July 2013

The Art of Urban Sketching

Quayside Publishing Group

  • 400 First Avenue North , Suite 400
  • Minneapolis , MN

(800) 458-0454


When one thinks of a plein air artist, one might imagine the artist with their pochade box in the middle of a natural setting, surrounded by a forest or nestled into the corner of a hay field or looking out over rocky ocean cliffs, enjoying the sounds and solitude of nature. But not all artists are drawn to such standard natural fare and lonely settings. Some like the hustle and bustle, hard angles, and raw subjects of the urban environment. So many in fact, that urban sketching has become a movement of late.

Urban sketchers have found a community online which they have fostered into real relationships in the street. Urbansketchers.org brings together like-minded artists, who display their sketches of city life on the website for the world to enjoy, and then meet up in-person to sketch together and inspire each other. The website was the impetus for the book The Art of Urban Sketching, by Gabriel Campranario. While the website is fast-paced, flexible, and ever-changing, the book offers a more thoughtful, organized, and steady view of the same subject. The website is great for quick updates, while the book is wonderful for lingering over a cup of tea while appreciating beautiful glimpses into the artists’ sketchbooks.

Artists who want to start sketching in an urban environment will appreciate the numerous tips. There is a section which discusses how to get started and what materials to consider, and there is a section which discusses specific inspirations one might find in the city. But perhaps the most valuable information of all to artists who aspire to become urban sketchers is the note provided for each drawing. Most have a description or tip from the artist, as well as a description of what materials they used, and how long the sketch took them. This information is invaluable to new artists who are trying to benchmark their progress.

Whether you are an artist or merely an admirer of urban sketching, you will find yourself captivated by this beautiful artistic tour of the world. Traditional plein air painters may even be inspired to find themselves on a park bench with a sketchbook and a pentel waterbrush, capturing the movement of the city around them. The Art of Urban Sketching is a valuable resource for any artist to add to their collection.

Reviewed by FIDM Library Staff Member Robin Dodge