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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So how do I start urban sketching?

Urban Sketching–what is it?

Drawing our life stories seems to be a universal part of human nature, going all the way back to prehistoric man in caves.  When talking about urban sketching, an emphasis is usually anything that focuses in capturing art in a creative way capturing people, places and things around us — in our sketchbooks or an art journal.

You can urban sketch in when traveling abroad, in your car, your backyard, while hiking on a nature trail, in the hustle and bustle of a city, or while sipping a cup of coffee at an outside cafe. What’s more, you can use the art materials you choose:  any size sketchbook, ink-pens, watercolors, colored pencil–any art materials that you consider portable.

Urban sketching, is sketching parts of your life, so your art is mixed in with you daily activities.  When you look through the pages of your sketchbook, you see your explorations, memories, creative moments and artful adventures all in one place. A diary of your artistic journey.

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Where can I Urban Sketch?

Urban sketching can be done on your own.  Visit museums, sculpture gardens, public art spaces, parks or maybe do a tour of homes within your community.  You can also sketch areas frequented by small or large crowds.  Think of a busy coffee shop or crowded beach.  “People watching” will be second to none and you can zero in on something particular or find an interesting vantage point.

Urban sketching is a great way to connect with others, you can likely find urban sketcher groups in your hometown and in most major cities — with more forming every day. There are free sketching outings, organized weekend workshops, and sketching conventions and symposiums that bring you and the sketching community together.

You can also find a community of urban sketchers online. Social media groups come together on various platforms, with sketchers from every corner of the world sharing their work and covering every possible subject.

Should I become an Urban Sketcher? 

Some people use photos to capture moments.  Why not capture your memorial moments sketching?  What could make you feel even more present in a moment than capturing it in a sketch? Everyone snaps photo’s of their moments but many times they get forgotten on a memory card or on the internet cloud. With urban sketching from your life, you get to tell a story in the moment, record your own unique artistic impression, as well as leave a fresh and a direct impression that can never be replicated.  These are memories that are journalized in books you can touch, art that you can share with your friends and family, and a history of your life that will last forever.

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How to Urban Sketch?

Mix materials together, and don’t worry about whether your drawing is “right.” It’s more important to capture a moment. What do you want a viewer to see? Start there and work out.  Once you have your supplies packed up and ready to go, here are a few key urban sketching tips to keep in mind:

Keep it simple: A pencil or pen, a journal or sketchbook, and a small set of watercolors are the go-to choice of many sketchers. Brushes and a water container, or a water brush, will see you through any sketching opportunity. Below are some of my recommendations

  • Watercolor Paint or Washable Ink (and some water!) – I started with this little travel watercolor set because it’s inexpensive, but the colors are nice and includes a small brush.
  • Watercolor brush pens – Most travel paint sets often come with a brush, and you could use that to start, but when you’re ready for a low-cost upgrade you could try watercolor brush pens such as these
  • A Sketching Utensil – Just a pencil will work for a sketch or if you like you may  use ink.  You can try Pigma archival ink pens.  There is a larger set, but the three set (0.25mm, 0.35mm and 0.45mm) micron ink pens are reasonable and are great artist ink pens.
  • Water-Friendly Paper – Any watercolor paper or mixed media paper in a sketch paper should be fine.  However, if you are going to strictly do sketches using pencil or ink, it shouldn’t matter.

 

Other Advise? 

  • Be prepared: Keep your bag of supplies handy.  Maybe near your door so you can grab it easily when you leave, or in your vehicle. If you don’t have your kit with you, you can’t sketch when the opportunity arises.
  • Be flexible:  So you forgot your supplies?  Draw on a paper napkin with a borrowed ballpoint, or use that pencil in your purse or bag.
  • Be alert: Keep an eye on what’s going on around you. If you walk by a particular spot that looks interesting, make a point to go back with your supplies.
  • Be spontaneous: If you only have 10 or 15 minutes?  Pick something interesting and just sit, relax and draw what you see.  You’ll not be disappointed!
  • Sketch what you see:  Let your “right side of your brain” work and grab the moment!

Well I hope that your motivated to go out and capture memories!  Feel free to share your sketches!  Would love to see them!

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