How I got into Urban Sketching

In 2013 I came across Urban Sketching. This changed my life. Once I found that sketching could be done just for itself,  with different art materials and just for the joy of it, it completely changed my perspective on drawing.  I started to take my sketchbook pretty much everywhere I went. I was struggling with anxiety and had a lot of problem sitting still or waiting. Sketching helped with it, I filled all those times of anxiety and inability to sit still and wait with sketching.

I studied Fine arts and the first two years I learnt the basics, and this meant twenty five sketches each day, everyday. We were expected to sketch our surroundings and were told to go and sketch in the railway station, in the bus stop, in the market and everyday things around us. Though I liked to sketch, this was mostly an exercise to help with our final artwork. Sketching was always looked at like as a pre cursor and never as an artwork in itself. I took Art History as a major and this meant I was mostly reading and writing and not really drawing. Slowly my practice of drawing died out.

I used to have a problem with going out and eating alone, it used to make me feel awkward and out of place.  I started to sketch in restaurants and cafes spreading  my sketchbooks and art materials forming a wall of security around me. I feared long train journeys alone without a friend to talk to , with only my thoughts and yes scary strangers. It is amazing how time flies by when you sketch on trains, you literally have a thousand interesting things happening around you and worth sketching. I started to enjoy solo travel so much.

Solo travel is great for urban sketchers because you can take your time in any location you like to sketch, you can go to places mainly because it is sketch worthy and not bore your fellow travellers. But of course travelling with other sketchers or art enthusiasts is a delight. I almost always plan my travel now based on places and things I want to capture through my sketching. I love architecture, culture and nature, I always remember in rich detail the people I met, the sounds and smells and places I went to where I sketched.

Sketching is a great ice breaker with unknown people , people find it easier to approach me when I am sketching and these encounters come with countless stories. Locals explaining the history of the place, travellers discussing their travel plan with me. Guards and even policeman are friendlier. Drawing in public also helps with getting people together and conversing with each other and connecting on a much deeper level creating a sense of community wherever I go.

Drawing has become a daily practice now, I love it and barely has a day has gone by when I haven’t drawn. It contributes heavily to my illustration career. I have had the opportunity to take workshops, courses and even taught in colleges, because of my Urban Sketching.

When we used to travel before we had to make extensive plans, go through Lonely Planet and rough guide books to figure out the right places to stay and eat. There was so much we observed and absorbed in travel. But since smartphones have become a part of our lives more and more people are always engrossed in their phones, missing a key moments in front of them. Taking photographs mainly to feed instagram and taking selfies to change DPs. This state of being is only going to get worse and is unavoidable. But sketching helps with slowing down and observing our surroundings. Tasting everything we see, we hear and understand the rich tapestry of different cultures. Sketching can help us connect to nature, our culture and different culture more deeply and honestly.

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