Places to Sketch

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!