Places to Sketch


Reference: Artist Network 

Sketching is the easiest way to hone your skills.  With just pen, pencil or paper it’s a matter of finding a place that’s interesting.  There are places that are accessible and will allow you to explore areas, items and places that you enjoy seeing.

Very Artful Places
Museums, sculpture gardens and public art spaces are one of many places to sit and sketch. You may not be the only one with the idea so keep your eyes peeled for sketch friends you didn’t know you had.


Colorful Places
Close your eyes and think of color — vibrant, shout-out-loud color. Now think if any of those colors are connected to a place you know of or have visited.

Sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows, or the colored lights of Las Vegas in the evening. The blinking, twinkling lights and colorful cars of the amusement part of country fair.


Frequented Places 
Historic homes, fancy interiors or vintage automobile show is one of the best field trips for someone who loves architecture, interior design or urban cities simply because they love perspective and design.

You could also go to showrooms or even big box stories like IKEA. All of these might be the perfect setting for a sketch and you don’t have to do a thing to set the stage.

Preserved historic homes or open houses are a great way to get a peek in places you might not always go and get a sketch in as well.

In my mind these are also known as “sketch from bed” places. Why go anywhere? Have a sketch stay-cation and prop yourself up on your bed or sofa and sketch what you see: your pet, favorite houseplant, or kitchen sink. All of these can be worth your eye and creative attention.


Childhood Memory Places
The best places to sketch from my childhood would be the zoo, circus, fair, playground and even an indoor skate rink (if you can find one). Seek out places that you have warm childhood memories of.  Your sketch will be infused with nostalgia but you also get the opportunity to bring that memory up to date, even if the locale isn’t exactly the same…though that would be really cool too.


Very Unusual Places
Some of the best places to sketch are places that have nothing to do with art and may even be places you would never think to sketch. There are are interesting cities, abandoned farms, old forgotten buildings or vacated buildings.  But make sure your not trespassing, or if you need to, get permission from the owner. Most importantly, make sure you look out for your safety.

James Gurney and Marc Taro Holmes are great examples of awesome artists who take their art anywhere including parking lots. Gurney gets double the points for also watercolor sketching in a car dealership too. Marc shares tons of ideas and strategies on urban sketching in his book, The Urban Sketcher, that include exercises and troubleshooting for when you are out and about drawing the life around you. Plus he gives you pointers on sketching with a variety of materials: pencil, watercolor, and more.


Public Eateries
Crowds both big and small are sometimes the best places to sketch. Think a busy coffee shop or crowded beach. The people watching will be second to none and you can zero in on something particular or take a vantage point that allows you to capture the whole scene.


Natural Places
Go where the nature is! Take an interest in what’s around you. Bugs, trees, flowers…botanical gardens, community gardens, grove of fruit trees, a nearby park, your backyard or porch that might just have one brave potted plant lifting its face to the sky. Where is the natural world on display for you? Plop yourself there and stay awhile.


Iconic Places
Places that are instantly recognizable are fun sketch subjects because they give you an instant compositional focus that you don’t have to think too hard about. These can be of the natural world (the Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Mississippi River or Niagara Falls) or man-made (the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mount Rushmore or the trolleys of New Orleans).

Grand Canyon is an Iconic Place well worth several sketches. What iconic places would be convenient for you to go to sketch?

dawn on the S rim of the Grand Canyon

Everyday Places
Errands take you around your city or town a few times a week. Why not take a tour of your regular haunts with sketchbook in hand? Some of the best places to sketch are places that you know like the back of your hand: your favorite lunch spot or bookstore, the street where you live, your grocery store or post office.


Seasonal Outings
Creativity can be sparked by different things depending on the season. In summer, seek out dramatically shady places. In winter, you could be drawn to sketching footsteps in the snow. Pumpkin patches, turning leaves or barrels of apples in fall and wildflowers and clear blue skies in spring. Seek out your seasonal favorites and spend a page or two sketching them. Winter sketching in your sketchbook or on a painting panel is just one way to capture the season. Imagine more–and for all four seasons.


Using Photos to Travel
What is the most exotic place you can think of? Take a mental trip and and do a search on the computer or through the pages of a travel magazine and sketch a place that you might only know through photographs. Creative inspiration doesn’t have to reside within your city limits. Dream big and look far, and just be aware of the challenges of working from photos as you render your own “postcard” sketch.


