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A Beginner’s Guide to Urban Sketching Part 2: Practicing & Adding Color

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Posted by Liza Emelyanova
Liza Emelyanova is the Arteza Artist Team Leader. She’s painted most of her life and has a classical art education. She enjoys capturing the beauty in simple things and the world around her using different materials and techniques. She loves illustration and is the author of a sketching course she's been teaching for three years.
A Beginner’s Guide to Urban Sketching Part 2: Practicing & Adding Color

Table of Contents:

Urban Sketching with Liza

Hey again! In the first part of this cityscape drawing tutorial, we got acquainted with sketching. We’ll be practicing and using our new drawing skills to create a new urban sketch and we’ll be adding a splash of color with watercolors.

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, urban sketching involves drawing from life. First and foremost, you’ll want to find the object or subject you want to draw. It can be either a street, one building or just a fragment of it. I chose a wonderful house with a blue fence. I like to do urban landscapes with little shabby buildings that have character. I see their texture and generally love the architecture and history behind the structure.

Think about what exactly attracted you to this specific building or space. This will determine your composition and what techniques you can use. The first step is to analyze its nature, which is extremely important. Do not try to rush "straight into battle,” otherwise at some point, you will feel that you do not know where to go next. An experienced artist thinks first, then picks up a pencil second.

Reference Urban Sketching

I chose this building for several reasons; I like its relative simplicity and number of details. It has just enough to make an interesting sketch, but not too many so I won’t be stuck drawing for half a day. I plan to draw it in 40 minutes. I also like the delicate shadow that falls from the tree behind my back. We can't see the tree itself, but the shadow creates a nice spot in the foreground.

What You’ll Need to Get Started

I like to combine graphic art with watercolor techniques. Today, I decided not to focus on the watercolor, but used a bit to add a touch of color.

Step-by-Step Architecture Sketch Tutorial

Now, you know what materials you're going to use when. Next let’s consider the composition. Since I chose this house and want to capture part of the fence, I should place them on my page in such a way that they are not too large (to leave space around them) and not too small (since I want to be able to add some details). I also want to draw a shadow coming from the tree. I’ll be arranging the objects in such a way that everything I have in mind will fit.

Step 1 Urban Sketching

Step 1

As a general rule, I don't sketch first with a pencil, but start drawing immediately with a pen. But if you are afraid of "irreparable" lines, you can sketch out the main outline before moving on. I drew lines for the top edge of the building, the bottom line of the fence and the top edge of the fence. I also sketched a line for the eye line. I won't go into detail about perspective in this tutorial, but you can read about it here.

Step 2 Urban Sketching

Step 2

Next, I drew the outer outline of the building and the grass lines. Don't try to make the lines too straight. The beauty of the sketches is in their liveliness and imperfections. 

Lifehack: If it seems like your lines are not lively enough, try to draw faster. You will notice how much lighter and carefree your drawings will become.

Step 3 Urban Sketching

Step 3

Now add the outline of the windows, fence and the corner of the building.

Step 4 Urban Sketching

Step 4

Gradually, I started adding details to the drawing. I added the window frames, chimney and all the visible thicknesses. The thicknesses of objects are very important—they add realism to the drawing.

Step 5 Urban Sketching

Step 5

I added a tree on the left side, a balcony and a staircase.

Next, I start to create dense shading. In my drawing, the light is on the left, so all the objects' shadows will be on the right side. Add shadows at the stage when you start to have many lines. Large masses of shadows will help you to "collect" the drawing.

Tip: Please note that the nature of the lines reflects the objects you are drawing. For a flat building, you’ll want to use straight lines whereas if you’re drawing a curly tree you’ll want a curved outline imitating the foliage. Pay attention to the nature of the lines whenever you draw different objects.
Step 6 Urban Sketching

Step 6

Let’s start adding detail to the foreground by drawing the fence and bushes. I also add depth to the shadow of the building and darken the chimney.

Step 7 Urban Sketching

Step 7

Now, add all the falling shadows from the house, the balcony, the fence (onto the ground) and the bush. I also added some details on the tree and bush.

Step 8 Urban Sketching

Step 8

I condensed the shadows and filled in the shadow on the ground with some lines. Notice how the darkened tree on the right creates a great backdrop for the house.

Step 9 Urban Sketching

Step 9

Add a color spot for the sky using Turquoise A602, and a little diluted Sepia Brown A307 in the shade of the house.

Step 10 Urban Sketching

Step 10

Use Yellow Ochre A300 to paint the building and the gate.

Tip: Don't try to evenly paint your surface. The more relaxed your brushstrokes look, the more interesting and lively the sketch looks. Add splashes, drops and light strokes. All these will make your drawing more interesting.

Your Finished City Sketch

Your drawing is done! Our finished sketch looks lively and has an organic look to it. Don't worry if you think something is going wrong. It may not work at first, but sketching takes practice. No one needs to know if you’ve made a mistake or that your composition didn’t come out as planned! Don't be afraid to paint, just go for it and see what your finished artwork looks like.

Urban Sketching House

Shop Set for your creation