What is Skillshare?
I think a large proportion of us have heard of skillshare, not least because of their valiant marketing efforts and the fact nearly every creative person on Youtube has a video sponsored by them. Saying that, Skillshare is one of my favourite learning platforms.
Skillshare is affordable and there’s a vast array of creative industries represented so you can basically learn whatever you want for a small monthly fee.
Teachers, more often than not, are professionals in their field, they actually work in the industry and they know what real-life skills people need to know.
As pretty much anyone can sign up to be a teacher on Skillshare and upload their course, there are obviously a few issues with quality (of teaching or production or both). This means some courses are fantastic quality and well-structured whereas others lie more on the amateur side of things, which is ok because what they are teaching may be still really valuable. It’s just possible the delivery and the video/audio quality won’t always be 100% consistent across the entire platform.
There are thousands and thousands of courses on Skillshare. At first, it’s super fun to browse through them all, however, decisions fatigue can set in and all of a sudden your motivation for being there and readiness to learn can seep away.
So, my dear friends, I have done the hard (ok, not so hard but fairly enjoyable) work of sifting my way through the courses specific to urban sketching and selecting the best (in my humble opinion) few. That way you can get started right away!
If you are not yet a member of Skillshare, you can join for free and there will be a few courses available to you (such as my bonus pick at the end of the post) however, to unlock the rest, you will need to upgrade to a Premium account, which at the time of writing is US$15 a month (if you pay monthly).
You can get 2 whole months of Premium for FREE if you follow this link. It’s an affiliate link and I get a couple of bucks if you sign up, even for a free trial 🙂
Just before we get into urban sketching classes, for fun I recorded myself taking a watercolour class on Skillshare, check the video out below, I somehow managed to make a complete mess of things but in the end I rescued my painting!
Top 5 Skillshare Courses on Urban Sketching
In short, here are my recommended picks to learn urban sketching on Skillshare. Carry on reading for the reasons why these are my top picks.
- Travel Sketching Essentials: A Great Sketch in 5 Steps – James Richards
- How to Draw on Location: An Urban Sketching Course – Teoh Chie
- Urban Sketching | A Beginner’s Guide – Samantha Nielsen
- Urban Sketching Essentials: Drawing People and Crowds Made Simple – James Richards
- Watercolor Travel Sketchbook: Create an artistic sketch of Venice with watercolor – Anastasia Novikova
Travel Sketching Essentials: A Great Sketch in 5 Steps – James Richards
I first discovered James Richards thought the creative learning platform BluPrint (formerly Craftsy) which sadly is closing down. There were some fantastic really in-depth courses on Craftsy by some of the most well-known urban sketchers such as Marc Taro Holmes, Shari Blaukopf, Stephanie Bower and Suhita Shirodkar to name a few. James Richards also had a course. As such, I started to research his work and found I absolutely loved his style. It’s so full of energy.
James Richards is an urban designer, artist and professor – it amazes me that for $15 we can get his expertise distilled into this 2-hour video course (as well as an unlimited amount of other courses to watch). Jim has taught illustrators at university and at urban sketching workshops all over the world. He has travelled extensively, sketching along the way. If there’s anyone to learn from, Jim is the man.
I would certainly make this the first course you watch about urban sketching on Skillshare. Although this is Jim’s second course for the platform I think that this one gives an overall view of how to create a sketch from start to finish. When you get to the part about details, you can always skip over to his people sketching video which I will talk about later.
If you are complete beginner, this may not be the course to start with, perhaps try Samantha Nielson’s course (see below). This course is better suited to sketchers with some experience I think.
Jim started off with materials, then talks about thumbnail sketches and their importance (I have a whole blog post on that here), how to simplify a scene, how to add details such as people, adding darks and contrast and adding colour.
If you love Jim’s work and want to delve much further into his sketching concepts, he has an amazing book on urban sketching called Freehand Drawing & Discovery available on Amazon.
Teoh is like the cornerstone of the urban sketching community. He is extremely prolific, has a huge blog over at parkablog.com and a massive Youtube following where he reviews anything and everything to do with art and illustration as well a provide urban sketching tutorials and videos of him out and about urban sketching, on his own or with friends.
As such, I was excited to see he has some classes on Skillshare and how they may differ from his offerings on Youtube or his Patreon channel.
In this course, Teoh really takes us from the beginning talking through his materials, including how to be super minimalist with your tools followed by a guided tour around the super interesting neighbourhood of Kampong Glam in Singapore (where Teoh lives).
I love Teoh’s sketches. His colours are always so vibrant and I have followed him for many years so its been fascinating to see his sketching evolve. His style of sketching and process really speaks to me and I feel I am quite similar to him in the way I approach a sketch. He is not precious at all and embraces wonky lines. I also love how he draws straight in ink, I’m not quite that confident, I usually still sketch the big basic shapes in pencil just to make sure everything fits on my page!
I really like how Teoh teaches, placing emphasis on measuring and proportions. He states perspective is important but you don’t need to know perspective to sketch, you just need observational skills. Teoh constantly references sizes and angles of objects against each other.
After demonstrating his approach to sketching, Teoh shows how he uses watercolour, considering tonal values, which colours he mixes and why as well as applying the paint in layers.
This is a great course, I really like Teoh’s sketching process and method. He is a humble teacher. When he makes mistakes he points out where he has gone slightly wrong and how we can learn from this but also that it’s no big deal – we will always make mistakes and its also useful to learn how to incorporate mistakes, rather than giving up in frustration.
Urban Sketching | A Beginner’s Guide – Samantha Nielsen
I first remember seeing Samantha’s work on Instagram and noticing how beautiful yet simple it was.
As a then beginner to urban sketching and using watercolour, Samantha’s work really caught my attention because I could see it was loose, her sketching wasn’t laboured or exactly replicated a scene and her use of watercolour was equally loose. Nothing seemed overworked.