Elemental Places
Earth, air, fire and water. Each element probably evokes a different picture of a place in your mind. For me, water will always be the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the Venice canals. The sketches you do around the elements may be more symbolic than literal locales, but nothing wrong with that. But if you can marry the two, even better.


Daily Art – Making a habit of sketching

I’ve made a concerted effort to start a daily habit of sketching or drawing. I have found a great amount of groups on Facebook and online to get sketching exercises.  As you know, I am a Facebook addict and I’ve selected a few groups.  My criteria for selection is activity and the number of members.  Memberships that run in the tens of thousands are too big, and the administrators are usually too bogged down to be effective in the groups; however if the group is active and the group members provide assistance, I am all for it!  Below are the groups I found are the most active in the group and the administrators do a great job in overseeing the activities.

  • Sketching Everyday – I really like this group.  Very active group that allows you to post “off prompt” sketches.  The administrator is active and provides great daily themes.  A small intimate group under 1000 but very supportive.  Plus, periodically during the month there are artist studies selected as the daily prompt.
  • Sketchbook Skool: A Drawing A Day – This group is part of the Sketchbook Skool Facebook group, as well as the Sketchbook Sketching Skool.
  • Doodlewash – Has a community outside of Facebook where you can post your completed art as well as sign up for their forum.  Doodlewash also has a Facebook page, World Watercolor Group with 72k membership.  Daily sketch themes are found here.
  • Daily Sketch Challenge – There is a nice monthly list provided; however I do not see many submission to the challenged
  • Urban Sketchers – This is a huge group with subgroups all around the world. So if you live in a metropolitan area, you might find a urban group near your area.  I found this an interesting group with lots of art submissions from around the world.  I find it interesting to see sketches of locations around the world that I would love to visit!
  • Virtual Sketchwalk – This group selects cities or locations around the world, provides a walking map and photos for members to draw.  Interesting concept.  Haven’t tried it yet, but will do a few of their challenges.  Its an active group even though there are under 1000 members.

The Sketching Everyday group is doing an alphabet series for September. I decided to complete my month doing animal sketches.  Doodlewash is doing a month theme of celebrations.  If you’ve not incorporated a daily routine of sketching, I invite you to follow along with any of the sites listed above.  The drawing of sketches can be simple 15 minute sketches in any medium, a quick doodle or a formal drawing/painting.   My sketches below were ten minute to two hour drawings.

Please note:  The old house is a Seth Clark Study.  Selected topic by the Sketching Everday group.  The Lady With A Cup is a Fred Callibri Study.



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Practice Piece #2

I am completing my practice pieces by using demonstrations from the book, Painting Light with Color Pencil by Cecile Baird.  As I said in my previous post, this book is perfect for beginning color pencil artists.  The exercises are uncomplicated demonstrations that can be hand drawn and the author does a great job in giving you guidance by listing the colors before starting the piece, and gives step by step “recipes” outlining the steps and colors to use.  The canister and apple drawing is done using the Canson XL Bristol Smooth Smooth paper. The Bristol smooth has enough tooth on the paper to grab the color pencils nicely; moreover, the creaminess of the Prismacolor Primier Artist Pencils easily helped in the layering process.  I used alcohol to blend 3 or 4 layers, but found using the Derwent Colorless Blender a better choice in blending and burnishing the colors.


Painting Light using Color Pencil.

I finished 2 small 5 x 7 art pieces following a book called Painting Light with Color Pencil by Cecile Baird. The little kiwi and cantalope fruit demonstration is nothing to get too excited about. It’s was a practice piece, but it allowed me to work on different paper: Canson XL Bristol Smooth and Strathmore cold press 400lb water paper. In my opinion, stay away from the watercolor. Too toothy. It was hard to cover the paper.

The book has 21 easy to follow still life demonstrations that captures light. The author also has a great section on use of drawing tools, colored pencil techniques, the process of drawing. If you are in the beginning stages of using Color pencils, I recommend following along with the demonstrations.

Completed using Canson XL Bristol Vellum Smooth

Completed using Strathmore 400lb Water Paper (notice the toothiness). I tried using a liquid blender and I had problems covering the tooth of the paper.  Probably better to use Watercolor first then use the Color Pencil on top.

Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, Challenge #2–drawing upside down

I started the book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards a week ago. When I started drawing several months ago, I evidently tapped into my right side of the brain. The book gives a great overview of how each side of the brain develops the intellectual and psychological patterns of our life. As I have continued through the book, the exercises are evidently confirming my artist growth, since its been easier to draw.

