6 Tips for Sketching Outdoors

I woke up, it was a beautiful summer’s morning. The sun was shining already and the birds were singing their little hearts out. In that moment, I decided that this was the perfect day for sketching in the park. I grabbed my art kit, filled up my water bottle and skipped merrily out the door towards my local park.

I must admit, I have not done this in a long time. Sketching outdoors was something that I used to do regularly when I was a student but this hobby got left behind when I started working. I guess one of the benefits of lockdown has been having the time to revisit old hobbies and interests or even create new ones! I really enjoyed my time sketching in the park, it reminded me how important it is to take time out for yourself and do something that you enjoy, just because. Whilst I was engrossed in my watercolour sketch, I overheard someone walking past say, ‘I wish I could draw’ and whilst I didn’t say anything at the time, my reply should have been, YOU CAN! You do not need to be ‘good’ at drawing for it to be worthwhile, your enjoyment alone is valuable enough.

Whether you used to sketch and fancy getting back into it or you have never sketched before and fancy giving it a go. Hey! Even if you are a regular indoor sketcher but interested in taking your practice outside once in a while, here are some tips for you!

1. Take more than one sketchbook.

Sketchbooks are great, I love them! They come in all different shapes and sizes. You can draw, paint and stick things into them and they are easily portable! On my trip to the park, I took an A5 Coptic bound Sketchbook and a 10cm Square Coptic bound sketchbook. I love Coptic binding because it allows the book to lay completely flat, making this style of book ideal for sketching in. The reason why I am suggesting you bring more than one, is not just because I am sketchbook obsessed (although I certainly am), there are practical reasons too. You do not want to be sitting and watching paint dry or worse, smudging your beautiful work whilst in the throes of creativity. If you have more than one sketchbook with you, you can paint in one and always have another to work in whilst the first one dries. You might also want to work across multiple sketchbooks at the same time, perhaps you want to try out different colour palettes for the same scene or you might want to paint in layers, so you switch between your books adding a new layer each time. How ever you choose to use your sketchbooks, do not limit your creativity, take more than one!

2. Bring some paper clips.

This tip is essential for outdoor sketching! Two humble paper clips can turn your sketching session from one of pure frustration to one of peace and serenity. Clip each side of your book together, so your book stays open on the pages you are working on. This simple intervention will prevent your pages from flicking around in the wind whilst you are trying to draw and potentially smudging your work. I could not resist these adorable smiley face clips by Rapesco. If you do find yourself without paper clips on an outdoor sketching session, rocks make good paperweights.

3. Take a few different types of media.

Who doesn’t love variety, especially when it comes to art and craft supplies? I strongly recommend taking a few different types of media (art tools/materials) with you on your sketching adventure. You never know what kind of inspiration you will find. Will you be inspired by the intricate details of a leaf? Where graphite and fine liner will allow you to perfectly capture the interesting textures and shapes. Or will you be inspired by a beautiful fuchsia sunset? Where nothing but colourful media will do. I always take a few options when I am going sketching. Fine liners and/or pencils are staples in my sketching kit, they are great for capturing details, they are easy to use and make very little mess. I also love graphite sticks, which are great for taking rubbings from different surfaces and objects. For my colourful option, I usually take my portable watercolour palette (which is extremely well-used) with a re-fillable water brush and/or something a bit less messy like these Ecoline Brush Pens. Do not limit your creativity, give yourself options!

4. Look after yourself.

Your health and comfort are super important. This applies to all situations in life but thinking specifically about sketching outdoors. If you feel safe and comfortable, you will be able to relax and make your greatest work. Take care of the essentials; wear sunscreen, sit in the shade, stay hydrated and bring snacks if you plan on being out for a while. Taking care of your essential needs will help you maintain your energy and focus and prevent any regrettable, potentially dangerous conditions like sunburn, dehydration and hanger. You might also want to consider bringing a blanket, some music and a friend, anything that will make your outdoor sketching session as comfortable and pleasurable as it should be.

5. Take a few moments to settle in.

Whether you do this internally or write your thoughts down, take a few moments to notice the sights, smells and sounds around you. This is a great way to generate ideas and focus your attention. If you did want to write your thoughts down, a technique called free writing might be an ideal way to start. All you do is write exactly what comes to you, freely express your thoughts. You might even stumble across a title for your next artwork or a poem to accompany your sketches. I believe that sketching and mindfulness go hand in hand, so I urge you to find a comfortable seat, take a breath and notice your surroundings.

6. Collect extra stuff for later.

You have used my tips above and had a great time sketching outdoors but your creativity does not have to end there! This final tip is all about preparing extra materials for more arty fun when you get home. Take photos, gather small items (be mindful of the law) and collect rubbings from different surfaces whilst you are out and about. Once you are home you can use these materials to make collages, scrapbooks, larger and messier works or extra detailed studies. Your creative possibilities are endless!

I hope you find these tips useful and enjoy making art on the go. Remember, there are so many places you can go to find inspiration including, your local park, the forest down the road, the beach, a quiet street, the bottom of your garden etc.

Take care of yourself, make art and enjoy life.

Let me know how your outdoor sketching adventure went in the comments or tag me in your photos!

Instagram - @hand_painted_bindery

Facebook - @handpaintedbindery

1 view

Gateshead, UK