How to Sketch - advice and information by Katherine Tyrrell


Want to learn how to draw? Want to improve your sketching skills?

Download Online Lessons
providing techniques and tips
for how to draw a sketch of
people, interiors and landscapes

PLUS suggested toolkits

if you want to travel with a sketchbook

Courtyard of Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts
  "You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh."
John Singer Sargent 
Travels with a Sketchbook in.......

My sketch blog
Travels with a Sketchbook and advice on sketching
RECOMMENDED by "The Times" newspaper

Find out about tips and techniques:



  Scroll down to find out more
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where you can
personal and educational use only 


Sketch of Fanjeaux in France 

  Read about sketching and how to sketch on my blogs

PLUS my contributions to group sketching blogs

See my sketchbooks in the Travels with a Sketchbook Gallery on my art website. 

View my sketches of places where I live and where I travel to

in the UK ( London, England, Interiors ) and overseas (eg. USA, Australia, France, Venice and Bali)

A Postcard From My Walk
The copyright owner of all text and images and files on this page and linked pages is Katherine Tyrrell
All rights reserved except where use for non-commercial personal and educational use is specifically indicated. 
All commercial use is subject to licence and fee - please contact me if you would like to discuss use.
Making a Mark


What is a Sketch?

A sketch, in art terms, can be:

  • a way of practising and refining your skills in drawing and mark marking
  • an exploratory drawing – exploring how something works/might work
  • a quick drawing – e.g. sketching in public tends to be time-limited rather than open-ended
  • a rough description – it’s OK if they lack detail; don’t fill the page or are not even completed
  • a record of something you’ve seen
  • a record of one or more aspects of something you want to develop into a painting e.g. a colour study
  • a preliminary study – for a later painting (done before you start to check how your painting will work rather than as an underdrawing on your final support)
A sketch may be an imaginative or a creative interpretation of reference material – but it does not involve meticulous copying of a reference photo.  Very often a sketch is a study of a subject that the artist can see – and consequently involves working and drawing from life.

Sketching for Real - a class about how to sketch - with assignments

In May 2006, I was the tutor for a sketching class in the Drawing and Sketching Forum's Classroom on the Wet Canvas website.
You can read more about how successful it was in the blog posts linked to below.

The Introduction to the class and assignments have now been revised and updated

and are available for FREE download as 'pdf' files -

  • Introduction (why do the class; what is a sketch; why sketch; outline of the assignments)
  • Assignment 1: So you want to learn how to sketch.............
  • Assignment 2: Sketching the Familiar - from life and outside
  • Assignment 3: Getting out of Your Comfort Zone - Sketching in Public

PLEASE NOTE: No licence is granted for commercial use. 
You MAY download and print out the pdf the files - for your private, personal and individual use only
Teachers may provide a note of the URL ( in any list of websites they provide as useful information.  They may not copy the material. 
All other use is subject to licence.  See the download page or Making A Mark Publications for further details
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Travels with a Sketchbook - Resources for Artists - This is my standalone information site on Squidoo which provides resources for people who like looking at travel sketchbooks and people who'd like to keep a travel sketchbook but need a few tips first.   It has links to the sketchbooks of other people, books about sketching and sketchbooks which can be bought from Amazon.
Contemplatimng Baga Beach by Katherine Tyrrell
Contemplating Baga Beach, Goa
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Plein air art - 10 tips for working with sunshine and shade - When the weather gets warmer and the sun begins to shine, thoughts begin to turn to working plein air. However there are a few pointers which can make all the difference to what you achieve when drawing, sketching or painting plein air - and how you feel at the end of the day.


Making a Mark Guide to working plein air

- 10 tips for working in light and shade

to print out - for personal and education use only

This can be reproduced for your personal, individual and educational use only so long as the copyright notice is respected and maintained. 

You may not reproduce it further without my written permission  

Travels with a Sketchbook - tips and techniques

I share tips and techniques about my approach to sketching in posts to my blogs Making A Mark and Travels with a Sketchbook.  Below are links to blog posts which provide advice.  Some of them provide links to further resources

  • More sketching at Sissinghurst - covers my approaches to preparation (and what happens when you forget!), proportion and perspective
  • How Monet used his sketchbooks - my analysis of how Monet used a sketchbook from the information to be gleaned from the an online exhibition of Monet's Sketchbooks associated with 'The Unknown Monet' exhibition and catalogue.  Links to exhibition and all relevant sites publications included in post.
  • More Mistral sketching - from the car - an option for sketching when a strong wind is blowing
Making A Mark Poll: Preferred plein air painting media  The most popular media for painting plein air are watercolour (29% of responses) followed by oils (24%) and soft pastels (16%).  Two conclusions drawn from the poll are that
  • the use of a particular media for painting plein air relates closely to how comfortable an artist feels using it.
  • alternative / modern painting media are not used very much due to a lack of knowledge about the media's properties and how to use it.
From sketch to final drawing - a slideshow of a 'work in progress 
Perrot - a pen and ink sketch by Katherine A slideslow shows how a painting can be worked up from two of my initial sketches - made in front of the subject (in France) - to a finished drawing in coloured pencils which was completed at home in England
The first sketch in pen and ink focuses on
the view which interests me
 The final artwork
- a fine art drawing in coloured pencils
Six slides show the development of a full sized coloured pencil drawing from two sketches and photos taken at different times of day.
Click the link to see the slideshow of a work in progress (this is a link to my art website)
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We're all familiar with the way in which coloured pencils can be used to produce some very fine artwork.  However, many of you may be less familiar with how to use coloured pencils for sketching. 