The second exercise of the book asks that I turn a picture around and copy it backwards suggesting that I tune out any outside sounds and allow the left side to relinquish control. The instructions are to draw without distractions for an hour. The left side of the brain will see the upside down drawing as non-nonsensical and allow the right-side of the brain to take over to drawing. There are 2 drawings that I copied out of the book upside down: 1)Pablo Picasso’s, Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, and 2) Spiderman. I was not allowed to turn the photo around to check my progress, otherwise, the left-side of the your brain will try to make some sense out of the drawing, and interrupt the right-side of the brain’s process.

The book points out that many students feel conflicted when asked to draw upside down; obviously, the logical side of the brain wants to see the picture right side up. When I started drawing, I was tempted more than once, to turn the picture right side up. Surprisingly, once I turned over my drawing, I was amazed at the similarities of the two drawings (see below). It only took 10 minutes for me to draw, although, Betty Edward allows an hour to complete the drawing exercise. Not perfect, but not too bad. I ran out of room on my paper for Portrait of Igor, so I finished his head on the reverse side of my drawing paper. I included 2 pages from Betty Edwards book so you can see the comparison.

Challenge: If you are following the drawing challenge, find a simple photo or drawing and turn it upside down. Grab a pencil and paper, find a quiet room and take an hour to draw the upside-down photo/drawing. Do not get tempted to take the photo and turn it right-side-up. Once your are done, compare your drawing. Below is my drawing. Feel free to share yours if you decide to do the challenge!

Arteza 72 Expert Color Pencils and Drafting Film


I was on vacation recently and decided to try the new Arteza Expert 72 Color Pencils. Arteza is a fairly new art supply company, that is rolling out impressive budget art materials. I bought the pencils at a bargain sale price of $20.00 and couldn’t resist adding them to my supply of colored pencils. The Company considers Arteza Expert 72 Colored Pencils artist grade, and the pencils have a lightfast rating printed on each individual pencil. I was pleased with the pigment saturation and the variety of colors. There are a nice variety of green pigmented pencils, but the pencils are lacking in selection of reds. Since these are wax based pencils, I was pleased how smoothly these color pencils went down on the paper; moreover, the pencils layered well.

For my work in progress piece, I decided to use drafting film. Artist Karen Hull creates fabulous color pencil art using drafting film. You can buy drafting film from Dick Blick or Amazon. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of using drafting film:
Advantages: cleanly erases; can use both sides of the matte film; complete art pieces with fewer layers.
Disadvantages: less toothier so select your final colors before laying them down; smudges easily

I’ve included a work in progress art piece using Grafix Matte 0.005 Dura-Lar Film, 9-Inch by 12-Inch, 25 Sheets and Arteza Color 72 Expert Color Pencils. I’ll obtain richer colors when I turn the drafting film around and add color to the reverse side. However, I was pleased with Arteza pigmentation and the layering ability.

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Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, Challenge #1

This is my first challenge taken from the book, Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. I’ve heard quite a lot about this book from many artists who have recommended the exercises. Basically, the author teaches you how to think (and not think) when drawing, but also teaches you the techniques to draw. In short, it teaches the approach and the techniques. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain works on the premise that the right side of the brain is more suited for drawing, and teaches you how to engage it for drawing purposes. I just read the first chapter and the author is suggesting that I draw a self-portrait, a hand and a picture of someone I know by memory.

There probably is validation about the right side of the brain taking over your creative side when you least expect it. I drew the picture of a giraffe while on the phone talking to my mother. This was my first drawing ( though I copied it from a picture, and later tried my hand at color pencil). This experience led me to believe that I must have some artistic ability.


Too bad I did not hear about the book before I started my art endeavor. But, I have high hopes of seeing improvement in my art. You can decide to get the book and follow the  the exercises, or just do a pre-drawing of your hand, a self-portrait and a friend by memory, please feel free to share.  I’ll post my pre-draw hand, self portrait and someone I know once I complete it on this post next week…or sooner when I get it done! Below are the materials you need: 

  • Graphite pencil
  • Mirror
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Masking tape to hold your paper
  • Drawing board
  • Paper (stack it in a group of three for padding)
  • An hour to sit down and draw!

Betty Edwards, the author indicates your drawing may not be admirable, but we should remind ourselves that this is a pre-draw before instruction!


Okay…don’t laugh, but I decided to get this done tonight.  Therefore, below is my completed exercise.  I am pleased with my pre-instruction face and hand, but I definitely do not do bodies well.  Hope you do a better job than I did!