• Swarnavo Datta

Urban Sketching

Let’s talk about something else this week. Something out of the scope of Digital art. Back to the traditional format.

One of my favorite styles of art, Urban Sketching.



As an artist, I owe a lot to this style since it helped me boost my confidence A LOT!

I have been sketching for a really long time now. Ever since I was a kid. I have had numerous sketchbooks and folders stuffed with artwork.But there was a catch. Actually two.

One, all my artwork was done using something as a reference.Maybe from a page of my artbooks. My parents would regularly buy me these books with ready made artwork in them. Landscape scenes, portraits of famous people,cats, you name it. I would simply try and copy them in the best possible way.That worked for me and I became better at it over time, but I didn’t really gain confidence when it came to drawing from imagination or drawing live on-location. While there is nothing wrong with drawing from a reference image,as an artist you may feel the need to spread out a little more. Not having to always depend on a pre-made artwork to make yours. So that was the first.

Second, my artwork (boxes of them) was something very personal to me. The only people allowed to see my work were my family members and a few close friends. To show it to random strangers, was a thought filled with a lot of anxiety. Similarly, I would find it very weird if I had others peering over to see what I am sketching. It would make me very conscious.

These two conditions stayed with me well into my adulthood.I remember visiting Darjeeling as a kid with my family. With a lot of enthusiasm I carried my sketchbook and some pencils. The plan was to sketch there.

One evening, I stepped out to the hotel balcony with my sketchbook…I even made something. It was not the best work, but I did enjoy the experience. I still remember that sketch quite well. An array of rooftops with the mountains in the background.



Fast forward to the year 2016. I was 24, and moved to Pune,India for work. In the beginning it took me a while to make friends and I suddenly had a lot of time at hand. After staying home over the first few weekends, I had to step out. I Googled for weekend activities or clubs when I came across UrbanSketchers.

A group of art enthusiasts met every Sunday morning at 8 AM. The meetup place was shared on Facebook and you just have to reach there with your sketchbook and stationery. I saw a few photos where artists of every possible age were sitting on location and making sketches of whatever was in front of them. The locations were public places. The Pune railway station,market places, old buildings, you get the drift.

So this one fine Sunday morning, I took the bus to the city at 6 in the morning (I lived in the outskirts of the city) and landed up in front of St. Andrews Church in Khadki area of Pune. The church property was empty. A few elderly people sitting on the ground with large sheets of canvas/paper and silently sketching away. The idea is simple. You choose a spot to sit/stand. Take out your materials and sketch whatever is in front of you.

I sat on the ground, cross legged. Took my A5 sketchbook and a Micron pen and began looking around for things to sketch.

To my surprise, there were at least 30 artists of all possible age around the property. With a variety of medium and sizes of paper.I took my time standing next to them and peeking into their sketchbook.Noticing their process.




Over the years, this form has become one of my favourite styles. Urban sketching taught me a lot of things. Let’s list them down before closing this blog:

  • Confidence. It gave me the confidence to really exhibit my work to others. Allowing them into my process made me stronger.

  • A new way to look at my surroundings. That day when I saw the church for the first time, I just saw an old building, but when I started sketching it, I was forced to look at all the beautiful details in the building. Suddenly it opened up a different world for me. When you look into those tiny details, you start appreciating your surroundings a lot more. You start connecting with them. That is art for me.

  • Doing more with less. I always carry a mini sketchbook and a pen with me. Wherever I go. I have gotten used to the idea of making artwork with just these two things. I don’t always need the best of materials to make something nice. Its about how you look at it.re confidence as well. Simplifying your surroundings and trying to capture the essence. That’s beautiful.

  • Doing more with less. I always carry a mini sketchbook and a pen with me. Wherever I go. I have gotten used to the idea of making artwork with just these two things. I don’t always need the best of materials to make something nice. Its about how you look at it.

Well its been a while since I have been typing this. Guess I will close it here for today. Happy sketching!


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