Monday, 9 November 2020

'Collections' - a drawing challenge for Saturday 21st November


As we still cannot meet as group, we thought it might be nice to set a theme to replace this month’s cancelled sketchcrawl and the suggestion is ‘Collections.’

The idea is to use the idea of ‘collections’ as a starting point to inspire some sketching and how you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you! Maybe share with us the story of something you collect? Maybe you have items passed down from a different generation that you could draw and share their history? Where do you keep your collection? Maybe share your collection of sketchbooks or art materials?

We will have a ‘throwdown’ on the London USk Facebook page from 3.30pm where you can share your sketches with the group.

Please note: We want to be as inclusive as possible at this difficult time of lockdown so we will allow sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25 on this particular occasion.

Sketch at the top is by Isabel Carmona.


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Virtual St. James's - A replacement for the planned Saturday 17th October sketchcrawl

[John Swanson writes] This week we had planned to visit the area around St James’s Square, known for its commercial galleries, smart shops, clubs and splendid architecture. This is the area bounded by Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park.

Since we can’t go there as a group, the challenge this time is to go there virtually. Look up some landmarks in St James’s, and then go out to your local area – or anywhere of your choice – and draw buildings or urban scenes inspired by actual sites in St James’s. So, you might think of St James’s church in Piccadilly and draw your local church. If you are lucky enough to have a local art gallery, look up one of the commercial galleries in St James’s and post your drawing of your local gallery with a reference to the one in St James’s.

Post your sketch, saying what it is and where, and adding ‘inspired by …’ your chosen St James’s location.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Google maps will quickly help you find more.


St James’s on Piccadilly, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. See

Fancy shops 

Fortnum and Mason: Piccadilly Arcade: Bentley and Skinner, Jewellers, Piccadilly: Jermyn Street:


Any number of cafes on Piccadilly The Ritz! :


There are many commercial galleries and dealers: And don’t forget the Royal Academy of Art, on Piccadilly:


St James’s Square:


The Red Lion, Mayfair, in Duke of York Street: The Golden Lion:


Whites: The Carlton : The Athenaeum: Boodles : Brooks :

Plus, many others.

Remember, we aren’t drawing locations in St James’s (unless you are lucky enough to be there) but local scenes that can be linked to St James’s. It’s up to you how strong or tenuous those links actually are.

Enjoy your urban sketching!


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Sketch the history which surrounds us - Saturday 12 September 2020

[By Jo Dungey] For this challenge, we propose you use location sketching to investigate the history of your neighbourhood in London.  Landscape, buildings, infrastructure, street names, monuments, all provide evidence of the past.

Ira Aldridge, 1807-1867, was an African American actor, who later lived in England and was famed for his Shakespearean roles.  Above is Lis Watkins’ sketch of the house where he lived in Upper Norwood from 1861.

As we are unable to meet, the timetable is flexible, sketch and post at a time practical for you.  You could do some initial investigation, then choose one location to sketch on Saturday 12 September 2020.  Post on the Urban Sketchers London Facebook page and/or other social media you use.  We will have a virtual sketchbook throw-down on our Facebook page at 3pm Saturday 12 September 2020. 

Use the hashtags: #usklondon  #sketchhistory

Layers and fragments: the history which surrounds us

Recent campaigns, for example by Black Lives Matter, have drawn attention to the values represented in the historic environment, for example expressed by statues and monuments.  Who is remembered, and what is preserved by the history which surrounds us?

Investigate the history of your neighbourhood.  This could include:

  • Buildings and architecture, interiors and exteriors, including museums, public buildings, commercial buildings, religious buildings of any faith.  Buildings which have been converted from one use in the past, to another in the present, such as warehouses into housing.
  • Evidence of the economy and industry of the past, transport, infrastructure, parks and open space
  • Evidence of people associated with the area, in the past and more recently.  For example, historic figures, architects, scientists, writers and artists, philanthropists.  Look for statues, monuments, murals, blue plaques, information about founders and funders, investigate street names.

Approaches to sketching you could try:

  • Choose a theme and make one or more sketchbook pages, with small sketches and fragments of the past and present.  Include text if you wish.
  • Sketch a local building which includes more than one style, for example a shop with a contemporary ground floor, but older architectural styles higher up the building façade.
  • Incorporate collage into your sketches, perhaps from copies of old maps or historic photographs: look on the internet, or in local history collections run by a public library or museum.

This building in Dulwich is called the Old Grammar School.  The poet George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron, 1788-1824) attended the school in Dulwich run by Dr William Glennie from 1799 – however this building dates from 1841, designed by Sir Charles Barry.

