I have such a strong love of nature, and thankfully nature provides an endless supply of sketching subjects. But lately I’ve been challenging myself to sketch more in urban areas.
The reason is not because I have a great interest in architecture. (I’m married to an architect so I get enough of that in real life.) I think architecture can be beautiful, but it doesn't hold my interest the way a curled leaf or a calling bird does.
Urban areas typically portray a frenzied, stop-and-go movement, a controlled landscape, and a dissociative vibe that is rarely found in nature, yet the characteristics found in this unique arena that humans have built and inhabit can be a valuable resource— even for nature artists.
Yes, buildings and roads are great subjects for studying perspective, but urban settings often provide a glimpse of nature that can’t be found in… well, nature. Urban sketchers must often include the placement of trees and other natural objects that inhabit the space around man-made ones.
Birds perch on benches and gables and grapple for crumbs under cafe tables. Fungi thrust their heads through decaying mulch. Butterflies and bees flit around in foliage and drink from discarded soda cups. Snails and inchworms creep across sidewalks, and housecats eye me suspiciously from upstairs windows while lusting after chipmunks scurrying about in drainage ditches.
Nature is everywhere in the city.
As a nature lover, I believe that urban sketching can give me a different view of how nature interacts with the world around it, plus it allows me to study one of nature’s most magnificent animals— the human. Cities contain the greatest concentration of this species, and since I’ve noticed my sketches are sorely lacking in any type of social skills, I’ve been trying to work in a bit of people watching.
But all of these are also not the main reasons I’m working on my urban sketching skills.
Whether I like it or not, life demands that I must occasionally travel to and through urban areas. Since I love to sketch, I’m trying my best to embrace the subject matter at hand. Because the more subjects an artist studies, the better the artist will be for it.
I’m attempting bits of urban sketching in the hopes that it makes me a better all-around artist. Because let’s face it, I’m lousy at it. But as Disney animator Walt Stanchfield once said,
We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.
So here’s to urban sketching!