5 Essential Craftsy Courses for Urban Sketching

5 Essential Craftsy Courses for Urban Sketching

If you have read a lot of my posts or have watched quite a few of my videos over on Youtube then you have probably heard me express my love for Craftsy.

I am so glad they are back!

To celebrate, I want to tell you about the best (in my humble opinion) urban sketching courses available on Craftsy:

  1. Travel Sketching in Mixed Media by Marc Taro Holmes
  2. Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor by Shari Blaukopf
  3. Essential Techniques for Sketching the Energy of Places by James Richards
  4. Figure Sketching Made Simple by Suhita Shirodkar
  5. Sketching Interiors by Steven Reddy

I believe if you dug in and took each of these courses, applying each of the lessons, your urban sketching would reach a whole new level. I have taken these courses over the years but now I am writing this, I am keen to take them all again and in shorter succession, really putting all the lessons into practice. 

Craftsy is where you can get your urban sketching training going and all for a small monthly subscription which allows you to stream any and all of the courses in their catalogue (across all the different craft categories too)!

But first…did you know I have my own online course??

Online course travel sketching ink and watercolour

Of course, do go and check out my own online course too! The course is based on years of sketching on location along with everything I have learned from a huge variety of sources over the years. You can check out my step by step process on how to achieve a quirky ink and watercolour sketching style.  

I take you through 3 unique projects (see the images below) from photos I took along my travels. These reference photos are available for you to download within the course. I work step by step in real-time to show you exactly how I achieve my results.

Each project becomes progressively more complex, building on the skills we learned in the previous project. We still keep it simple enough that I am confident you will get value from this course no matter what stage you are at in your sketching journey.

Sketchy Adventures in Ink and Watercolour

Why Did Craftsy Become BluPrint? And Then Craftsy Again??

There was a bit of a weird moment (several years) when the Craftsy brand was no longer and the platform was rebranded as ‘Bluprint’. Gone was the comforting pink crafty style that appealed so strongly to its predominantly female audience interested in sewing to a harsh blue and black corporate image with the aim of becoming more neutral.

From brief research it seems Craftsy was bought by NBC Universal in 2017. They in turn renamed Craftsy to Bluprint and added more content in a variety of other craft categories. 

I received an email at some point in 2020 saying that Bluprint was closing its doors altogether. I was disappointed to hear this as I thought the platform had some absolutely excellent courses (still Craftsy original courses, nothing new that interested me).

I have no idea what happened in the Bluprint years. Again, due to some surface research, it appears that Bluprint tried to force people into a monthly subscription model, which personally I love but apparently many customers hated. Craftsy customers preferred to pay a one-off charge for the courses they wanted to watch.

Many people dropped away from the service and the subscription model did not take off at all. I guess that’s why they had the issues they did. 

Anyway, a week or two after this news I got another email announcing, due to popular demand, they were going to bring the Craftsy brand back! This was most exciting yet quite confusing news. 

I have since learned the Craftsy brand was bought by a company called TN Marketing in Minneapolis, USA who have significant experience in offering niche video-on-demand services. 

They immediately reverted to the Craftsy name and previous branding – trying to rebuild and repair the strong reputation Craftsy used to have with its users.

I was sent a cracking offer to sign up for 12 months to stream as many of their courses as I wanted so of course I joined right back up and now I have access to some of my most loved courses on urban sketching once more.

The great thing is that, even though there doesn’t seem to be any new urban sketching courses, it has been so long since I watched any of them that it’s like they’re brand new again!

Check out my ebooks with hundreds of ink & watercolour travel sketches from all over the world. Get some inspiration for your next trip…

Why Choose Craftsy?

I have no idea what the vision is for craftsy but I really hope they start re-investing in the platform again and create new courses in the urban sketching area.

Perhaps they will be more focussed on some of their other categories like baking and sewing which the success fo the platform was built on. 

If you are a mutli-disciplinary creative then Craftsy is an absolute no-brainer. I have enjoyed watching a few of the jewellery-making classes. If I had more time I would LOVE to learn a new craft from this platform but I am pretty obsessed with urban sketching (in case you didn’t know)!

If you are so inclined you can watch videos on all manner of things: drawing, painting, sewing, quilting, baking, cooking, jewellery making, gardening, the list goes on….and on.

I hear that TN Marketing, who now own the Craftsy brand, are planning to invest in bringing new classes to the platform, let’s hope this includes urban sketching. They are planning to film new courses later in 2021 when it safe for people to gather, i.e. when the Covid situation is in hand.

My Five Favourite Craftsy Urban Sketching Courses

In this post I want to tell you about 5 of my absolute favourite urban sketching courses on Craftsy from some of the giants within the field!

#1 Travel Sketching in Mixed Media – Marc Taro Holmes

Marc Taro Holmes is undoubtedly one of the big names in urban sketching and his teaching skills are second to none. Marc has been a professional artist, predominantly working in the games and animation industry for over 20 years.

Marc has been an active member of the Urban Sketchers organisation as a correspondent and volunteer art instructor for many years, as well as serving as a board member from 2009-2016.

Needless to say, this guy knows what he is talking about! Not only is he an accomplished watercolour artist, he is also a studio oil painter. 

Marc’s Craftsy course complements his instructional book The Urban Sketcher beautifully, so if you are a fan of this book then you will love his course where you can watch him demonstrate some of the techniques he talks about in the book.

