Learning to Sketch

Learning to Sketch

My sketching journey started a little strangely.

I always enjoyed art at school and I thought I was ok at drawing. But I was always reasonably academic too, and into music.  So art faded into the background and I did not continue with it after school. I went on to study law and played in bands since the age of 14.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties living and working in London that I re-introduced myself to creating art.  I was messing around with my tarot cards one day [I’m a closet tarot nerd – not so secret now I have written it here]. I thought about how interesting it would be to have a historical London themed tarot deck…dark and medieval…or with a Victorian slant perhaps. 

As I was mulling it over in my head I had the urge to design some of the cards myself.  At the time I was retraining myself to become a web designer, so I had some Photoshop skills and naively thought I could make anything I wanted to.  I got a pad and paper out to sketch some ideas but quickly became frustrated with my efforts. 

What does one do when one becomes frustrated…? I turned to the Internet. 

After an hour or so of research/watching Youtube videos (ok, mainly watching Youtube videos) I decided to buy a book, yes….a book.  I bought Keys to Drawing (Bert Dodson) and it was amazing to get me going, teaching me to draw what I am really looking at and not what I think should be there, amongst other techniques that build on from this concept.  I really recommend this book.  Another popular book to learn to draw is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain but I have not used that book personally.

After completing the exercises in the book, I kept practising every day, usually drawing things from observation.  Then I discovered Urban Sketching, and this changed everything! 

Combining travels with sketching has really become a passion of mine.  The Urban Sketching movement captured my imagination.  It has taken me a long time to become confident enough to sit and draw in public, the fear of judgment is very real!  However, the majority of the time, people do not pay any attention to you.  And if they do they are usually very enthusiastic.  I have had nothing but positive experiences and it invites people to come and talk to you when otherwise they would not. 

If you do not want people to talk to you, you can always put headphones on so people can see you are concentrating.  But interactions with strangers over sketching really is one of the most special parts of hanging out and sketching in public.  I have got a couple of my friends interested in urban sketching now too, so now I have other people to go and sketch with, which also boosts your confidence instantly as you do not feel so vulnerable!  It’s a great way to explore your local area that you may not have discovered otherwise.

I have tried to draw every day (where possible) for the last 4 or 5 years now.  It has taken me a while to go get where I am. It’s not talent as many kind people tell me, but actually just constant practice and learning.  It actually takes work, and I prioritise making time to do it because I enjoy it so much.  I get grumpy when I haven’t managed to take the time to draw during the day.  It is not always possible – sometimes life just happens and before you know it the day is gone.  That’s why you have to intentionally create the time and space to do it.  

I have a long way to go with my art but I am happy with my progress so far.  I wanted to tell you the above, about how I have worked hard to get to where I am currently so that you know it’s all just practice, and if you want to sketch then just get going…you can do it.  Anyone can.  You just have to commit to it.  Keep doing it and you will get better and better each day, and have some amazing books to look back on of all the places you have visited…and probably some amazing stories to tell too.