Back in December last year I decided that it was time to start thinking about my next online course. I’d gotten a lot of requests for “SketchingNow Watercolour Part 2” but I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. So I decided to ask everyone what they struggled with most and what they wanted to learn next. I had an amazing response… so a big thankyou if you were one of the people who sent me an email back then.
Your big struggles
The struggles were in the main what I expected them to be: where to start, how to find a story, colour, values, how to decide whether to start in ink or watercolour and then how to sketch trees, skies, water, boats, cars, people etc etc etc. These were exactly the topics I had been thinking about for the new course so I knew that I was on the right track.
But the most common issue was the logistics of urban sketching – how to put a kit together and how to manage the tools etc. when out on location. Not only was this a struggle, but in many cases this was the biggest barrier to starting.
This surprised me because I believe that putting a kit together is an ongoing process. It’s not something you need to have right on day 1 and the constant adjustment of it is a huge part of the fun of urban sketching.
I had never thought of it as a major hinderance! But after all your emails, I now totally get it! I can see that when you are starting out it does look as if every urban sketcher has a definitive solution and that you need to have a cool kit in order to be an urban sketcher. But trust me, the reality is that none of us have the perfect solution.
To prove my point about urban sketching kits adjusting all the time – I actually just made a radical change to mine this morning – removing everything but what I think is the basics. But my basics is much more than many other people as I have pens in my kit simply for my writing! So there is definitely not a perfect solution – not one solution for everyone.
What’s really important!
But ultimately having the right tools is much less important than having some techniques and steps to simplify the scene in front of us to something manageable. I’m more and more convinced that deciding on the story and planning some composition – looking at the big picture – are the most crucial aspects to a successful sketch and these will form a big part of the new Watercolour On Location course. And yes, by the way I have opened up enrollment for the new course – click here to check it out! (I will be sharing more about it in the next few weeks)
The other concern was simply the logistics of sketching out on the streets (how to manage your supplies and where to sit etc), and once again this is something that is different for everyone. The important thing is to start doing it and work out for yourselves what works best! Everyone has a different standard of what makes a comfortable sitting position and how much weight is too heavy to carry. It’s only through trial and error that we get a feel for this.
Another way of developing our own kit and ways of sketching on location is to get ideas from other people. This is why a lot of talk at urban sketchers meets centres around our stuff, but it’s harder to find that information online especially for beginners. So that’s why I’ve created a gallery section in the Watercolour On Location classroom so that we can share our tips and tricks and create a creative resource for this essential topic.
BTW 1: you know that all the details about my kit lives in the Sketching Tools section, don’t you?
BTW2: this photo is from my recent visit to Edinburgh where we were braving the cold wet weather and sitting in the only dry spot in the whole of Leith.
Watercolour On Location is now available as a self-directed course.