Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Art of Urban Sketching


I am head over heels in love with this book. It's full of drawings of urban scenes done by professional and amateur artists on location. It started as a website where the solitary activity of sketching became a shared experience when people posted their efforts online, connected with each other and even met in real life to sketch together. The website then spawned the book, which is an absolute gem.

I love the variety of subject matter: houses, skyscrapers, parks, building sites, public statues, the inside of train carriages, people in cafes, the list goes on. And it's so interesting to see the different styles of drawing, the variety of mediums and the way people choose to frame their subject. There's even a little write-up about the artist, where and what they like to draw and sometimes a little photograph of their sketching tools. I can't tell you how much I love this kind of stuff!

And I love this in the first chapter: 'As hobbies go, urban sketching gives you a lot of bang for your buck. With nothing more than a piece of paper and a pencil, you are equipped to start drawing your city or village, the people who live there, and the things that are happening in it.' For more about urban sketchers check out the manifesto.

Inspired by this and by Yvonne's efforts from Muddle on Through I managed to get out on my own (thanks, Kim ;) for an afternoon to draw 'on location'. My experience at the zoo gave me a bit of confidence so I planned to do some drawings outside. I thought I might set myself up on the lawn in front of the State Library where students from the nearby university are often lounging about. But the pretty Autumn day was darkening and I was sure it was going to rain the minute I got out my stuff so instead I headed over the road to the Melbourne Central Shopping centre, grabbed a coffee and found a table.

The good thing about this food court is that, once again, it's full of students, sitting at tables with their laptops open (a surprising number, I discovered, were actually slumped in their chairs asleep! Ah, the student life!).

Drawing people is the bane of my life, it's my achilles heel and I avoid it like the plague (how's that for three cliches in one sentence!?). But I know I shouldn't avoid it but confront it. This location turned out to be a bit of a goldmine because the students engrossed in their laptops didn't really move much more than a few inches. The ones I drew actually held their position more or less for about half an hour! Yesss!

I also got to try out my new travel watercolour set (hooray)!

Watercolour is relatively new to me but I love its portability and the beautiful effects that can be achieved and I'm determined to gain some kind of control over the medium.

At the moment, I'm just bumbling along. But that's okay. I don't mind. It's fun. Oh, and yes, this is the journal I received in a mystery gift exchange from Sago on Tuesdays - I love it! It's the perfect size for sketching in public because you can hold it in your lap easily. And the paper...heaven!

The last drawing is a blind-contour drawing where you look at your subject and make the drawing without looking down at your page at all. The results are always interesting because, while obviously not technically accurate, it always captures a kind of essence of the subject.

This was a lady sitting at a window doing a large and complicated cross-stitch. I think she must have been waiting to meet someone or to be picked up because it looked like she was trying to kill time.

This was a really fun experience and I hope to get a chance to do it again soon. Next time I either want to attempt to complete a whole scene in detail, or do a bit of a sketch-crawl where I try to capture lots of different sketches around the city 'urban-sketch' style!