Tips for sketching outdoors.

I love drawing and it has always been something I enjoyed doing anywhere anytime. But it is just in the past years that I started to sketch outdoors.

First it was when we went to Nepal for 2 weeks trekking (2014). I wasn’t really prepared but I decided to give it a go. It was hard because we were walking all day with very little stops and I was tired on arrival. But one day we finished early due to bad weather and I found it was a great way to link with our Sherpa team and at the end everyone draw something which was so nice.

Then I never tried again during trips abroad as I found easier to take photos. But it is not the same feeling, in your drawings you capture as well as a view some feelings and the atmosphere. Additional to these, drawing creates special links with people either who are watching you or drawing with you. Your sketchbooks will also be a great source of inspiration for home paintings.

Back in March 2020, during the first lock-down, I again brought my pencils and went outside near my village in a mountain environment and I was hooked again and decided to practice regularly.

Now, I always bring some art materials with me as soon as I go outside, either for a short or long walk, even when I go in town as you never know you can get some spare times to sketch !

 

Few tips to help you sketch outdoors

Location & get comfortable

You need to adapt to the weather and wear suitable clothes:

  • head protection (against sunshine or cold)
  • for the top, layers you can wear off/on to adapt to temperatures (you will get colder while seated).
  • scarf can be useful. I always have one in my bag for sun/cold/even to be used to have something to seat on as stones could become harder the longer you sit on them!

Then choose carefully where you will seat while sketching, few questions that can help choose the right location:

  • main question is what do I want to draw… seems basic but very important. Start with not too large point of view, may be choose a central interesting point, a mountain summit, a tree, an old hut/building from where you can build your drawing (it won’t be necessary in the middle of your page…). A lot of times I got lost in my page having difficulties to give limit to my drawing… for your first drawings you can use a small cardboard frame (keep only the frame, the inside is cut off o see through it) to limit your view, then you will get used to frame what you want to draw without this help.
  • Where it is best to sit for me at this moment and for a certain time (under a tree, on the shade, on the light, etc …), if you have space and your bag not too heavy already, a camping stool/chair could be good.

Equipment / tools

  • the lighter the better !
  • The rucksack you use for walking is perfect, keep some space for your drawing equipment.
  • Bottle of water
  • cup
  • cloth
  • sketchbook : we will see details further below
  • I suggest to not take too much tools, the basics for me are:
    – pencil
    – small rubber
    – pencil sharpener
    permanent markers, personnaly I take 2 with line width of 0,3 and 0,7 (Staedtler)
    – non permanent markers, like Pilot /
    V Sign etc.. pen, could be nice as you can brush them with water to create shadows etc…
    Stabilo Pen 68 – water based ink : I like the colours and you can also brush them with water. Note I only choose 2 or 3 colours, no need to take my complete collection !
    – watercolour pencil could be nice too;
    I also only take 2 or 3 colours
    – watercolour paint small box
    – watercolour brush
    – water brush pen
    (optional)

Sketchbooks

You will find a lot of choices. The more important thing for me is the paper grammage/density.
I tend to take not less than 140g/m2. For example I have a A4 Daler Rowney, very good size for pencil/pen/watercolour pencils. You can use watercolour paint but not too watery.

For watercolour paintings, 300gr/m2 is very good. I used the Sennelier 9×14 cm for some flowers sketching last March and it was very practical and totally suitable with small detailed watercolour paintings

I have tried couple of them and the best sketchbook I found this year is a Venezia sketchbook, 10×15 cm with 200gr/m2 grammage. Great for all techniques even watercolour paint and I even glue some leaves etc in it. Size very easy to put in any bag and strong enough cover to protect the sheets.

Techniques

I would say do not limit yourself and start with something you feel comfortable with : drawing with pencil or pen. If you are more sensitive to colours, go for watercolour or colour pencils..
To start with, do not go into too much details. Try to catch the global shape and the ambiance.

You can draw with anything really. If you forgot your tools and just have a ball point pen, just use it !

I also recommend to mix techniques and just take pleasure doing it.
Most important : do not challenge yourself too much, you won’t create a stunning piece each time… the more you draw, the more you get wrong, the more you will make progress.

Very good to improve yourself : use as less as you can rubber; even start straight away with pen and keep correction lines.

To get some inspiration, try new ideas and look at what other person around the world draw, I also like to go on Urban Sketchers Facebook group

I hope this article could make you start sketching outside if you always wanted to do so and never tried.

For me drawing is a kind of meditation and each time I draw outside I am surprise how it takes me far into the nature around me. It allows me to see more details, more small things I would just not notice if not drawing. It gives some more accurate perception of the environment; you will hear more sounds, see more colours shades etc …

Take this time for you and you will feel the benefit in you !

And do not hesitate to leave a comment or feedback to this post.

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