Urban Sketching - My Reflections & Thoughts

When I was introduced to the concept of Urban Sketching back in 2008-2009-ish, almost 10 years ago, I was pretty impressed. The idea is to draw and finishing a sketch on location of the location. We can call it in-situ sketching too. The sketch becomes a direct response to the environment and location we were in while we were sketching. We could response to the people around us, or the traffic and noise we heard and of the elements. The satisfaction is to see the sketches we made as a group and sharing what we learned. Becoming a correspondent of Urban Sketchers for Singapore made me want to sketch more, everyday, and so I did, eventually, accumulating almost a hundred sketchbooks since I started to sketch more in 2010. I see myself sketching faster and a lot more looser in approach and the handling of lines.

urban sketching at a coffeeshop

2013 was the year I saw myself adding watercolour washes to the sketches I made, and then progressing to finishing small size watercolour paintings as well. I was making larger painting in 2014 and also moving on to plein air painting with different mediums. At the same time I saw many others doing the same too. We used to exchange information among ourselves about pens, sketchbooks and so on, but now, we hunger for information about water-colours paints, papers and more. There are almost close to a 1000 members for the Singapore chapter now compared to only about 5 when the group first started.

Because of work I have not been attending the monthly sessions. However I noticed that smaller groups have sprouted under the umbrella of the large USK group. Besides meeting monthly, some have been meeting on a regular weekly basis. Much to my encouragement. I am certainly glad to see how this act of sketching on location has proliferated in a very positive direction.



If you are a beginning urban sketcher, here are some thoughts and reflections that I may think is helpful.


1) - Draw ALL the time, whenever possible. Have a sketchbook ready in your bag. Draw when you are waiting for someone, for transport, for food. The notion is not to get better, though in the process of doing so, you will get better, but to develop a lifestyle of sketching, recording your life in a visual journal.

2) - Draw ANYTHING. From your own tools to a building that has become a significant part of your life. We will not run out of things to draw. It is just a matter of whether you want to draw it or not. Don't be hindered by your inability or capability to draw something. See your environment with a fresh pair of eyes every time you pick up a pen and sketchbook to draw. See a building or a facade of a shopfront as though you are looking at it for the first time. Don't rush to draw something, but take some time to ponder and to look, sometimes to reflect. 

3) - Keep a sketchbook. You may use loose sheets of paper but they may become difficult to handle or manage in the end. A sketchbook is like a tangible timeline of your life. When you date a sketchbook before or after you have finished using it, it becomes a flippable time capsule in which it keeps a record of what happened, where you have been and even what you have done. It is a pleasure always to be able to flip through a collection of your sketchbooks from time to time.

4) - Remember therefore to date your sketches too and even number of sketchbooks. 

5) - Adding your thoughts to your sketches can help you remember and gives your sketches an additional layer of context and narrative. 

6) - Don't just draw on your sketchbooks, but use it to keep receipts, ticket stubs and etc.

7) - Use a variety of techniques, mediums, approaches within each sketchbook. 

8) - Share what you have with other sketchers. This would build up your confidence and it is always good to listen to what others have to say about your sketches. 

9) - Start small. Don't get too ambitious when you first started out. 

10) - Keep at it and don't get discouraged when you see others doing "better" than you. 

Digital sketching with Procreate and iPad Pro




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