In this day and age, when did you last took the time to pause, and just look at your surroundings? When was the last time you took note of how green the trees are, or how blue the skies are? When was the last time you looked up from that phone of yours, and actually captured the moment with your eyes? It’s so easy to just take a picture, share it on Instagram or Facebook. I, for one, am guilty of not being as present as I’d want to be. I’m always engrossed scrolling through my social media feeds or chatting with friends online.
In an attempt to be more present, and to have a digital detox for even just an hour, I decided to try on urban sketching.
Urban sketching is the act of drawing or painting, indoor or outdoor, with any medium you prefer. As the name implies, it is usually artful renditions of cityscapes or urban scenes, be it inside a coffee shop one lazy afternoon or a busy central business district’s pedestrian during a work day. People usually use watercolor as the medium since it is the most convenient one to bring outside the house for painting. It can be downsized to a pretty compact palette, or if you want you can opt to bring watercolor pencils. All you need is a water brush and you’re good to go. Also, others prefer to have outlines in their drawings, so they also bring with them black markers or pens. Famous ones are Copic and Sakura black ink markers with tiny felt tips.
While it can be daunting to paint an urban scene with so much detail and with such a large area, I suggest you try to just do it. Draw the scene not so much as to how much detail you see, but to how it makes you feel. Render in your sketch the overall vibe of the place. Sketches don’t need to be down to the single brick on the road exact, it is enough to just suggest where you are and how the overall look of the place is. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that the activity shouldn’t feel stressful for you. Instead, think of it as an act of taking time to be present. Take the time to be ‘in’ the place and not just pass by it. It is a time where you are taking time to appreciate the world around you.
When you are much more comfortable with it, then you can move on to learning about perspectives. To be honest, this is one thing I’m still struggling with and still learning about at this point.
I recently went out to do urban sketching with my dad one Saturday afternoon. And him, being a Civil Engineer, nailed perspective right on its head. Haha! See his work in the small sketchbook in the picture below.
So, as the saying goes, “stop and smell the roses”. Well, in this case, stop and sketch the roses. 🙂