Saturday 26 December 2020

Sasala Wickramasinghe
My name is Sasala Wickramasinghe, I live in London.

I chanced upon the concept of urban sketching in 2017 whilst browsing the art shelves in Foyles Bookshop in London: a quick flick through the book, Urban Watercolour Sketching by Felix Scheinberger was enough: why didn't anyone tell me about urban sketching sooner?! I come from a scientific background - a clinical biochemist by day, working for the NHS. It is an immensely fulfilling and interesting role, although apart from the occasional flow chart, requires little or no artistic skill. 

My first official urban sketching experience was with USk London in December 2017 to the V&A in South Kensington. There was no turning back after that - I've become an urban sketcher! I promptly signed up for Liz Steel's online watercolour course which not only taught me how to mix watercolour properly, but inspired me even more to delve further into this amazing activity.

I attended my first USk symposium in Porto in 2018. Never before, have I met so many amazing and talented people in one place - such diversity yet with a single great passion - urban sketching! I learnt so much from amazing teachers like Matthew Brehm and Shari Blaukopf. I made so many friends and met sketchers I've been following on social media for a while before then; and Porto itself, a beautiful city full of character.

In the past 3 years, I have learnt and absorbed skills from workshops, symposia and fellow sketchers. They have only gone on to fuel the fire inside me for more urban sketching. For me, the greatest 'aha' moment has been when I realised that I'll never again be bored of waiting, for anyone or anything (train/bus/airport/cafe/street-corner), as long as I carry my urban sketching kit with me!

During these challenging times, knee-deep in a pandemic, sketching has been a life line for me. I feel humbled and grateful for the opportunity to share my experience and contribute more to USk London chapter as an admin.   

Instagram: @sasketcher_rw




Saturday 19 December 2020

Let's draw: Urban Sketchers London 2021 Provisional Programme

Sketch by Helen Hayhoe

Looking ahead to 2021, the challenge for USK London is to expect the unexpected. We cannot be responsible for organising structured, real-life events due to government restrictions, but we have decided that we will choose a theme for each month as sketch inspiration that people can do according to national, local and personal situations.

We will stick to the format of one Saturday a month, with a timed ‘throwdown’ on Facebook where people can share their sketches and, for each of the specific events, we will allow flexibility for sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25. We want to be as inclusive as possible at this difficult time and include anyone isolating or in lockdown.

Each month, we will introduce the theme with ideas for a group meet up (if and when that is possible), an interpretation that can be done locally, and tasks that can be completed from your home. That way we can rise to the opportunities that come about but adapt to the levels of restriction that apply at any moment in time.

Where a specific location is mentioned, please do follow government guidelines. Feel free to visit the location as an individual at any time during the month of the theme, or to sketch in small groups as allowed. ‘Throwing down’ on Facebook on a specific day will bring us together.

We would also like to encourage the sense of our community of sketchers by encouraging you to write more about your sketches – about the media used, your inspiration and more about you. Do feedback to each other and comment on posts. There is a wealth of talent out there. We will also be collaborating with other USK groups, in the UK and beyond.

Also we are very happy to welcome Sasala Wickramasinghe to the admin team in 2021! More about Sasala in an upcoming post.

We are presenting plans for the first 6 months of 2021. We welcome you to offer to co-facilitate any of the months’ events, and/or to offer to run events for the other months. We do have ideas for the next set of themes but welcome new ideas too. Email us at

Further details about each theme will be posted nearer to the time.

Saturday 16th January/Regeneration/Isabel Carmona 

Battersea Power Station, Changes that you notice in your local area, Changes in your home: redecoration, DIY 

Sunday 14th February/Naughty but nice/Nicky Brown 

Eros in Piccadilly Circus, Spring, blossoms, snowflakes… Chocolates, Valentines… 

Saturday 27th March/People/John Webb 

Waterloo Station, Passers by, You and yours 

Saturday 17th April/Animals/Jo Dungey 

Details to be confirmed by Jo nearer the time.

Saturday 15th May/Squares/Lis Watkins 

Trafalgar Square, Your local square, Square things! 

Saturday 19th June/Water/Helen Hayhoe 

Twickenham Riverside, Local river or pond, Water in your home 

Ideas for July to December include Sculpture, Decoration, History, House and Garden, Transport, Food and Stairways. We welcome any other suggestions and offers of help for the second half of the year. Please get in touch!


Monday 7 December 2020

Winter Festivals - a drawing challenge for Saturday 12th December 2020

As we still cannot meet as group, we though it might be nice to set a theme to replace this month’s cancelled sketchcrawl and the suggestion is ‘Winter Festivals.’ It could be activities indoors, outdoors, something grand, small details, at home or in a public space. The idea is to use the idea of ‘Winter Festivals’ as a starting point to inspire some sketching and how you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you!

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 and include anyone isolating or in lockdown so we will allow sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25 on this particular occasion.

*Sketch from last year outside the Natural History Museum by Sassala Wickramasinghe.


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 fa├žade.
  • 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



Sunday 31 May 2020

Virtual Sketchcrawl - Let's draw Little Venice - Saturday 6th June

Sketch by Mike Whalley

Welcome to the 'Let's Draw Little Venice' virtual meet up for June 2020. 

We have created a virtual visit to Little Venice in the form of a Google Tour.
Follow the link below; here you will find links to the places we had intended to visit, so that you can find them online. 

PLEASE NOTE: If the link does not work directly on your device, try copying and pasting it into your browser.

Like the virtual sketch challenge in May, we will 'meet' at 11am on the intended day of the real event, June 6th. We will have a preliminary throw down at 1pm on social media, using the tags #uskathome #usklondon and also posting onto the Urban Sketchers London Facebook page. Please continue to work on your sketches and post after that if you would like to, so that we appreciate each others' work.

How to do it:
Click the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser. Once in, click on each of the titles to the left of the page and you will be taken to the map and street view for that place. Home in, explore and follow the links to find out more about these locations.   Choose one or more for a virtual sketch. We invite you to show sketches inspired by this virtual ramble.

Lets do it online until we meet again.

If you are looking for some additional inspiration, these three short films from the Tate on how to paint like Turner might be interesting to view. Artist Mike Chaplin talks about sketching in line, then tone (using tinted paper) and finally colour. In the images below, Katy Evans shows how she used the technique when 'virtual; sketching in the Little Venice area.


Wednesday 27 May 2020

Summer Evenings Sketching - 17 June, 15 July and 19 August 2020

Wednesdays June 17th, July 15th, August 19th

For two years we have enjoyed the vibrancy of central London’s summer after work culture – and a damp glass or two.  Not having worked in London for years I was amazed at the buzz and loved it.
Next year we will do it for real again.   

Meantime the next best thing.  

Location:  We can’t meet at a common place so we’ll sketch at home or anywhere we can get to within the rules. 

Wet weather alternative:  If the weather isn’t going to be suitable on the date then sketch on another evening before.

Times:  There are no rules but try to keep to the evening on each date or one or two before and then join in a collective Facebook throw down at 8:00 pm.  We’d like to keep the feel of an event together but if you can’t don’t worry post when you can – we all want to enjoy each others work.
So please join us all with something cool and white in a glass (other colours are available) between 6pm and 8pm then share….

Loose ideas/themes:
·         June 17th        : Alfresco refreshment
·         July 15th         : Fun, games, entertainment
·         August 19th    : Relaxation

These are all open to interpretation home or away……. Enjoy!