Marc starts with basics of sketching with pen, followed by ‘tinting’ the sketch with watercolour and then advancing to techinques such as sketching directly in watercolour.

Marc runs an annual 30×30 direct watercolour sketching challenge and has a book on the same subject matter if it’s something you are interested in learning more about.

This is a fantastic course, especially if you consider yourself an advanced beginner. It’s fast-paced but of course you can watch it at your own pace and practice the techniques as and when you can. 

There is no donut watching this course will open your mind to new sketching and watercolour skills. Marc will give you the confidence to try them out for yourself.

Check out the course here.

Want to see more from Marc? You can also check out his awesome people sketching course on Craftsy – Sketching People in Motion.

#2 Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor by Shari Blaukopf

Shari Blaukopf is another awesome sketcher from Canada, same as Marc. Her background is in graphic design and teaching. In 2011 Shari started a daily(!) sketching habit of recording the city of Montreal and everyday happenings. She also contributes to the Urban Sketchers blog and has been an integral member of the urban sketching scene, hosting in person workshops all around the world.

I think I actually discovered Shari and her work because of the Craftsy platform, perhaps in conjunction with the awesome compendium called ‘The Art of Urban Sketching’ which really is an essential book for any urban sketcher’s bookshelf.

I find the way Shari captures light and shadow in her artwork particularly captivating. Whilst she doesn’t dwell on that too much in this course, she does have some short courses available to purchase via her own website.

This particular course by Shari really speaks to me as a sketcher. My process is very similar and it was almost a validation to see that I was on the right tracks when I first saw this. Shari helped me to push things further. 

One of my main takeaways from Shari is to ensure I vary my washes by adding slight hints of different colours as I work my way across the facade of a building which has the potential to be a bit of a dull beige colour otherwise. Not so if you follow Shari’s painting of Union Station in Denver, Colorado in this course, you will see what I mean.

This course is jammed full of gold, I really recommend it and I have watched parts of it several times.

Check out the course here.

If you want more from Shari she also has an amazing course on Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolour. Re-watching this course is at the top of my to-do list.

#3 Essential Techniques for Sketching the Energy of Places by James Richards

Ahhh, James Richards. Hailing from an urban design and architectural illustration background I just love how he interprets entire scenes and makes seemingly complicated items simple yet stylish. I especially love the way he captures simple human figures in his townscapes.

He teaches all of this and more in his class on Craftsy, which you can check out here.

More recently Jim seems to have jumped ship over to Skillshare to provide classes. I believe he now has 3 classes which are also well worth checking out if you happen to have a Skillshare membership. If you don’t, grab a free trial here and binge-watch them all for free! You will definitely learn a lot, I promise.

#4 Figure Sketching Made Simple by Suhita Shirodkar

Suhita Shirodkar is another active and prominent member of the Urban Sketchers organisation. Hailing from California, Suhita has travelled the world teaching workshops as part of the Urban Sketchers Symposium. She is also a freelance illustrator working on both editorial and commercial projects.

She has an incredibly distinctive style of sketching figures, using calligraphic marks with either a brush pen or a fude nib fountain pen (the one’s that look like they have a nib bent to 90-degree angle). To do this, Suhita favours the Pentel Pocket brush pen and a Sailor De Mannen fude fountain pen both of which are relatively inexpensive tools.

People sketching is certainly an area I really want to improve in and Suhita’s ability to sketch quick expressive figures is something I aspire to. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to take this course.

This course will help you to let go and loosen up, giving you the confidence to capture people in a more gestural way rather than getting hung up on the details. She teaches how to capture the energy of people in situ rather than realistic portrayals. 

This makes sense, if you are trying to sketch people on location, it is likely they will move around or get up and leave at a moment’s notice. Learning to capture the essence quickly is a super useful skill to have for any urban sketcher.

Check out the course here.

#5 Sketching Interiors by Steven Reddy

I love, love, love Stephen Reddy’s work and his style of illustration. He has such an interesting process. He lays in the rough composition with pencil, then inks the sketch putting in all details. He explains thoroughly where he puts certain lines and why. Once this is done he goes in with some ink washes to indicate tone. This is the stage where the real magic happens. And then finally, he either leaves the sketch in monochrome or goes over it with a wash of watercolour. The results are just so fun to look at as he is not intimidated by cluttered interior scenes.

I cannot recommend this course enough, especially if you are keen to sketch interiors such as cafes, pubs, restaurants or any other inside space that holds interest for you.

Stephen is an excellent teacher, he explains every decision he makes and his process in detail but at a good pace too. Obviously you can stop, rewind, fast forward and watch the video lessons at your own pace.

Check out the course here.

If you want more from Stephen, he has another excellent course on Craftsy called Dynamic Detail in Pen, Ink and Watercolour. If you prefer book learning or you love Steven’s style and just want his work in paper format, he has an array of travel memoirs available via Amazon for US folks and his Etsy store. For those outside the US it may be a bit more expensive in terms of shipping but well worth it. His instructional book which sits alongside Steven’s Craftsy courses is called Everyday Sketching and Drawing and you can find it on Amazon here

Final Thoughts

I really cannot say enough great things about Craftsy and I am so happy the brand has been brought back to life by TN Marketing. Their choice of instructors combined with their super high quality production values really set them apart as my learning platform of choice when it comes to urban sketching.

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