What Is Urban Sketching (for Me, So Far)? [Updated] –– Privilege to “Stop” / スケッチャーの特権?

Last year I wrote about what urban sketching was for me at the moment . There I said the definition would change as I experience more. So ...

Last year I wrote about what urban sketching was for me at the moment. There I said the definition would change as I experience more. So here is an updated version and it’s going to be all about my personal take on urban sketching.

When I wrote the last post, “sharing” was everything for me. It was (and still is) fun seeing others’ amazing sketches, posting my own pieces, receiving reactions, and sometimes going drawing together. I enjoyed socializing through sketching. But over time the idea of urban sketching developed more internally and personally (It might go a little off the original intention of the activity though).

For me as a weekend sketcher, sketching is release from weekday stress. On my days off, I go out with a sketchbook and try to draw something. My typical weekend routine is settling in a coffee shop and drawing the surroundings (people, drink and food, interior, etc.).

Here is a sketch done through the routine.

While drawing, I often feel like I was the only one who “stops”. Of course, my hands are moving and my brain is thinking (How do I draw this? What color do I want to use?). But, at the same time, I’m pausing to observe and sort through things passing me one after another. In daily life, especially in the busy, busy Tokyo, everything moves really fast and you (or at least I) can hardly take time to digest what’s going on. But when you draw, you give yourself a chance to step away from the world and look carefully.

Here are two more example sketches.

I love drawing at cafes not only because I drink a lot of coffee but because in a cafe people share the same space and time, yet they concentrate on their own stuff. So there are a few different stories happening and people don’t really care about each other, of course about me either. I can see all the stories and get them on a page at a time. In such a situation, sometimes I even feel I’m isolated and that’s the feeling I love about sketching. I think it’s sketchers’ privilege –– privilege to stop, not overwhelmed by the world moving around you, though still being amid it.

Since I noticed that, I’ve been trying to make the most of the privilege. Working in Tokyo, I always feel rushed. So I go sketching to clear my overloaded head and pour my time into just enjoying drawing. I’ve started three things so far:

1. Playing with colored pencils
Normally I draw with pen and add watercolor washes. But, to be more devoted to having fun, sometimes I spread colored pencils and scribble with them just as I want to like a kid. Parks are perfect places for doing this. At last month’s meet-up in Yokohama, I sat down on the grass in Yamashita Park and tried drawing people chilling there.

And another example. These are literally just doodles, but I had much fun.

2. Sketch journaling
Journaling is closely connected with the idea of urban sketching. Documenting what’s happening around you and telling a story are urban sketchers’ mission. But here journaling means something more personal. It’s recording your day for yourself.

My sketch journal is almost a sketch coffee journal. I fill a spread with different things I’ve seen, drawing in different styles and with different tools.

3. Casting spotlight on familiar views
There are so many things that I know very well but I’ve never paid attention to. These days I try to take time to spotlight those things.

There is not plenty of time to draw always. I only had 10 to 15 minutes for this one. But at least while drawing, I’m devoting my time and eyes and everything to the view.

So here’s an updated version of what urban sketching is for me. I think I wrote in a bit too sentimental mood… But thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed:)



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Urban Sketchers Japan: What Is Urban Sketching (for Me, So Far)? [Updated] –– Privilege to “Stop” / スケッチャーの特権?
What Is Urban Sketching (for Me, So Far)? [Updated] –– Privilege to “Stop” / スケッチャーの特権?
Urban Sketchers Japan
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