Sketchbook Saturday – Urban Sketching

With a thought process that went from “I suck at drawing and painting” to “maybe I should do building, how hard can it be to draw boxes?”, I rolled into the world of Urban Sketching. At first I had no idea that there was a name or an actual movement for drawing cities, buildings and all the day to day stuff that is part of how we shape our environments as human. I just wanted an easier subject matter than humans and faces. I just wanted to smear pigment on the page and make it look somewhat good. Also I wanted to go outside and draw stuff with the comfort of cafe’s, restaurants and whatnot within reach. This plan hatched late summer 2019 and was on the back burner for a couple of weeks.

Funny how any learning process these days begins with procrastination as it was many youtube video’s in that I noticed something that came back a couple of times. Urban Sketching. It was exactly what I was doing, what I was looking for! I ran into very interesting video’s by Marco Bucci such as some details on his setup and an interesting take on shapes. Also a lot of shorter video’s on materials and techniques by Teoh Yi Chie. I think it was their video’s that introduced me to the concept of “Urban Sketching” and the discovery that there was a rather large global movement. I read the book “The Urban Sketcher” by Marc Taro Holmes that was informative and interesting, although a bit over my head in terms of technique. This was around Autumn 2019.

The Urban sketching global movement is more of an umbrella organization for many local chapters and with me living in Amsterdam, I wanted to check out what the options here were. One of my first discoveries was that there is actually a global Urban Sketching Symposium and that it was held in Amsterdam… a few weeks earlier. Let’s say I was not happy about that.

Another discovery was that most of the local chapters organize through Facebook and having removed my account for that hellhole years earlier, I felt somewhat left out in multiple ways now. It seems to be better now with events announced through the Urban Sketching homepage but that leads to the next interesting thing to happen on my journey. We are now writing in October 2019.

After processing the fact that I just missed the annual event in my hometown, I vowed to visit at least two more or less local events in 2020. Just like I vowed to run all races in 2020 that I could reasonably participate in, in terms of travel there and back. I even started gathering gear consisting of a should bag, good sketchbooks, a palette and travel brushes and more of that. I’ll make a post of my bag some day, the point is that by winter 2019/2020 I was fully set to go any place and draw and paint and so on. All that I needed was better weather.

I made it to one place, Zurich, at the end of February where my wife I visited friends and where much less painting was done than I would have liked but we had a great time with the four of us. The Dutch Urban Sketching Weekend 2020 was cancelled, the sketching day was cancelled, the Amsterdam Marathon was cancelled. Sometimes it seems like 2020 was cancelled and I am so sorry for those people who dies, those who are in they formative years as students and those that lost their livelihood due to Covid19. With this, I care not much about the urban sketching cancellations as I am healthy, my family is healthy and my income is pretty solid. My main concern is not getting worn out and developing a burnout or depression from the work-eat-sleep-childcare cycle in the one house but at least we are not sending our teenagers to die in foreign countries or worst, or own borders.

The story of urban sketching does not end here for me, my plans are unchanged and we all just lost a year due to nature striking back at humanity. My intention is to visit at least two events in 2021 and I even booked a hotel in Maastricht in June when the annual weekend would take place. My wife and I agreed that we will book a vacation only when we are all vaccinated so that would be 2022, I think the same will be for the races. But this summer, with a face mask and my bicycle, I will do a lot of outdoors sketching.

The gallery below is my first sketchbook I started with Urban Sketching in mind and contains mostly simple and fast work on architecture, buildings, details and general things from day to day life.

Author: Koen

human, putting down lines, splashing pigment on page, exist.