Urban sketching is a form of art that involves drawing scenes from everyday life in the city. It can be a fun and rewarding way to capture the beauty and diversity of urban environments, as well as to express your personal style and perspective. In this tutorial, I will share some tips and tricks on how to get started with urban sketching, what materials you need, and how to improve your skills.

What you need

The great thing about urban sketching is that you don’t need a lot of expensive or fancy equipment. All you really need is a sketchbook, a pen or pencil, and some watercolors or markers if you want to add some color. Of course, you can also experiment with different tools and mediums, such as brushes, ink, charcoal, pastels, etc. The main thing is to find something that suits your preference and budget.

Some other things that might come in handy are:

  • A water bottle and a cup for rinsing your brushes
  • A small palette or container for mixing your paints
  • A cloth or tissue for wiping your brushes or spills
  • A clip or elastic band for holding your sketchbook open
  • A backpack or bag for carrying your supplies
  • A hat or sunglasses for protecting your eyes from the sun
  • A stool or chair for sitting comfortably

How to choose a location

One of the joys of urban sketching is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. You can sketch in your neighborhood, in a park, in a cafe, in a museum, in a market, in a train station, etc. You can sketch indoors or outdoors, in the morning or at night, in the rain or in the sun. The possibilities are endless.

However, some factors that might influence your choice of location are:

  • The weather: If it’s too hot, cold, windy, or rainy, you might want to sketch indoors or find a sheltered spot.
  • The light: The direction and quality of the light can affect how you see and render the colors and shadows of your scene. You might want to sketch at different times of the day to see how the light changes.
  • The crowd: Depending on your comfort level and mood, you might prefer to sketch in a busy or quiet place. You might also want to consider the safety and privacy of yourself and others.
  • The interest: You might want to sketch something that catches your eye or inspires you, such as a landmark, a building, a street scene, a person, etc. You might also want to sketch something that challenges you or helps you practice a specific skill.

How to start

Once you have chosen a location and set up your materials, you are ready to start sketching. Here are some steps that might help you:

  • Observe: Before you draw anything, take some time to look around and observe your surroundings. Notice the shapes, colors, textures, patterns, contrasts, details, etc. Try to capture the essence and mood of the place.
  • Compose: Decide what you want to include and exclude in your sketch. You can use your fingers or a viewfinder to frame your scene. Think about how to balance the elements and create focal points. You can also use techniques such as cropping, zooming, tilting, etc. to create more dynamic compositions.
  • Sketch: Start with a light pencil or pen sketch to establish the basic shapes and proportions of your scene. Don’t worry about being too accurate or detailed at this stage. You can adjust and refine later. You can also use guidelines or grids to help you with perspective and alignment.
  • Add details: Once you have the main structure of your sketch done, you can add more details and textures with finer lines or strokes. You can also erase or correct any mistakes or unwanted marks.
  • Add color: If you want to add some color to your sketch, you can use watercolors or markers to apply washes or layers of color. You can also mix colors on your palette or on the paper to create different effects. You can also leave some areas white or blank to create contrast and highlights.

How to improve

The best way to improve your urban sketching skills is to practice regularly and have fun. Here are some tips that might help you:

  • Experiment: Try different tools, mediums, styles, techniques, etc. See what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try something new.
  • Learn: Look at other urban sketchers’ work and learn from them. You can find many examples online or in books. You can also join an urban sketching group or community and share your work and feedback with others.
  • Enjoy: Urban sketching is not about making perfect drawings or paintings. It’s about enjoying the process and expressing yourself. Don’t worry too much about the outcome or what others might think. Just have fun and be proud of your work.

I hope this tutorial was helpful and inspired you to try urban sketching. Happy sketching! 😊

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