Monday, July 27, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Urban Sketching Locations

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

I am often asked how I choose my locations for urban sketching. My answer is probably very similar to yours so I will share my criteria (which I adhere to very loosely).

First there are the physical elements for the perfect scene:
Textures, contrast, color, composition, pattern, movement, rhythm, etc. found in organic or man-made settings such as landscapes, architecture, nature and ensemble of people or animals. These components help construct the site selection and ultimately the sketch composition.

Then I look for a collection of those components which create an emotional attraction that provides a great story to tell when people look at my sketchbook. I like to say “we all have a sketch to tell,” which means that our purpose as artists is to use our visual language to interpret a scene and retell it through our sketches. I once read a great quote from Urban Sketcher Deby Caspari who wrote “To draw something is to own it. You take an image filtered through you and you have an intense experience of the subject that can’t be taken away.”

With millions of images coming into our brains every second, this must be why one scene stands out more than the others and prompts us to sit for 10, 20, or even 60 minutes to capture what our cameras could do in a couple of snaps, right?

Here then, based on repeat visits from Urban Sketchers Chicago, are some Top Sketch Locations in Chicago.

Architectural Artifacts
Three stories of saved and collected details, furniture, lighting, mantles, and other you-name-it oddities reclaimed from old buildings and residences in and around Chicago. We have consistently had our best turnouts for our Sketch Crawl whenever we have hosted one here at Architectural Artifacts and there is plenty of space to get lost in.

The Field Museum in Chicago

The Field Museum is another one of those sketcher's dream locations. Starting with architecture that dates back to Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893, this museum is packed with exhibits and collections of creatures past and present. Lots of fascinating dioramas, textures, and architectural details so that you never run short of things to sketch. And on designated days, Illinois residents get in free with a valid Illinois identification. On our first trip to The Field Museum, we were treated to a back labs tour by Urban Sketcher Rebe Banasiak and the drawers of specimens being prepared for future exhibits.

Lincoln Park            
Lincoln Park Zoo   
The USk Chicago groups has settled into this area on several locations because of the expansive area it covers and the variety of subject matter. There is lots of nature, flowers at the Conservatory, animals at the free public zoo, the rivers of people who pass through this area on bikes, or running and pedestrian traffic, and some of the most interesting neighborhood buildings. Within walking distance to the lake shore and beaches, this Lincoln Park area is a big favorite of USk Chicago. On our last Chicago Architectural Open House in October, three of the buildings on display were located within the Lincoln Park area.

Other areas USk Chicago is fond of visiting for sketching:

Chinatown/Ping Tom Park                       

Chicago Water Taxi
Riding and sketching on the Water Taxi, all day, on the weekend for just $10.        

The glorious home base for our Chicago Sketch Seminar in 2014 and 2015  

Washington Square Park:         

Newberry Library:     

Chicago Cultural Center

Millenium Park/Pritzker Pavilion:

Maggie Daly Park:      

And finally, if you are not a big fan of coming into the big city for your urban sketching inspiration, look around your own neighborhood. Old buildings, places where people gather (coffee shops, taverns, public transportation), beautiful parks and statues, and even the ugly things such as back alleys, junk piles, gas meters, water towers, and rusted out cars. The uglier the scene, the better the sketch. When you start looking, the whole world of urban sketching comes to life for you.  

What are some of your favorite sketch locationsWhen you finish your sketches, please share them with us.

Wes Douglas

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Did you take pictures at the Chicago Sketch Seminar?  The USk Chicago Planning team is writing a series of blog posts recapping our Sketch Seminar weekend.  We want to see the Seminar from your perspective, thank our sponsors for their contributions, and show them the amazing work that each of you created.

Please send pictures of:

  • you using sponsorship art materials or prizes
  • sketches made with the sponsorship materials or prizes
  • instructors demonstrating with sponsorship materials
Email your pictures to with the subject line "Seminar Photos".  Tell us which products you used and what your impressions of them are.  If your photo(s) are used, you will be given credit.

Keep an eye out for blog posts coming in the the next month!

USk Chicago Planning Team

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Chicago Sketch Seminar Map is up on the Seminar website

Thank you again to our sponsors: Blick Art Materials, Cafe Babareeba, DeAtrimentis DieTintenmanufaktur, Faber Castell, General Pencil, Hahnemuehle USA, Monkey Pencil Screen Printing, Nock Co., Palette & Chisel, Sakura of America, Stillman & Birn, Winsor & Newton, uskchicago2015, USkChicago.