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  • Chris Deboda

Location Sketching Tidbits

Updated: Jan 17


On-location sketching, or "Urban Sketching", has been one of my favorite pastimes over the years. Not only is it an opportunity to continue to hone my own drawing abilities by observing and sketching what I see out in the real world, but the results also serves as a time capsule of the places I've been to and experienced. Not to mention the added health benefits from all that walking exercise going from place to place!


For me, a valuable aspect to location sketching is really about training my eye to "see". Drawing from direct observation allows me to pay closer attention to details in the world around us that would often otherwise be overlooked. A lot of these details will eventually work its way over to my more illustrative work for added storytelling purposes and to make the environment feel more grounded and believable. Over time, if consistent enough with the practice, I eventually do notice the improvements in my overall foundational drawing skills as well.


As I've alluded to earlier, another real reward is when I'm looking back at older sketchbooks, all those memories of past experiences from the places I've been to come flooding right back. It's interesting -- I tend to remember more details of these past moments in time when I sketch it down on paper versus just taking a photo. And since I'm usually in a good mood when I'm out sketching, often these moments are pleasant ones! Location sketching is NOT always about skills improvement.


Location Sketching Supplies


Pictured below is just a few of my typical supplies that I'll bring with me when I'm out urban sketching. Sometimes I'll experiment with other materials, but these are my primary default "go to's". I also usually try to keep things light and take only what I need for the day for easy mobility.



My main sketching tool is the ink brush pen. Using a brush pen allows me to work more bold and enables me to make direct clear choices on where to put my lines down. Any ball point pen and pencils (such as Blackwings and Polychromos) offers flexibility as well as a nice 'change up' from the brush. I'll use a tin case to store everything on the go -- an upgrade from my old sandwich bag!



For sketchbooks, I'm normally not too particular. Since I like using the brush pen, a surface with a bit of tooth to it is ideal. Otherwise, ordinary copy paper on a clip board is totally fine. Easier to not be so precious with and overthink the sketches when using ordinary office copy paper. Throw all of these supplies in a nifty small sling bag and I'm good to go!

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