If you’re serious about sketching you will no doubt end up sketching outdoors.

As with all things related to sketching, your passion will drive your interest in drawing more. For me, I stumbled across the whole concept of sketching outside as I found myself growing in confidence as well as wanting to try more challenging subjects.

Whether you’re interested in the street just outside your doorstep or a rural hiking landscape, outdoor sketching forms a big part of the sketcher’s liturgy.  There is an entire industry built up around it!

Urban Sketching, as the term has now come to be known, is a global phenomenon. One of my earlier blog posts touches on the urban sketching movement which is a group of people from across the globe dedicated to sketching urban landscapes.  I’ve joined a few groups in a few European cities on my travels and built lifelong friends. There is one in Yorkshire where I live too.

I write about it briefly here.

In my opinion sketching outdoors comes down to one major thing. Confidence. Once you get out there and get used to the environment you’ll be off!

Here are a few things to think about when considering urban or outdoor sketching;

  1. Get used to carrying your sketchbook with you at all times so that you become comfortable using it in all environments.  I always carry a small one with me (A6 size or a square 190mm one) for quick but still well put together jottings. I started sketching outdoors when I used to sit on the train station platform waiting for my train getting to work. I then got more confident.
  2. Keep your materials light.  I always aim to have an over the shoulder flip bag that enables me to use both hands if I am out and about sketching. I only really ever carry a pencil or pen and a small lightweight set of watercolours as well as pentel brushes ready filled with water. In addition, my sketchbooks tend to always be hard backed as well as heavier weight papers so that I can stand, sketch and paint.
  3. Its easy to feel shy or uncomfortable and suddenly very exposed to others who are naturally fascinated by what you are doing. Take a quick photograph if need be of the location you are sketching. Other alternatives include tucking yourself into a corner or finding a sketch spot that enables you to watch a scene unobtrusively and allows you the time to sketch at length.
  4. Be prepared for your sketching to look and feel slightly different when you are “live.” My sketches always feel slightly less refined, sometimes more rushed as you never know how long a moment will last.
  5. Start with sketching inanimate objects such as buildings if you are just getting going so that you have time to get used to a new environment.  I started sketching my back garden and house. You might want to try sketching the views outside the windows in your house. One window a day and if you have 7 days you have a week’s worth of sketching right there to get you going!
  6. People are a big part of the outdoors. When sketching people in open environments always be aware of the vibe around you! i.e Ask permission if you need too and find a discreet way of sketching too.
  7. My other piece of advice is to follow people who sketch outdoors.  My favourite urban sketcher is a man called Phil Dean who you can find on social media tagged as “the shoreditch sketcher.”  He also released a brilliant book published by the Tate Sketch Club series called Urban Drawing. I read it cover to cover and implemented some of his exercises when sketching outdoors. He covers essential topics like perspective, composition, and sketching people, to name but a few topic areas! I would highly recommend this book as part of your sketchbook library!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to sketching the outdoors and no doubt I’ll be compiling endless blog posts about specific topic areas!

Check into Emily’s Notebook sketching community and let me know how you get on!