Urban Sketching tools of the trade. 

First I have a disclaimer. I am an art supply junkie. I love just about every art tool made. Even a sharpened stick. 

Simply put, you only need something to draw with and something to draw on. However, just having a paper and pencil might not allow you to have the best experience possible while you are urban sketching. 

The Basics

Many people like to sketch with pencil first so that they have the ability to erase mistakes or change the way they first drew something. If you’re using a pencil just to lay down the foundations of your artwork, any pencil should do. However, if you want to only use pencil for your artwork, you should be aware of the types of pencils available and which one would best for you. I have grown fond of a mechanical pencil Pentel makes. The Graphgear 1000, .07 lead. The clip retracts the lead. Genius! They feel great in your hand. 

If you want to really have fun, explore fountain pens! Check out Goulet Pens and Jet Pens on line. Fountain pen stores are few and far between. Fortunately we have one here in Kansas City, The Pen Palace. We also have a fountain pen club that meets once a month. They are a wealth of information. Someone usually brings part of their collection to show and sometimes one will be for sale. 

The old fashion fountain pen is fabulous to draw with. Parka Blog has several great reviews to tease you. Liz Steel’s blog also has a wealth of information for sketching pens at affordable prices. Liz is one of the Craftsy instructors as well. Fountain pens could be one entire blog, and there are many out ‘there’. 

Other pens…..
Sakura Micron Pens are waterproof, archival ink. This ink is also chemical-resistant, fade-resistant, bleed free and quick-drying as well. The waterproof quality also helps if you want to add watercolor to your sketch. These pens are also available in a variety of different sizes. (0.2-mm, 0.25-mm, 0.3-mm, 0.35-mm, 0.45-mm, 0.5-mm) and a brush and graphic tip too!  There are several brands to chose from. Pentel, Coptic, and others. Do your research to select pens that fits your needs. (Note that’s a plural… Pens.) 


If you want to add color, you have lots to chose from depending on the ground you are working on. Colored pencils, water colored pencils, pastel, markers, inks, acrylic and watercolors to name several options. Watercolor is my first choice.  I reasearched extensively and found Jane Blundell to have one of the best informative blogs. She has created volumes of research on watercolors. 

With your choice of medium, you are ready to select tools! BRUSHES! Yummy brushes! This will be a blog page on its own. And watercolor paper, journals and etc. more blog pages. 


Who started Urban Sketching? 

The global popularity of urban sketching is relatively recent. Although people have been documenting their lives by drawing the world around them for ages, the global community aspect of it has skyrocketed in the past 10 years or so.
In 2007, a Seattle-based journalist and illustrator named Gabriel Campanario founded a blog and online forum for urban sketchers. This allowed urban sketchers all over the world to share their artwork with others. UrbanSketchers.org is now a non-profit organization who hosts the International Urban Sketchers Symposium annually and offers urban sketching workshops all over the world. This year Gabi was in Chicago where the Symposium was held. 600 sketchers from all over the world swarmed Chicago! 

The UrbanSketchers.org manifesto pretty much tells you explains what urban sketchers are all about!

Around the same time, SketchCrawl was founded by Enrico Casarosa, a Pixar storyboard artist and director. SketchCrawl is a like a bar crawl but without beer. Well, sometimes with beer! You meet other local urban sketchers to walk around and sketch various sites throughout the day. It’s a great way to meet fellow artists and find new locations around your area. Meet your Tribe! 

What is Urban Sketching? 

So what exactly is urban sketching? Urban sketching is the act of drawing while on location in areas that you live in or traveling to. You can sketch out your local farmer’s market, museums, beaches, temples, concerts, parks –you name it, you can sketch it! It’s a great way to document the world you live in or the attractions you visit while on vacation.

The beauty of urban sketching artwork is the informality of it. If you are at a loss of how to start, join up with your local chapter. Here in Kansas City, MO we have USk Kansas City. We meet twice a month. Check out our Facebook page for information on meet up’s. However… if you want to start out on line, Craftsy has a number of fabulous teachers. 

Urban sketching has a wide variety of benefits and is perfect for anyone who loves journaling or can appreciate art. It not only gives you the opportunity to explore, but to document the world around you. By sitting down and drawing on location, you’ll be able to really appreciate the beauty of life. Even if you’re just sketching a busy parking lot. While sketching, you’ll need to decide which part of your view is important enough to capture in your artwork.

Sketching a scene allows you to capture more than you would if you were writing in a journal. You’ll capture the atmosphere and your view. Well, can’t I just photograph it? You can. Like you probably have, I’ve taken hundreds of photos of places I’ve been. However, when you take photos, you pretty much just snap and go. There’s a much, deeper connection to the environment if you actually take the time to sketch it.