Urban Sketching by Werner Merk via Creative Commons (Linked to his Flickr account if you want more!)

Urban Sketching by Werner Merk via Creative Commons (Linked to his Flickr account if you want more!)

I don’t know how I found the website, Urban Sketching, but I did and I’m so inspired, I haven’t looked back! I’m averaging one drawing a week right now and hope to do two a month if not more. The timing of my discovery could not be better, having just moved to another country. What a wonderful excuse to get out and explore my new city of Muscat (and the weather is finally getting better right now for me to be outside, yay!)! And yet, I’m wistful about the Urban Sketching opportunities Dubai could have given me, Dubai being a place ripe with visuals and constant activity. Thankfully I’m not too far away and I think both Muscat and Dubai will ensure plenty of inspiration!

Okay, Carrie, will you stop yammering on? What IS urban sketching anyway? In essence, it is a revival of plein air art. Plein Air art is when an artist chooses to go outside and draw or paint what s/he sees right in front of him/her. So, rather than taking a photograph (or many, as I’m prone to) to remember or explore a space, urban sketchers draw and/or paint it. Instead of working large, which many Plein Air artists do (think bringing along an easel and all kinds of supplies), urban sketchers bring small notepads or sketchbooks and travel sized art materials. Some work only in pen, others bring mini-watercolor kits. Regardless, going through the website that promotes this activity (which is a registered non-profit entity, by the by), has been an awesome way to see different cities the world over.

Work by Marieta on Flickr. Linked to see more of her work. Again, image via Creative Commons.

Work by Marieta on Flickr. Linked to see more of her work. Again, image via Creative Commons.

And while I do love my camera and take copious photos while traveling, there is something special and unique about seeing a drawing of a city through the eyes of someone else. What do they choose to draw? How do they make marks to express their vision? What do you think their experience has been? It is a commitment, to be an urban sketcher. The few drawings I’ve done have already taken 4-6 hours of time. So much more time than a quick camera snap! Yet, I have a finished artwork, I’m building my drawing skill again, and these drawings are a wonderful memory of a space or place. Some cities even have groups that meet and go drawing together!

“How do I get started?” you ask. Well. All it takes is a pencil, paper and desire. Okay, and maybe time. THIS DOES NOT REQUIRE SKILL. I repeat, THIS DOES NOT REQUIRE SKILL! Skill is something you build over time. So what, you aren’t the best artist in town. Okay, maybe you haven’t even picked up a pencil except to write out math equations, I don’t know! Regardless, you can do this if you have the interest. Don’t judge yourself! Play! Perhaps you keep the first drawings simple and focus on smaller parts of a larger urban landscape or on patterns or marks within the urban space you are observing. Do it because its fun. Do it because it asks you to be mindful and slow down your hectic travel pace. Do it because its a memory and moment in time. Do it because you want to!

urban sketching | drawing lessons | travel and art | art resources | art ideasNot into drawing? Just can’t bring yourself to try? Then consider trying an urban writing exercise (I’ve just made this up so take it or leave it.). Find a spot in your city or town and go to it. Now, write (insert-number-here) words using your environment and the circumstances around you. This could be a great warm up exercise or idea generating exercise to get your writing groove on.

If you want to see some work by urban sketches you can check out Flickr or Instagram. The main website, linked above, also has links to urban sketching blogs the world over. Or, if you want some resources to get started, I’m coveting this book at the moment. Enjoy!

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Find an old notepad and start with your home. Perhaps a view from your window would offer you some creative inspiration? Does drawing it offer you new perspective? What do you see that you didn’t before? If you are new to urban sketching or writing and try it out after reading this post, PLEASE share! I would love to see what you do :).

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