Have you ever felt envious of those Artists you see scribbling away in their sketchbooks in the corner of a cafe or on a train? They seem totally oblivious to the people around them and entirely absorbed by what they’re doing; sketching, in a public place, with confidence! It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but somehow you are never quite brave enough to actually do it.

You might be familiar with this scene…

You put on your sunglasses, slip on your baseball cap and pull it all the way down until you can just about see your shoes. You have packed every possible item you might need in to your now very bulky rucksack. Finally you venture outside, with your head down in case somebody notices.

So, what are you about to do… Commit a robbery??? 

No! You are simply hoping to finally pluck up the courage to sketch outside. Yes… IN PUBLIC!!!

You notice a couple sitting on a bench. ‘That would make a nice little sketch.’ you think. So you hide behind a wall and unpack your rucksack. There is a lot of choice:

  • A pencil case containing a dip pen, a selection of Micron pens with various sized nibs, several pencils in different grades, a waterbrush, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, some coloured pens and some watercolour pencils.
  • A bottle of ink
  • Some watercolours
  • A watercolour sketchbook
  • A pocket sized sketchbook
  • A bottle of water
  • A jar
  • Some brushes
  • Some hand wipes
  • Some paper towels

You scratch your head wondering what you should use. Finally, you decide on pencil… no, pen… no, pencil… or maybe watercolour? No, pencil it is! You put everything else away and peep over the wall, only to find that the couple have left.

Frustrated, you wander in to a cafe and order a latte. You find the most inconspicuous seat you can and wait until someone sits down nearby… but they look over in your direction. ‘That’s no good. What if they notice me?’… you think.

A couple walk in and take a seat nearby. By now your coffee is cold and you order another. You finally bring out your sketchbook but then the waiter comes over. You close it quickly in case he sees.

Someone else arrives. It’s a man, reading a newspaper. ‘Perfect.’ You open your blank sketchbook, grab your pencil case and the entire contents falls all over the floor… By the time you’ve picked it all up, the man has gone and you feel stupid. You lose your nerve, finish your coffee and go home.

It shouldn’t be that hard! So, let’s re-write that scene…

You put on your shoes and slip on your jacket. On your way out of the door, you grab a 2b pencil and a pocket sized sketchbook.

You notice a couple sitting on a bench. ‘That would make a nice little sketch.’ you think. So you sit on a wall nearby, pop on your headphones so nobody will bother you and pull the sketchbook and pencil from your pocket. You capture the basic shapes of the couple for as long as they are there. They leave, but that doesn’t matter… now you add the bench.

You pop your sketchbook and pencil back in your pocket and you find a nearby cafe. You order a latte and find a seat somewhere out of the way. Somebody sits down nearby… You quickly open your sketchbook and start to sketch, but they they look over in your direction… That doesn’t matter. You just look over their shoulder and pretend to be drawing something else. They look away.

The next couple walk in. By now your coffee is cold and you order another. You start to sketch and the waiter comes over. He just smiles, puts down your coffee and walks away.

Someone else arrives. This time, it’s a man reading a newspaper. ‘Perfect.’ You start a 4th sketch. The man leaves before you can finish, but that’s okay. You have filled four pages in your sketchbook and one of the sketches you really like. And guess what? Nothing bad happened.

You go home feeling accomplished.

Keep it Simple…

One of the first mistakes that beginner Artists make when sketching in public, is to take far too many materials with them. The more choice you have, the longer you will take to start sketching. There is nothing more limiting that carrying around a heavy bag full of every optional material under the sun. So, keep it simple! Limit your sketching kit to a small sketchbook and either a pencil or a pen. That is all you need! Remember, you only need to capture the simplest shapes for now. You can always add details and colour later on when you get home.

But What if Somebody Notices?

Exactly! What??

Is it going to be broadcast on the national news? Nope. Are they going to point at you and laugh? Highly unlikely! The reality is, that most people won’t bother you at all and if they do, it’s most likely because they are genuinely interested in what you are doing and would love to have the confidence do the same!

But, if you are really worried about somebody looking, then you could just pop on some headphones. That will usually dissuade anyone from trying to talk to you. Another thing you could try, is to hide your sketchbook inside a magazine. This way, it will simply look like you’re doing the crossword!

But, the bottom line is, unless you actually get out there and do it, you won’t build the confidence you need, so pick up that pencil, grab that sketchbook and just do it!

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