Capturing the essence of a city when urban sketching

Capturing the essence of acity in your urban landscape paintings can be a challenging but rewarding task.It involves not only accurately depicting the physical features of the city, but also conveying its culture, atmosphere, and character. Here are some tips on how to approach this task: 

Research and observe: Start by researching the city you’re painting, looking at photos and reading about its history, architecture, and culture. Take some time to visit the city and observe its streets, buildings, and people. Pay attention to the small details that make the city unique, such as the colour of the storefronts, the texture of the walls, and the signs and advertisements. 

Choose a perspective: Decide on the perspective you want to depict in your painting. Will you paint a wide panorama of the city skyline, or a close-up of a specific street or building? The perspective you choose will affect the mood and atmosphere of your painting. 

Sketch and plan: Once you have a clear idea of what you want to paint, sketch out your composition and plan the placement of the various elements. Consider the balance and proportion of the elements, as well as the placement of the horizon line. 

Use light and colour effectively: Light and colour are crucial in conveying the mood and atmosphere of a city. Pay attention to the direction and intensity of the light, and how it affects the colours of the buildings and streets. Use a limited colour palette to create unity and cohesiveness in your painting.

Incorporate people and movement: People and movement add life and energy to a cityscape painting. Consider including figures walking, biking, or driving in your composition. You can also depict people in the windows or balconies of buildings, or sitting at outdoor cafes. 

Add details and textures: To give your painting a sense of authenticity, include small details and textures such as graffiti, street signs, and storefronts. These elements can help convey the character and culture of the city. 

Experiment with different styles and techniques: Urban landscape painting can be approached in many different styles and techniques. Experiment with different brushstrokes, textures, and colour schemes to find the approach that best captures the essence of the location you’re painting. 

Capturing the essence of a city in your urban landscape paintings requires a combination of research, observation, and artistic expression. By following these tips, you can create a sketch that accurately and creatively depicts the unique character of the city.

Continuous Line Sketching

What is continuous line sketching?

A technique I use lots and which attracts lots of queries and questions..

Continuous line sketching is a drawing technique that involves creating a single, unbroken line or series of consistent lines to depict a subject or scene. Unlike traditional drawing, where the artist might use a series of short, disconnected lines to build up an image, continuous line sketching requires the artist to maintain a single, flowing line from start to finish.

One of the main benefits I gain from continuous line sketching method is that it encourages me to focus on the overall form and structure of the subject, rather than getting bogged down in the details. Working quick helps eliminate the unnecessary detail in a scene. It’s a technique I use when urban sketching or in the studio to ‘free up’ my arm and to kick start rhythm in my artwork. By eliminating the need to lift the pen or pencil off the page, continuous line sketching allows the artist to capture the essence of their subject in a more intuitive and expressive way.

Another benefit of continuous line sketching is that it can help to improve hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. Because you must keep the line moving and flowing while also navigating around the contours and details of the subject, continuous line sketching requires a high level of concentration and control. As a result, it can be an excellent way to build skills and confidence in drawing.

Continuous line sketching can be done with any drawing tool, from pencils and pens to charcoal and pastels. Some artists even use continuous line sketching as a way to explore new materials and techniques, such as brush pens or watercolours.

To get started with continuous line sketching, all you need is a pen or pencil and a blank sheet of paper. Begin by choosing a subject that interests you, and then try to depict it using a single, unbroken line. Don’t worry about making mistakes or getting every detail right - the goal of continuous line sketching is to capture the essence of your subject in a flowing and expressive way.

As you work, try to keep your line as smooth and continuous as possible.

USk London with Derwent

I had the pleasure recently of being invited to the 10 year Urban Sketchers London event along with Derwent to demo some of their paint sets and papers. What an amazing couple of days!

This was all preceeded by hearing the amazing news that one of my sketches had been successfully chosen to be in the published 10 year anniversary book! So pleased to be amongst some super talented artists.

I joined the anniversary sketching weekend by initially joining 40+ sketchers at Gabriels Wharf on Londons south bank. What a pleasure to meet some of the team running the sketch meet and tackle the London skyline with pen and paint. Urban sketching on mass is such a different (better) experience  - quite a contrast to the solo sketching life most tend to lead, which can be lonely and sometimes enveloped in exaggerated self awareness.

Using Format