Episode 2 - Let's go Urban Sketching

Updated: Oct 11, 2019


absolute - used when expressing a strong opinion eg. That is absolutely absurd

capture - to represent or describe something very accurately using words or images:

concept - the principle or the idea behind something

commonly - happens often

detailed - something that contains a lot of information. The drawing was detailed.

diagram - a simple drawing that represents something to explain how it works interpretation -  an explanation or interpretation of what something means related - connected ideas (this context)

media - plural of medium eg. drawing tools and equipment (paper)

observing - looking at for a long time

sketchers - people who are sketching 

urban sketching -  people who sketch by looking at the real world without using photos.

Episode 2

Hello and welcome to the second episode of The Arty Anglais Podcast. I’m your host, Tara and I'm an Aussie (Australian) art and English teacher living in the south of France in Montpellier. I'm also someone who is really passionate about art and creativity and someone who likes to do my own art as well. If this is your first time listening to the podcast, a very big welcome to you. I suggest that you listen to the very first episode to see why I've decided the make everything that I do at Arty Anglais. Why I've decided this podcast. If you listened to the first one, how did you go finding out your learning style? What type of learner are you? Are you someone who prefers to learn through visual imagery? Or are you someone who prefers to listen to things when you're trying to learn something and you can take instructions by someone giving them to you? Or do you prefer to learn by doing things with your hands and being practical while learning at the same time?

00:01:48 Personally, I am a visual learner. This means that I learn better with images and diagrams and I need to see things being done to understand them. You'll notice that in the transcript for today's podcast that I have also included some images and diagrams to help explain some of the things that I talk about. What are you doing while you’re listening to this podcast? Are you walking? Perhaps you’re running? Drawing? Or maybe you’re on the beach! Lucky you! Very often when I'm listening to French podcasts I like to go for a run at the same time, it really helps me to focus and I feel like I'm doing to things at once which is really good. 00:02:35 This morning I listened to my French podcast while sitting on my balcony. It’s spring here in Montpellier. However, the weather has been a bit weird. Sometimes it rains and then the next day it's beautiful, and the sun is shining! However, I am glad to have some sun today. When I moved to France, I moved during Australia’s summer. So I missed out on the hot summer we usually have in Melbourne. But it's okay because the European summer it seems like it's coming very quickly. Today I thought I could walk into the city and finish off a drawing I started at the start of the week. I’ve been drawing one of the beautiful streets here in Montpellier - Rue du Bras de Fer and that means arm wrestling in French

8 Rue du Bras de Fer in Montpellier

00:03:24 However, I've been having some trouble with this one. I've literally been having an arm wrestle with this sketch. I'm finding it hard to know what colours to use. I really wasn’t pleased with my first attempt, so I want to go back and try again. This is what I wanted to talk to you about today. I want to talk to you about a type of art where you sit in a place such as a city square and draw what you see. This type of art is what we call Urban Sketching. The word 'urban' means anything related to the city or the town. So, sketching in a city is most commonly known as Urban Sketching. You can also say that if you live in the city you live in an urban area. 00:04:16 Anyway, I really love Urban Sketching. I love sitting in a place and observing ( or looking) and trying to draw what I see. I think this for me it is a big part of being a visual learner. I can understand things better when I try to draw them. I only started doing Urban Sketching about a year ago when I first moved to France. I brought a small set of watercolour paints and pens with me in my suitcase when I cam from Melbourne to Paris. Then I bought a small sketchbook from an art shop in Paris. Now before we move on, I've noticed I've come to my first little grammar reminder for today. I was even thinking about it as I was saying it to make sure I was saying the right one. Pay close attention to the difference between brought and bought. Both words can sound similar in spoken English but they mean different things, and very often, even native speakers can get this one wrong. Brought is the past participle of bringing, so I brought with me my watercolours and paints (and pens) because I already had them). Bought is the past participle of buy so I bought a new sketchbook (because I didn’t have one yet)! It was the first time I was trying Urban Sketching.

00:05:46 Well, of course, I drew a picture to explain this. You'll find it in the transcript notes. Tell me if this helps? I find this helps me with my own learning and maybe it could help you too. I have been carried away. Carried away is a great idiom also - it means getting a bit too excited doing something and doing more than you really need to. Anyway, drawing a picture helps me to remember a concept, it helps me to remember what I need to remember. So when I drew this picture, and I'm thinking about the difference, I always think about this picture if I'm trying to use that language.

The difference between brought and bought

Ah ok - so we got that one out of the way. How do you remember this difference? So anyway, My first ever Urban Sketch was of the Place des Vosges in Paris.

00:06:47 There is a picture of it on the show notes, but you can also see this sketch on my website on my artworks page or on my Instagram page which is called Tussock Studio. It was a really beautiful sunny day and I sat under the trees for about 3 hours. A man even sat next to me on his lunch break and he tried to speak to me in French. But, at the time I'd just arrived in France so I was so new to French at the time that I didn’t really know what he was saying to me. But I was trying to speak back to him. At least I tried though, right? Which is I think the most important part? I loved the experience so much that I did it more when I went to Portugal in the summer last year. But, before I keep telling you about all my Urban Sketching adventures, I'm going to explain to you what it is.

