One of the sketches Raylie did with her New York Urban Sketching group. Art: Raylie Dunkel

This guest post is by Raylie Dunkel, a Sketchbook Skool student who runs an Urban Sketching meet up group in New York City. She’s one of many people taking our next kourse, Urban Sketching. Here, she tells how drawing on location made a huge difference in her life.

I didn’t go to art school. I wanted to; I loved making art in high school, and I wanted to do something with it. But my mother, trying to give me her best advice, said, “How are you going to earn a living as an artist?” I did pay for an art school education, but for my son.

When I retired a few years ago, I thought, Now what am I going to do with my time, my life? For so many years I wanted to go to art school, so that’s what I did. (Never think it’s too late!) I started taking drawing classes to explore, and I wound up taking the entire curriculum.

Somewhere along the way, I became very interested in the idea of sitting on the corner and drawing whatever was in front of me, as opposed to doing work in a studio or at home. I picked up a book about Urban Sketching, and I contacted a person running an Urban Sketching group in New York City. I wasn’t able to participate in their weekend sketch meetups, so I actually started a weekday group!

I’ll confess: In the beginning, I didn’t use a sketchbook. I thought I’d just ruin it. Using loose pieces of paper helped lessen the judgment. That way, drawings didn’t have to be perfect; it was just a piece of paper.

There are some people who are shy about sketching in public, but there’s strength in numbers. A lot of people say that being in a group has helped them overcome that initial fear.

I was more concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to capture on paper what I see. But you get into the Zen of it. You block out all the sensations, and then the trouble in your life goes away, too. It’s a wonderful thing to do when feeling anxious to just sit down with pen and sketchbook and draw whatever is in front of you. It’s such a joyful feeling.

There is something amazing about the experience of sitting on street corner or in a park, opening your sketchbook, and allowing yourself the privilege of drawing on site. It’s so liberating.

Occasionally, people will come up to you to look at what you’re doing. They’re just curious. Sometimes they’ll say, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting.” You’ve added something to their day, and they’ve added something to yours.

Urban Sketching doesn’t mean you have to be in Times Square. It’s drawing on location, anywhere you are. Go sit on a park bench and draw the pigeons. Concentrate on a flower growing in your garden. Capture a moment in time. It’s just a matter of going out there and using art materials to express yourself.

If you’re new, try going out with a friend to draw. Even a friend who doesn’t draw; she or he can read a book while you sketch.

Urban Sketching helped take me into a whole new stage. I have met incredible people. And now I even have an art studio that I share with another artist—the son I sent to art school! Urban Sketching truly has changed my life, and it can do that for you, too.

Learn how to draw on location. Check out our next kourse, Urban Sketching!

Even an old address book from a second-hand shop can be a sketchbook! “Studies of people’s faces is also Urban Sketching,” says Raylie. “It’s drawing from life.” Art: Raylie Dunkel

Filed under categories: Community, Inspiration