Her work feels quick and sketchy, capturing the essence of something with simple lines and splashes of colour. I found her work really encouraged me to get started along my own journey with urban sketching.
This course is short and sweet, Samantha gets to the point and explains key concepts quickly and succinctly, demonstrating each.
I really like Samantha’s demonstration of blind contour drawings in the course. It’s a great exercise to loosen up, she compares it to an athlete stretching and warming up their muscles.
She also provides some interesting thoughts and examples on creating compositions, such as creating a collage of sketches throughout the day, almost creating a visual journal.
Another great tip I took away from this course is the use of white space or leaving some elements of a sketch unpainted to make other parts ‘pop’.
This course is a really gentle easy introduction to skills and techniques for urban sketching. If you are an absolute beginner this course may be best to start with as it may be slightly less overwhelming than James Richards course.
My favourite part of this course? The bloopers. So good.
If you want more, Samantha also has a book available on Amazon, as well as all other book retailers (probably), called 5-Minute Watercolor.
Urban Sketching Essentials: Drawing People and Crowds Made Simple – James Richards
Back to James Richards again. This course is what made me want to rejoin Skillshare again. I think I have started and ended and restarted my membership multiple times, simply because I go through periods of life (as I’m sure we all do) where I just don’t have enough bandwidth to take courses or commit to learning new skills.
As I pay monthly, I cancel and then sign back up again when life calms down again – and I never regret rejoining as I always learn some new techniques from the platform. New courses are being added all the time so there are always fresh courses to take and new things to learn!
This course by James Richards is what made me sign back up again the moment I saw it. I love James Richards work (as discussed above) and adding people to my sketches is an area I really struggle with.
The sketch below was my class project after taking James’ course and having increased my confidence at adding people. This is a scene from Guanajuato, Mexico which I sketched from a photo I took when I visited last year.
Watercolor Travel Sketchbook: Create an artistic sketch of Venice with watercolor – Anastasia Novikova
This class hasn’t had many students enroll as yet, however, I absolutely loved it and I’m sure it will gain popularity.
Anastasia focuses primarily on watercolour painting techniques which I found super useful as I think watercolour painting is probably one of my skills always in need of improving.
She clearly explains how she applies the paint and why, such as stronger colours closer to the foreground and lighter colours in the background. It’s interesting to see how she achieves a complex scene in watercolour.
I particularly love her demonstration of painting water. I struggle with water and Anastasia’s painting looks gorgeous, I just had to know how she did it!
The course is conducted inside and from a photo, I’m not sure of the practicalities of some of the demonstrations out on location. I think if you had an actual easel to put your work on then you could achieve everything she demonstrates. However, there’s certainly elements of this course that you can take away and apply to your quick sketches when you’re out and about, and even more for when you are creating watercolour sketches at home.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with watercolour painting at first – the materials and the techniques. This is one to watch a bit later down the line when you’re ready to up your watercolour game!
If you want more from Anastasia, she has a course focussed on sketching architecture too which you can find here.
Travel Sketching – Capturing the Feel of a Place – Marco Bucci
This is a free course so you can access this straight away. It is only 13 minutes long but the value Marco provides in that 13 minutes is excellent and far exceeds some hour-long (or more) courses that I have paid money for.
I was already aware of Marco having seen some of his videos on YouTube before. He has an excellent Youtube channel which I recommend you check out.
In his Youtube video below he explains his gear, how he picks a scene to sketch and the compositional elements that make it interesting, how he sketches, which colours he is using as he is painting – seriously his videos are just so packed with valuable information and advice.
In the free Skillshare class, Marco shows how he uses colour and thinks only about warm vs cool rather than the exact colours themselves. He organises his palette in warm and cool colours too. Marco talks about his intuitive use of colours as he forms an emotional connection with the scene he’s painting.
Marco talks about drawing thinking solely in terms of shapes. He starts by drawing big shapes, followed by medium shapes and then smaller shapes. He abstracts details and doesn’t focus on what the object is.
A further key takeaway I found interesting is how Marco uses white gouache in his painting. The rest of his colours ware watercolour but having the white gouache on his palette opens up some possibilities that he wouldn’t be able to explore solely with watercolour.
Which Course Do I Take First?!
If you are a beginner, take Samantha Nielsen’s course first. It a great gentle introduction to get you going. Then for a bit more of a stronger slant on urban sketching and actually getting out on the street, take Teoh Chie’s class, How to Draw on Location.
If you have been sketching for a while and want to take things to the next level, I still recommend Teoh’s class for getting you excited about actually getting outside and sketching. For improving your technique, or getting into some more detailed ideas I wholeheartedly recommend taking (and studying closely) both of James Richards classes. But then watch the others too as they’re fun and you never know what little tip you many pick up!
I hope this post has been useful. Skillshare is a super affordable way to learn new things. They have courses on all sorts of creative pursuits. If you haven’t checked it out before please do go and have a look. You can browse the entire course catalogue for free and some of the courses are available to watch on the free membership too.
Not only can you check out the urban sketching courses but there are hundreds of courses on watercolour painting, drawing and digital illustration which could all contribute to advancing your urban sketches.
There’s even social media and business courses so you can blow up your Instagram following if you’re so inclined…or maybe start an Etsy shop selling prints of your favourite sketches?!
You can try Skillshare Premium for 2 months absolutely FREE by using this link: https://urbansketchingworld.com/skillshare
If you don’t wish to carry on with Premium membership just set a reminder in your calendar to cancel before your card is charged.
Skillshare cancels your membership straight away, no questions asked. Your profile stays in place, with your course history and any playlists you’ve made or projects you’ve completed and if you want to restart, just hit the pay button and you’re back in, easy!