00:07:53 What on earth is Urban Sketching? Well, Urban Sketching is a style of art where you produce (or do) drawings and sketches on location. According to the Urban Sketchers organisation, there are some simple rules that will tell you if a drawing is an Urban Sketch. The Urban Sketching organisation has a number of different groups around the world. I'll put a link to it in the show notes. Then you might be able to find a group close to where you live. Anyway, for the artwork of Urban Sketching must be drawn on location, indoors or outdoors. It is a drawing of what was seen from looking in that place, not from photographs. - The drawings tell the story of what is seen and the places we live and where we travel. - We are truthful to the scenes we see (which means we try to draw the things as we see them). - We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles (media, in this case, means drawing tools or equipment such as paints or pens). 00:09:20 I guess you could say that anything, (as long as it’s drawn on location and not from a photograph) can be an Urban Sketch. If you want to draw from a photograph for practice, of course, go ahead. I do this quite a lot just for practice and to understand how the paint works and to understand more about my method. But I really also encourage you to try and draw on-site, on location, because it's quite fun and you can see things very differently when you're in the space.

Individual Styles 00:09:54 Personally, I really like Urban sketching because many different sketchers have different styles. We all see the different building, landmarks and objects in different ways and we all like different sketching materials. For example, I like to use fine liners, watercolours and brush pens. You’ll be able to see some pictures of the materials I use in the blog post for this episode.

00:10:24 My style is more cartoon-like as I’m personally influenced by the Naive art style, and I really children's book illustrations and artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and also really like the Japanese artist Hokusai are some of my biggest inspirations. I'm actually really excited because, in a few weeks, I'm going to go and see a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition. So, I'll talk about this in another, future episode.

For me, my sketching style is a mixture of all of these influences. I also feel like my personal style is better when it’s an interpretation of a scene or a landscape and not a realistic representation. This means that I try to show what the building looks like in a simple way more like a cartoon but with all of the details. I like to be able to represent the things in a way that is different from what you might see in a photograph because I think that's the point of urban sketching. It's providing a window into your mind and to how you do things. I really love the diagrams and maps you see in the Eyewitness Travel Guides. These images are often very detailed and drawn with pen and watercolour. They help to communicate the main parts of buildings, landscapes, towns and cities.

Eyewitness Travel Guide Diagram Example of the National Palace in Sintra

00:12:25 I really love having a little journal of images of the places I have visited. It helps me to remember my holiday and what was happening at the time. It’s also a great way to slow down and take your time while you are travelling. I think you see a place so differently when you stop to draw it. I notice different details of buildings and places when I draw them and I remember them for a long time. So very often I'll be walking through a city or a street and I'll be thinking about all the details about the things that I am seeing. Personally, I feel like its a type of meditation almost. The more you look at something, the more you start to notice things. It’s also really nice to be able to just sit down and drink coffee for hours and hours which is something I seem to do when I'm urban sketching. And the other thing that I seem to do is go into this little world where I am concentrating so much on what I am doing and I really enjoy that engagement with the world around me.

00:13:35 I have met some very interesting people while Urban Sketching. Once a man stopped to tell me all about a building I was drawing. He told me the name of the building (which was good because I didn't what it was called yet). Also, people feel like they can stop and talk to you which I love. I don’t think that really happens as much when you’re just walking around. I like that people stop to talk. I like that they are interested in what I am doing and they have something to say. For me, it's a really good way to connect with people. Usually, when people stop to talk I tell them about what I do and how I do it and usually, they are really surprised that everything I draw with, all the materials I need fit in my backpack!

I also follow some really interesting artists on Instagram. i use that a lot fof inspiration. One of my favourites is a guy called Danny (an American who lives in Germany). He does some absolutely amazing artworks that he shares on his DannyDraws instagram - go and check him out and see what he does. He has a similar style to what I really enjoy which is very cartoon and simplified but with all the details.

I really don’t understand how he finds the time to draw all the time but he is always inspiring me to get out and draw more. As I mentioned, you can see some of my sketches on my Artworks page or on Instagram and facebook at Tussock Studio Drawings.

00:15:40 I also want to talk to you about workshops and how they can help both your language learning and learning skills.


Last week I went to an Urban Sketching workshop in Beziers in the south of France. It was presented by another one of my favourite Urban Sketchers - Ian Fennelly. Again, you must check out his work!

00:16:10 His style is different to mine, however, he uses some similar sketching tools. It was an excellent way to see how he uses some of the tools I use but in a different way. The workshop was in English, but there were also people from all nationalities - there were also people there who spoke Spanish from other nationalities such as Spain and there was another couple from Argentina. But luckily we had a translator with us, and I am sure they able to learn some new vocabulary! The one thing Ian talks about is that the more you look at something the more you will notice and the more detail you can include in your drawings. The thing that you are limited by when you're drawing is just the time that you have and how much you look.

