Urban sketching is the activity of (quickly) drawing a scene, city, town or neighbourhood on location. It is a type of observational drawing or sketching that is practiced by many to capture the unique events, character and detail of urban environments and rural areas.

Urban sketching is an art form that has been around for decades, even when it did not yet have that name. In 2007 journalist Gabriel Campanario started the worldwide Urban Sketchers community which has been growing quickly ever since. It has evolved from the time when sketches were only done on paper to the digital age we are living in today: Some urban sketchers even use tablets to draw their art works.

What are benefits of Urban Sketching?

Urban sketching is an enjoyable activity that can help you to improve your artistic and drawing skills. Benefits include the fact that it can be done almost anywhere. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of materials and therefore does not have to be expensive.

What Supplies Will I Need?

Urban sketchers can use a variety of different supplies to create their art. The supplies they choose will depend on the kind of sketches they want to create, what materials they have available, and how much time they want to spend on their creation.

Some artists prefer to work with pencils, pens, and watercolor paint. Others like to use gouache or markers. Some people like to work with a combination of different paints and materials (mixed media). No matter what you decide, it is important that you have the tools that you feel comfortable with. Start with just a few and later on you can gradually try art supplies that are new to you.

What is the Process Behind Urban Sketching

Urban Sketching is a drawing process that involves sketching on location. It can be done in a variety of ways and with different types of materials.

My process of Urban Sketching can be roughly summarised into three steps:

  1. Planning the sketch: how to look and how to prepare the composition of your sketch;
  2. Drawing the sketch: telling the story by using the supplies that you have available;
  3. Revising the sketch: adding contrast and highlights and finishing touches.

Urban sketching is not just about drawing what is around you, it’s also about capturing the spirit of the scene, often in a few strokes. It’s about being observant, creative and being able to see things from different points of view.

Here are some tips to make your urban sketching experience exciting for you personally:

  • Sketch something YOU find interesting or inspiring;
  • Sketch what you know and what you want sketch, not what you think people want to see.

How Can I Learn How to Sketch My City or Area?

There are many ways you can learn how to sketch your surroundings. You can learn from other urban sketchers at events, take online classes or do on location workshops. You can take a look at my classes and workshops here! I offer even free urban sketching lessons.

Most urban sketchers groups have a Facebook Group. Generally these groups are the best place to interact with urban sketchers in your area. By searching on Facebook and looking for a group closest to your area, chances are highest to get in touch with sketchers near you.

Final thoughts

Enjoying the process of drawing: that is what urban sketching is about. It can be relaxing and therefore investing time in urban sketching is investing in your own well-being. Urban sketching is telling a story through your art. You will improve by just doing: and if you enjoy it, no shortcut is needed. Enjoy the ride!

Useful links:
If you are in The Netherlands: or Facebook Group
Urban Sketchers (world wide): or Facebook Group
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