Monthly Worksheet: Urban Sketching

Monthly Worksheet: Urban Sketching

Sep 06, 2021

It's our final month on The Seasonal Sketchbook and, as the weather looks lovely for the next few days at least, I thought you might like to get out and about to capture the last of the summer. The tips below are to help you think about sketching outdoors and to give you the tools and confidence to give it a go.

You will need:

A 2H and a 2B pencil

An eraser

A ruler (optional, but very helpful)

Your sketchbook

A beverage in a thermal mug, to keep it nice and warm on your travels

And, if you are happy with your sketch, a pen to ink  up the outline and some watercolours or colour pencils to add some colour detail


Getting started: Perspective

In this worksheet we’re going to look at perspective and how we can capture a 3 dimensional building or scene onto a 2D or flat surface.

When we talk about dimensions we usually refer to two-dimension, which is height and width and three-dimension, which is height, width and depth.

Depth is one of the key things that we need to think about as artists to capture our view on to paper or canvas.

In this worksheet we’ll be looking at how we can convey things that are near to us and things that are further away as realistically as we can with the tools that we have.



Drawing buildings (or a collection of them) is a real test of drawing ‘what you see, rather than what you think you see’. Theories of perspective will help you sense check your mark-making, but you will be surprised how your brain insists that angles ‘must’ run this way when your eyes are telling you something quite different.

In order to get your framework correct at the beginning, it really helps to plot out some key lines and shapes.

You can use your outstretched arm and your pencil as a plumb line to capture your key horizontal and vertical lines. If you draw a level and straight horizon line to start with, you can use that as a base to plot your other lines and angles from.



Working Indoors

Draw the room you are in. Start with the barebones of your composition. The floor, ceiling and walls. Sense check your angles with your pencil. Plot the room onto your page as if it were empty. When you are happy with the angles of the walls start to populate your empty room with its objects and furnishings. Remember to look at where they are in relation to each other. Or how high or wide they are on a wall, under a window or next to a fireplace for example.

Working (nearly) outdoors 1

Take a look out of a window and think about how to draw the view. You can use your window frame as a large ‘bounding box’ knowing that all of your detail must fit in there. Break down that complicated view into key shapes and lines and work out how all those shapes fit in to that window space. Use key markers on your window like handles or fanlights to position your elements and scale your drawing.

Working (nearly) outdoors 2

I’ve supplied some photo references of Cowes which means you can use the photos to create your work without worrying about weather or well-meaning observers!


Perspective can seem a bit daunting. But try to remember that drawing is really about observing and putting what you see on to paper. Nailing perspective is about doing just that, and bearing a couple of key points in mind so you can trust what your eyes are telling you.

  • Where is your horizon?

  • Where are all of your diagonal lines going?

  • Items nearer to you are larger, and the ones further away are smaller and more condensed.


Further Reading

Here’s some further reading if you enjoy sketching buildings and rooms in perspective. I've also included some inspiration from some local Isle Of Wight Urban Sketchers who love to capture buildings, boats and people in their sketchbooks.

Nick Edwards (@submariner) • Instagram photos and videos

Mark Levy (@markatbuddle) • Instagram photos and videos


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