My drawing from the workshop

I did one drawing in the time that I was with Ian I have shared these artworks on my episode blog for you to have a look at and also some of Ian's work. It wasn't my favourite drawing or the best drawing that I've ever done but I definitely learn a lot in the process. I loved it because as an artist I believe there is always something new to learn. You can be inspired by so many different ways of doing things.

00:17:35 Even though you can be inspired, one thing I also find is that it can be very daunting, and very scary to see how others do things differently. I sometimes feel like the way I do it is not as good as someone else or the person next to me. But I think it is important to be reminded that there is no right or wrong way to do it. It's a very personal journey. It's good to listen and see ideas from other people. But importantly, you should follow your own heart and do it how you want to and make sure it’s always fun.

Why workshops and step by step instruction videos

So I think that workshops and things like step by step instructional videos on YouTube are a good way to learn a language in context. If you’re a visual learner or someone curious about learning through doing, workshops and how to do videos are a great way to learn a language. If a face-to-face workshop are too daunting, You-Tube has really great examples. I will post some examples of Step by Step videos for Urban Sketching that I have found useful for myself and that you could also use for learning English and learning a skill. You can also turn on the English subtitles to help which is a good way to stay engaged and to understand what is happening.

Tutorial for beginners

How to try urban sketching

00:19:10 The reason I love this idea is that you can do two things in one go. Even if your understanding isn't amazing at the start, hopefully, the visual information is enough to help work out what the presenter is telling you. There are so many different styles and way to represent a scene in Urban Sketching. There is not really an absolute right or wrong way to do it. Obviously, there will be techniques that are better to use but I think you learn more by just having a go yourself. There are also so many books you could try. I have used this one called The Urban Sketching Handbook by Gabriel Campanario.

00:20:10 The great thing is that everyone has different tastes in art so you will most likely find someone who does something you like. By different tastes we don’t mean what they like to eat, we mean what they like or what they prefer. For example, we might say ‘that piece of artwork is to my taste’. It’s painted in a style that I really prefer.

The philosophy that I live by is that Learning is for life. There is always so much to learn.

00:20:50 Why I love Urban Sketching

I can draw in my own personal style

I can capture what I want to show in my drawings and leave out other things

I can use the materials I am most comfortable with

I learn new things about a place

I get to relax and take it the moment around me

I enjoy the sunshine

I can listen to music and let the world around me go by or I can share the moment with friends.

I have memories of my travels that are personal to me

What do I need if I want to start drawing or Urban Sketching

00:20:27 If you are interested in starting drawing or Urban sketching all you need is a pencil and a sketchbook. I believe anyone can draw if you have the patience to start and you want to start drawing, you can draw. You can start small by practising with things around your house. Try and sketch some fruit or some food items. Start with simple shapes such as an apple where you can add shading after. Then you could move onto drawing other items in your house.

I love the Easy Drawing Tips website as a place to start. The language is very simple and it's broken down into easy steps. ‘Broken down’ there is another English expression for you. To break something down means to explain something step-by-step. Very often, as a visual learner I have to ask people - ‘can you break that down for me step-by-step.’ As I mentioned before, I believe step by step guides are a great way for you to learn a language and do something you enjoy. In this case, you get to learn a new skill while also learning a language at the same time.

00:22:48 Anyway, that's enough from me today. I’m off to enjoy the sunshine and finish off my drawing! But before I go I'll tell you the topic for next time. It was hard to pick the next topic because I'm excited to talk about so many things. But I decided I wanted to talk about a few different street Artists. I think I'll have to talk about all the different street artists I like all over a few upcoming episodes but next time you'll find out who some of them are.

One of them is a well known Portuguese artist who makes murals out of rubbish. The other is a well known French photographer and artist who recently made quite an impression outside the Louvre in Paris. Can you guess who they are? Well, you'll find out next time! Anyway, thanks for joining me today to listen to something I am truly passionate about. My challenge for you as an active learner (only if you wish) is to have a go at your own urban sketching or drawing. Just have a go! Draw an apple if that's easier. Maybe you already do Urban Sketching, well that's great. Feel free to share your pictures with me as I would love to hear from different artists of all different levels. Maybe you know an urban sketcher who you think I might be interested too. You can tag my personal art Instagram or facebook page which is Tussock Studio Drawings. The Arty Anglais instagram podcast which you can tag also.

I'd really appreciate it if you could leave me a review on iTunes to make sure my podcast reaches as many English students as possible.

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Thanks :)

Discussion questions for practising your English.

Do you like drawing? If so, what type of drawing do you do?

What drawing materials do you like to use or would you like to use?

If you started urban sketching, where would you go?

Tell me about some of the places you have travelled like to or would like to travel to?

What type of how to do videos would you enjoy watching?

Hi, I'm Tara. An Australian English Teacher in Montpellier. You can get in touch with me by email info@artyanglais.com


Ian Fennelly


Danny J Hawk


Tussock Studio Drawings


Easy Drawing Tips


You Tube Videos