A 'something is better than nothing' sketch

July 7, 2017 | 8 Comments

Last week I attended the monthly Urban Sketchers Sydney event at the North Sydney Saturday markets and, as often is the case, I wasn’t sure that I would fit a sketch in. By the time I had chatted to a few people at the start, gone for a walk to take a few photos for some upcoming free mini SketchingNow Buildings lessons, gone into Stanton Library to borrow two books on Chicago, and then chatted to a few more USkers, it was almost time to meetup again for the 12 noon sketchbook ‘throwdown.’

As soon as I said to the sketcher I was sitting next to “I don’t think I will bother to sketch today” (it was about 11.30am) I realised that I would really regret not having a record of the morning in my sketchbook. So, I pulled my sketchbook out and did this extremely loose sketch.

At the time it felt like a very half-hearted attempt to sketch but now I am happy that I was able to capture in only a few minutes the essence of the scene I was looking at. And after all, that is what sketching is all about (for me anyway).

Do you have any strategies for situations when you really couldn’t be bothered to get your sketchbook out. It is all too easy to give in to the “it’s all too hard” thoughts, isn’t it?


  • Pat Rime says:

    It’s amazing what you can do in even 20 seconds if you have your paper handy. I practice at railroad crossings and never fuss that I’m stuck for a few minutes. It really sharpens your ability to get the essentials, or learn to stop motion. Thanks for posting your unpolished items as well. It’s very encouraging.

  • Carmela Sunnyvale says:

    Hi Liz–thanks for a post that shows that just a taking few minutes to sketch is worthwhile. I recently started sketching in a 3X5″ homemade sketchpad that I now keep in my purse. I use it to do quick sketches that take no longer than 5 minutes. I think of the time spent as nourishing my creative ‘spark’–that part of me that is curious and wants to see what is before me and capture a part of it. It has taken the pressure off of feeling that only a finished sketch is worthwhile.

  • Pam Cunningham says:

    “I don’t have time” or I can’t be bothered right now” only works against you later on when you regret not having done anything. Just give yourself a little mental push.

  • Corinne McNamara says:

    I need to remember that sketching helps me stay connected to a time and place, especially when I’m feeling stressed. Taking those few minutes to put pen to paper interrupts the stress, and I haven’t done it as much as I should. Thanks for the reminder, the mental push. I’m picking up my pen right now.

  • Bob Cochran says:

    Congratulations on a really great sketch. You seized the opportunity and made the most of it. That is what counts! I ought to take that bit about railroad crossings to heart! I often bicycle to a favorite coffee shop on weekends, and more often than not I seem to pick the exact moment that a very long train is approaching, and the signal gates are already fully lowered, preventing traffic from flowing until the train has cleared the street. That can take 5 minutes or more. Now about Chicago, I’ve never been there myself. I have this feeling that the books you found might be a little dated. I wonder if you can have a chat with someone you might know in the city? One of the commenters mentioned being 3 hours away from it? Another suggestion: most large cities have mailing lists or online forums devoted to what is going on in the city or subsection thereof. Search for one for Chicago, post to it, and see what replies you get. Also, perhaps there are bus or trolley tours that you can book. I know that Washington, D.C. has a few different bus and boat tour operators. Chicago probably has bus tours too. Good luck! Chicago is really another world in my eyes.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I keep a tiny 3.5 x 5.5 inch notebook in my bag for those times. I have done many 3 to 5 minute sketches in that notebook — so I can always squeeze in a sketch.

  • Sam Taylor says:

    My tricks aren’t for everyone, but I’ve moved to keeping two tiny sketchbooks in my bag – one ‘rough and one ‘smart’. If I’m not sure I do a quick ‘rough’ sketch, and also keep notes and practise exercises in there. The ‘smart’ is for when I have time to take a bit more care. I also use my phone camera a lot so I can sketch a scene later, it’s not for everyone but I’ve 3 children who get really bored waiting for me to knock out a sketch, so sometimes it’s just a case of waiting til bedtime!! 🙂

  • Heather Thompson says:

    I am a beginner at sketching and have started with charcoal….which I have had great success with. Drawback is ….. I seem to only be able to sketch when in a class. However, your post about ‘something is better than nothing’ has got me determined to sketch wherever I am. Thanks so much for posting your unpolished sketches …I find this very encouraging.

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