Have you noticed how small children love to get all their toys out? When they were little, my boys used to line up dozens of toy cars to make ‘traffic jams’. They loved the excitement of seeing all the cars out at once. While kids like to collect toys – sketchers often collect art supplies. Yet most of the time we only use one or two types of supplies in a given sketch rather than mixing several urban sketching techniques in one sketch.
Yet it is worth taking all your toys (art supplies) out, in a childlike way. Not only it’s exciting and fun… but it could help improve your sketching too!
Mixing urban sketching techniques
I use a combination watercolour, pen and pencils to capture complicated scenes to help me work quicker as I build the sketch up in layers.
This approach gets rid of ‘complicated-scene-anxiety’ too. Lots of buildings? Perspective? People everywhere? I feel I can try and draw anything and have fun in the process too!
Quick watercolour wash
When I spot a sketching challenge, I don’t close my sketchbook and run home. Instead, I just take a toy out.
First of all, I use watercolour to draw the scene and block out the main areas of colour: sky outlines – buildings or landscapes.
I simplify the scene as much as possible and don’t worry much about accuracy. Keep it simple, quick and easy – you can build your picture and add complexity and detail after.
Play with pen and coloured pencils
Once the watercolour base is in, I get coloured pencils out and play! I like watercolour pencils best as they work on both dry and wet paper and you don’t have to wait for the watercolour wash to dry.
Pencils do allow for expressive sketches if you work quickly and draw bold marks. I use them to draw lines or block colours as needed and switch to a fine liner when I need a stronger line.
I let instinct guide me and trust the sketch to unfold as I draw. Some lines are wonky out of place, proportions might not be correct but none of it matters. It’s only a sketch and those imperfections give the drawing character.
Finally, I add a few extra touches of watercolour to crank up the sketch’s colour and contrast.
It is not groundbreaking to mix urban sketches techniques, but I find that working in stages from simple to complex and layering the drawing allows me to break a scene in manageable elements. Challenges stop being overwhelming.
Most of all I like the resulting sketches. I have fun while I draw and it shows. My sketches become lively, playful and expressive.