The Trials Of Creating An Urban Sketch

Many artists never do their art on location.  They’re happy sitting in a studio, laying out drawings, tracing the layout onto their watercolor paper, and then painting from a photo, or some such approach.  For me, sketching is all about the chase.  I have to go somewhere.  It might be just down the street or even into my backyard but I’ve got to actually ‘discover’ my subject.

There are compromises in this approach.  Anyone who does it knows them.  Time, weather, interruptions and sitting on a tripod stool balancing your sketchbook are among them.   Some times are better than others, however, and I’d like to share a couple “oops” sketches with you.

The first is a train engine.  I’ve wanted to sketch this small switch engine for a long time.  It’s tied to our large grainery and is responsible for moving the grain cars around.  I saw an opportunity to draw it and sat down to draw.  It was going pretty well until…well…it drove away.  I could follow its tracks (pun intended) and did, which allowed me to complete, sort of, the engine but the mood was broken.  I became disinterested in completing the sketch by including some entourage behind and in front of it.  So here it is, as is.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Last week we were supposed to meet on the Plains of Abraham for a group session.  Only three of us showed up because it was raining.  We ended up huddled under the overhang of a building with only a single subject, the realty business across the street. So we drew it.  It was cold and I had a hard time keeping my mind on drawing and I worked fast – too fast.  Sometimes urban sketching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be 🙂

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

With urban sketching you sometimes win and sometimes lose when it comes to the end product.  When it comes to the fun, however, it’s always more fun than sitting in a studio.

Editor’s note:  I’m getting behind in my posting.  I apologize for that and hope to get a bunch of sketches posted in the upcoming week. 

6 thoughts on “The Trials Of Creating An Urban Sketch

  1. Yes, both are good. I agree with you…. the search is interesting. I find it more inspiring than working in a studio, even from one of my own photos. There is also the environment… sounds, smells, people, etc that then become associated with a sketch. I don’t normally have headphones on when I sketch but on Friday I wanted to finish a podcast I was listening to while I drove to the site. So now an rather innocuous sketch of houses will be associated with the sad story I listened to while sketch it.

    • I agree, Kate. I’ve never been able to understand why I can’t draw from photos since everyone says it’s supposed to be easier. As for headphones, I’m not smart enough to listen and draw at the same time 🙂

  2. Don’t forget the excitement of sudden gusts of wind, trucks that decide to park right in front of you after you’ve started the sketch, the light and shadows changing every minute, and bugs doing a backstroke in your paints! But why in the world would we prefer to stay in our boring studios. 😉


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