As a child, artist and poet William Blake claimed to have seen angels in a tree on Peckham Rye.  My sketchbook pages show a portrait of Blake, sketches of the trees today, and a recent sculpture on Peckham Rye by Morgan Paton, which includes wings which refer to the vision of William Blake. 


Monday, 3 August 2020

Saturday 8 August 2020 - A Victorian challenge

The Chiltern Firehouse by Nicky Browne

In most areas of London there are Victorian buildings, which are often extraordinary decorative confections. Town Halls, churches, mansion blocks and many Victorian streets with carefully detailed brickwork, gables and finials. 

As we are still unable to meet up as a group, the challenge for August is to find inspiration from Victorian architecture in your own part of London. You might want to choose to draw a whole building or maybe draw a series of details across a sketchbook spread. Maybe you can attach a bit of the history and storytelling also?

London Bridge Hospital by Sasala Wickramasinghe

The day has a Victorian theme which suggests sketching something with extravagant and interesting details - but don’t restrict yourself to this era only! A stunner - a coup de theatre of a building anywhere!

There will be a group throwdown at 3pm Saturday on Facebook. Of course, if you are unable to join in on the day, please still share your drawings on social media or Facebook later, using the hashtags #urbansketchers and #usklondon.

Hope you will join in and please remember to stay safe and follow the current government guidelines wherever you are drawing.

Sketch by Nicky Browne


Monday, 13 July 2020

USk Talks

In case you have missed any of the ‘USk Talks’ which have been recently broadcast on Instagram Stories, they have been archived on the main Urban Sketchers website at

They are a very enjoyable listen and all the guests that are interviewed set a drawing challenge, which is great if you are looking for inspiration at this time.


Wednesday, 8 July 2020

July Urban Sketching Challenge - Words into sketch - 25 July 2020

[Isabel Carmona writes] Given the restriction on outdoor gatherings are still restricted to six people of different households and with social distancing in any case, we propose an urban sketching challenge for you to do at home on the day our July London meet would have been on Saturday July 25, 2020.

Words into UrbanSketch
The proposal is to look around us and take inspiration from Words into an urbansketch (done on location and from observation telling a story of your own surroundings). Look at actions of your normal day that you do often and also your normal phrases and sayings and think how to draw them?  Focus on context, don't prepare too much just draw things as they are. Look for phrases that inspire you to focus your sketches.
Below are a few actions/time of day selected phrases or sayings that could inspire you to draw.  Don’t restrict yourselves to these but think of your own individual sayings or phrases too.
  • All things grow with love
  • As fast as a cat up a tree
  • Bare as a tree without fruit
  • Colourful as a flower shop
  • Every path has its puddle
  • Home grown
Early morning:
  • Wash and go
  • Wake up and smell the coffee 
  • Everything but the kitchen sink 
  • You can't make an omelette without breaking the eggs
The Challengue - make it quick and spontaneous, it can be done along the day or just the morning or whatever suits you: 
  1. Choose a phrase above or your own phrase,
  2. Do one of these:
    • One pen drawing (max 30 min)
    • One pen & colour (max 30 min)
    • One colour only (max 30 min)
  3. Then repeat with another phrase but not the same medium 
  4. Finally choose a third phrase and the remaining medium 
  5. Photograph and share your drawings and inspiration on social media


Thursday, 2 July 2020

United Sketchers

On Saturday 27th June I took part in the NYC USk  Collaboration Creation. 
What is that, I hear you cry? I’ll explain. 

A little while ago I joined the New York City Urban Sketchers because my daughter was due to move there this month. She’s off as soon as the travel ban lifts, so I have been following the NYC group in anticipation of joining them on my regular visits. They introduced the Collaboration Creation as a way of sketching virtually but together, using Zoom to create sketches in small groups. I felt that this couldn’t be missed.

In advance we were sent instructions and the photos we were to use. When I joined the scheduled Zoom call, we had a general introduction and were assigned to breakout rooms of 5, which included a tech member. We were able to chat and compare notes throughout which made it my first social sketch in three months. Our task was to create a row of Brownstone Houses. Each of us was allocated a house, and the prompt photo was divided to show the ‘join’. We drew our houses to the same proportions, and when done we sent them in to our tech person who joined them together to create a sketched row. Simple but effective, and it was a joy to see the posted rows on Facebook.

In the afternoon we worked in different groups, and together we created a flower bed. Again, we were each allocated a section, and could do whatever we wanted. I went out and sketched my garden for my section and enjoyed the result which included a blend of fantasy and reality.

NYC USk showed me a way to reengage with humans while sketching and I appreciate the welcome they gave me during these topsy turvy times. The question is, would it work for Urban Sketchers London?

I’d welcome your thoughts