “L”, at my local coffee spot, and anytime I’m have to sit in a waiting room. It’s a relaxing activity that can even calm the nerves before an appointment.
Urban sketching is the art of sketching on location. A global community began to form in 2007 after Seattle-based journalist and illustrator Gabriel Campanario created an online forum “for all sketchers out there who love to draw the cities where they live and visit, from the window of their homes, from a cafe, at a park, standing by a street corner… always on location, not from photos or memory.”
Read the Urban Sketchers mission statement.
Sketch on your own, with friends, or browse cities and join your local urban sketchers group. Meet amazing people and see others’ work. Take one of my workshop to get started and learn what you need for this fun activity.
Sketch Your Future Painting
When you’re starting work on a new painting, sketching helps you to get aquatinted with your potential scene. Whether you’re painting in the studio or en plein-air at your location sketching is a great way to start laying out and arranging your subjects and colors. It’s a time to get creative and expressive. Try a new angle or framing. Sketching lets you do a little bit of work to give you some ideas for your final painting.
I paint mostly with watercolors and the paper is textured. So I don’t want a lot of unnecessary marks and erasing on my large watercolor paper. I have small mixed-media and watercolor sketchbooks that I create sketches on and even run through some final color recipes.
Sketching Your Travels
Traveling to a new city or country is exciting. Sketching can take the form of journaling your travels. In addition to sketching your scenes, make some notes about your activity, mood, the atmosphere, or anything else you’d like to write. It’s a creative way to capture your travels and immerse yourself further into the locale.
I mentioned above that the Urban Sketchers community is global, so when you’re traveling and feel like some company, look up the local chapter and post a request to sketch with someone. It’s a very friendly community around the world and you’ll get a chance to hang out with a local who you already have something in common with.
If you’re sketching outside of your home or studio, your supplies should comfortably fit your bag. You may have a minimal kit for everyday and a larger kit for when you’re going out for a longer stay or travel. It’s important that it be comfortable to carry so that you continue to bring it with you.
The very basic kit is a pad of sketching paper and something to make marks with. Whether that’s a pencil, charcoal, sharpie, watercolors, crayons, markers, fountain pen, or ballpoint pen, is totally up to you. Your kit should be customized with the things you like to use. Unique to you.
I carry different tools when I am sketching indoors, outdoors, and on a long vacation. All of my favorite supplies can be found on the supplies page. Here is what’s in my everyday sketching kit:
- Moleskine Watercolor Book
- Rotring Mechanical Pencil
- Waterproof black ink pen
- Fountain pen
- Small watercolor set
- Yellow and brown watercolor markers
- Black watercolor sticks
- Derwent Water Soluble Graphite
My Favorite Books on Sketching I use these in my workshops and for reference as I sketch
The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World I've shared so much of this book in my workshops because it shows off such versatile sketches!
Published in 2012
The Art of Urban Sketching is both a comprehensive guide and a showcase of location drawings by artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel.
Authored by the founder of the nonprofit organization Urban Sketchers (www.urbansketchers.org), this beautiful, 320-page volume explains urban sketching within the context of a long historical tradition and how it is being practiced today. With profiles of leading practitioners and discussions of the benefits of working in this art form, this inspiring book shows how one can participate and experience this creative outlet through modern-day social networks and online activity.
You’ll find more than 600 beautiful, contemporary illustrations, as well as artists’ profiles and extended captions where these urban sketchers share their stories, how they work, sketching tips, and the tools behind each drawing.
With sketches and observations from more than 50 cities in more than 30 countries, The Art of Urban Sketching offers a visually arresting, storytelling take on urban life from different cultures and artistic styles, as well as insight into various drawing techniques and mediums.
Sketching People An Urban Sketcher’s Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces
Published in 2016
Drawing people in the outside world can be a real thrill; each sketch captures a particular person and place in time. But it can also be a challenge. How do you spot a likely subject? How do you choose the person most likely to stay still? How do you draw movement for the person that refuses to sit still? Sketching People offers straightforward, practical help to give beginning artists the confidence and ability to draw all sorts of people in many different settings. In the pages of this book, readers will find:
- How to capture the essence of character
- Different line-work styles
- Techniques for creating realistic skin tones
- The key to capturing the details of street life
- Ways to create fabric folds
- Mastering tonal drawings
- Conveying age differences, and more
This clearly written, fun to read book is bursting with inspirational artwork and candid advice that will help you improve your drawing skills and change the way you sketch for the better.
Sketch Now Think Later Jump into Urban Sketching with Limited Time, Tools, and Techniques
Published in 2017
Boston-based urban artist Mike Daikubara gives beginners a crash course in location sketching that you can use in any city in Sketch Now, Think Later.
Everyone wishes they could sketch stylish scenes, but busy lives leave almost no room for sitting down with a pad and pen to practicing. Many people give up on their potential hobby (and artistic outlet) because they feel they just don’t have the time to lay the groundwork. Here’s a secret though: you do! All you need is a strategy for incorporate sketching into your daily life.
Sketch Now, Think Later covers the tools, techniques and tips that author and Urban Sketching Correspondent of Boston Mike Daikubara has developed in his more than 15 years as a practicing artist, and will show you how to fully dive into any sketching situation with limited time and tools, and still be able to produce memorable, great looking, fun sketches!
The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective Easy Techniques for Mastering Perspective Drawing on Location (Urban Sketching Handbooks)
Published in 2016
A good sketch starts with good bones.
The fourth book in the Urban Sketching Handbook series uses drawings and simple steps to explain the often challenging and overwhelming concepts of perspective in practical and useful ways for on-site sketching. Most books are either too abstract or don’t provide enough information that relates to what you actually do when you’re out in the busy, wide world about to start a drawing. Where do you start? How do you edit what you see to flatten and shrink it onto your paper? How does perspective work?
The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective helps you learn to think like an architect, to draw buildings and spaces by reducing what you see to simple, basic shapes, then adding layers in simple steps, and finally finishing your sketch with detail, tone, and color–in accurate perspective. Full of helpful tips, architect and illustrator, Stephanie Bower even de-constructs sketches to show you how to create them! Once you understand perspective, it will change the way you see the world–you’ll see perspective everywhere.
Some of the key concepts explored in this volume are:
– Basic Terms
– Basic Spatial Principles
– Types of Perspective
– Building a Sketch in Layers
– Special Conditions
Urban Sketching The Complete Guide to Techniques
Published in 2014
While most sketching guides leave the artist with static bowls of fruit and flower vases to develop their skill, Urban Sketching takes its inspiration from the living, breathing world around us! Contents include the nuts and bolts of sketching and drawing as well as a range of techniques specific to this artistic genre. Readers will discover:
- Rules on perspective that will aid inn capturing landscapes, buildings, and objects accurately
- Tips for capturing the essence of people in sketches when subjects are on the move
- The art of adding notes, commentary, and even speech to sketches
Chapters on sharing sketches through social media, joining the international urban sketching community, digitizing work, and more make this new guide the quintessential resource for anyone interested in joining the exciting art movement. More than 350 full-color illustrations throughout.