Tips for Sketching on Holiday

My recent holiday in Bulgaria taught me some top
tips for making time to create art while on holiday

I recently took a trip to Sofia with some friends and I was afraid it would be yet another trip in which I would pack a sketchbook with the greatest of intentions and leave with no new drawings. All too often my sketchbook and pencil case only serve to keep my backpack from floating away! But this time I was determined. I decided at the very least to take lots of photographs that I could draw from later.

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Luckily for me, Sofia’s huge range of architecture was so inspiring I couldn’t have stopped myself from drawing. While I couldn’t do much plein air sketching as none of my friends were interested in sitting around watching me draw while we could be exploring the city, I was able to use the photos I took in the odd spare minute back in our Air Bnb to do some quick drawings.

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I’ve often found quick sketches slightly daunting, knowing that I won’t be able to spend hours working on them and making them perfect. But I’ve also spent so long having it drilled into me by various art teachers throughout the years that drawing little and often is the key to building your skills in observation. As annoying as I found that advice at the time while I was slaving over a single drawing, trying to make it absolutely perfect, I realise now that they all knew what they were talking about. It was actually extremely refreshing to take a break from excruciating detail and just draw, without worrying about the final product. Overall, I am pleased with my drawings and I got an unexpected amount of pleasure from doing them.

For once I was able to actually use all the supplies I brought with me! A while ago my lovely Mum bought me an artist’s roll from the Tate (link) which I have sworn by ever since to carry all the supplies I need on holiday with me. I have a tiny watercolour set from Tiger which is good enough for quick sketches and fits perfectly into this roll along with my Pentel Aquash Waterbrushes.

This recent trip has allowed me to identify a few key tips and things to keep in mind if you want to do some urban-sketching and don't know where to start:

  1. Take thousands of photographs. You never know which ones might inspire you later on and allow you to draw whenever you have a spare moment.
  2. It doesn't have to be good. Your sketchbook is exactly that - yours - it doesnt matter if all your drawings are completely awful, what matters is you've captured a place and a moment in a completely unique and irreplaceable way, and that should be cherished regardless of the quality of your artwork.
  3. If you dont have a big bag all you need is paper and a pen. It can be tempting to shove a bunch of coloured pencils and paints and whatnot into your suitcase, but be realistic. If you're not going to have much time to sit down and create, just bring a tiny sketchbook and a pen and you'll still be able to create some awesome drawings. 

Because of all the photos I took I was able to create a more detailed painting of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral when i got home which is a lovely memento to keep of the trip.

IMG_20190721_172823.jpgI hope these tips prove useful. I wish you all luck on your urban-sketching endeavors and hope everyone has a wonderful summer!