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January, 2020

People always ask me - Travel Sketching and Urban Sketching - what is the difference ?


The interest in sketching and drawing has exploded in the last few years. The group Urban Sketchers International now has over 60,000 members all over the world. Amazing!


People have asked me what the difference is between all the different programs that exist and that are being offered these days.


Well, the common denominator between all the different styles is a love of drawing and sketching and working with a pencil or with ink.


I’m sure everyone has a different definition of these forms of sketching, but here is my take:


Travel Sketching: The idea here is to create a diary of your travels, drawing what you encounter on your trips, trying to capture scenes quickly (before they change in front of your eyes…. happens all the time…). You end up with a fantastic memory of your travels.

One participant of a workshop we did in the past, called this style of drawing “nervous sketching”. I love that name! It perfectly describes the style of trying to, as quickly as possible, draw the scene in front of you. Most people bring the tiniest little containers of watercolor palettes, limiting the number of paint colors and only bringing a couple brushes. Some people only work with graphite pencils, some draw only with ink, a few prefer colored pencils. Most travel sketchers add watercolor, to different degrees.

Ideally you finish each piece on site, but nobody will hold it against you if you snap a photo of the scene and finish it when you are back at home or in your hotel.

Urban Sketching: There are as many forms of urban sketching that there are sketchers… Everyone is different and everyone has a different style and goal. However, for many urban sketchers this drawing habit becomes a lifestyle. A difference between urban sketching and travel sketching is that urban sketchers draw and sketch in their hometowns so not necessarily only when they travel. In the early stages of this movement, urban sketching attracted a lot of architects, and I think still these days, many drawings are beautifully created masterpieces of buildings and urban structures. Some of the work of urban sketchers fall under the category of Illustrations, perfectly depicting an urban scene, their work is so exquisite that it takes your breath away. But again, there are as many forms of urban sketching as there are people doing this art form. Today, people from all walks of life are joining this amazing community!


Travel Journaling: Once you begin to add written descriptions or text, words, captions about your travel experiences you are starting to create a travel journal. Many people add museum entrance tickets, receipts, cards etc to their journals, glueing or stapling them to the pages. The goal again, is to create a memory of a certain trip. I have seen true masterpieces of travel journals, so pretty that they should be printed and available in bookstores!


Happy Drawing & Sketching & Painting

Lo Mathews

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