Urban zen sketching


What’s urban sketching?

Urban Sketchers, an organization devoted to expanding the reach and depth of the practice, has a manifesto:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.

  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.

  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.

  6. We support each other and draw together.

  7. We share our drawings online.

  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

I could get personal about my interpretations of urban sketching, but this manifesto pretty much covers it.

Why Zen?

For me, sketching has become an easy route to a state of mindfulness. The practice of urban sketching delivers benefits besides a sketchbook full of drawings. The process of careful observation requires focus; translating what you see to a drawing builds your powers of memory. “Losing track of time” while drawing is my goal. Call it being in the zone, being in the flow, mindfulness - this state of mind is synonymous with what monks practice. Silencing the internal chatter and noise, and being fully in the moment, immersed in the process of drawing. Careful attention and observation easily transforms into empathy and compassion. Sketching makes me more human.

Urban sketching is, for me, a practice, like running, like playing an instrument, like meditation.

Take a Class

I teach an Urban Zen Sketching class at Flax Art & Design, at beautiful Fort Mason in San Francisco. I share my thoughts about neuroplasticity, Buddhism and sketching, and I share techniques for making compelling compositions and bringing sketches to life.