Tuesday, December 8, 2015

An Urbansketching Field Guide


I LOVE to draw in nature. When I'm outside, I never run out of inspiration.  The solitude and tranquility of the outdoors allow me the luxury of close observation.  And when I'm not satisfied with my reference or imagination, I turn to a nature field guide to fill in the gaps and give me some background behind the beauty of what I'm drawing. 

In the past couple of years, I've expanded my sketch-cersizing to urban settings.  Traffic, commotion, claustrophobia, and the anxiety of drawing in public can quickly cloud the beauty the city has to offer.  It's not always easy to experience the same natural peacefulness when drawing in an urban setting.  When I feel the frustrations of urbansketching setting in, I've found it helpful to mimic my outdoor art-making rituals.

Field Notes # 1  Getting Started
Often I start by... simply starting!  I walk around a bit, but I don't let myself get caught up seconding guessing the location, scenery, or problematic perspective... I just start. In this image, I drew the house "blindly" if you will, not thinking about what was important.  After looking at the sketch postmortem, I wanted to know more about the meter reader.   On the following page, I zeroed in on my subject of interest and tried out a few texture techniques.

Field Notes # 2  Challenge Yourself with a Close Up
When my sketch starts to develop, there's usually something; an object, or person, or area on the page that I keep coming back to.  Sometimes I overdevelop it, sometimes under... not knowing exactly how to translate the imagery into my book. Subconsciously in almost every sketch, there is something my brain is forcing my eyes to re-examine.  Instead of overworking an area, work out your curiosity on a new page, or utilize the blank space of your page to create a collage of close ups.  Field guides often revisit an idea multiple times on one page showing different sizes, angles, and levels of detail.

Field Notes # 3  It's art, not science.
If you haven't picked up a field guide in a while, go check one out at the library.  


The detailed line work and accuracy of field guide sketches are simply amazing, but don't let them intimidate you!  These books are meant to be factual and scientific.  As urbansketchers, we have the liberty of interpretation.  Don't miss out on the potential for growth because you want your page to look pretty or professional.  An artist's sketchbook/field guide might include things like color palettes, ink splats, texture try-outs, and value scales.  

In this image I needed to see the palette literally right on the page.  Even after drawing 8 tomatoes, I still wanted to show something even more bulbous. 

What would be in your field guide? Comment below and share your sketches!

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