If you'd like to know more about Coloured Pencils see the Resource page on this website 
Urban Sketches in pen and ink and coloured pencils by Katherine TyrrellUrban Sketches by Katherine Tyrrell - in "The Art of Urban Sketching" Exhibition at The Gallery at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London.
See Urban Sketches - printed, matted, framed, and hung!
Starting to sketch with coloured pencils - by Katherine Tyrrell
First published in "From My Perspective" (July 2006 ) - Ann Kullberg's online magazine for coloured pencil artists.

This article
  • looks at the benefits of sketching
  • aims to demystify 'how to sketch' for those who have not tried it before  
  • outlines why coloured pencils work so well for sketching


Making A Mark Guide - Starting to Sketch with Coloured Pencils 

to print out - for personal and education use only

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The benefits of sketching with coloured pencils Sketching with coloured pencils helps you to:
  • Expand your portfolio of subject matter 
  • Get a true record of the colours and tones you see
  • Develop your freehand drawing and observational skills
  • Learn how to draw more quickly
  • Learn how to draw outside - and in public!
  • Learn how to choose what to sketch
10 Tips for Sketching with Coloured Pencils
This guide is for people who are interested in sketching and/or exploring different uses of coloured pencils


A Making A Mark Guide

- 10 Reasons to Sketch with Coloured Pencils

to print out - for personal and education use only

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Sketching Plein Air with Coloured Pencils
Sketching plein air with coloured pencils  - this is about a sketch I started at Kew Gardens and completed at home.  It covers: how to get used to a place; how to use your camera selectively and for reference purposes; my version of a thumbnail sketch; how to consider and select colours; developing a sketch plein air and finishing it at home. 

A Making A Mark Guide
- Sketching Plein Air with Coloured Pencils 

to print out - for personal and education use only
The Order Beds - by Katherine Tyrrell

The Order Beds 10" x 14" on Arches Hot Press copyright Katherine Tyrrell
  How to sketch people and interiors 

  • 10 Tips for How to Sketch People - Drawing and sketching people is an invaluable way of developing a wide range of artistic skills. I've been drawing people for very many years - family, friends, people in cafes and restaurants, life class models - and other artists. This post provides 10 tips on how to sketch people – or at least my understanding of how I sketch people.

  • 10 "Dos and Don'ts" for how to draw people while eating I've drawn in cafes and restaurants all over the world - in the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Lots of people tell me they'd never ever be able to do this. What follows are my dos and don'ts for being able to sketch people and interiors while eating - without it causing a problem for you.
30 second sketches of a cat

How to sketch a cat in 30 seconds

What the guide covers:  4 key points explain how to sketch you cat in 30 seconds

  • why the location of your sketchbook matters
  • what to do if the cat moves
  • advice on how to use your time and what to look for
  • 5 great tips for how to look and how draw a cat in 30 seconds
  • what you need to do next


A Making A Mark Guide - How to sketch a cat in 30 seconds

to print out - for personal and education use only

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Click the title or year to see recommendations
Best NEW Books About Drawing
Listings on a month by month basis are selective and do not list every book.
The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching
Do you want to learn how to draw? Want to find out which are the BEST BOOKS about drawing and sketching?
2013: Best NEW Art Books - DrawingAre you learning how to draw or trying to improve your drawing? Want to know about NEW books about drawing which have been published - or are about to be published? 2012: Best NEW Art Books - DrawingThis site lists NEW books about drawing and sketching published in 2012 and highlights major new books which I recommend. 2011: Best NEW Art Books - DrawingFind out about NEW books about drawing and sketching published in 2011 - in hardback, paperback and ebook editions.


Sketching Toolkits and Materials - Advice and Information
These are links to my blog posts and websites where you can read about sketching toolkits and the different materials people use for sketching.
  1. Art Material and Other Resources (on my portfolio website - Pastels and Pencils) provides details - with images - of the various items that I use when sketching.  It also provides links to known suppliers.  You can find product reviews in the next section
  2. MAM Poll: Preferred media for drawing or sketching - the top three media for drawing and sketching are graphite, coloured pencils and watercolour
  3. A sketching toolkit......for travels with a sketchbook - I've written on both my blogs about the sketching toolkits I use at home and overseas on various occasions.  This is the post which is worth bookmarking as it contains links to all the posts which follow.  Some of the links to posts below include photos of my set-ups at different places in the USA during the summer of 2006.
  4. Drawing and Sketching - Resources for Artists - This is my site which shares a lot of links to information on other websites about drawing and sketching - materials, forums, books and other resources which support the development of drawings and sketches.  It also  includes a module about "The Drawing and Sketching Toolkit

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Sketching toolkit - product reviews
  • Which sketchbook? - an overview of my sketchbooks and views from others as to their favourite sketchbooks
  • Product Feedback: Winsor & Newton sketchbooks - Check out out what happened to Sue Smith (Sue's Sketch Blog) - see Sketchbooks - when she tried to buy a Winsor & Newton sketchbook which had paper heavy enough for proper watercolour washes and what happened next.
Sketching stools and chairs

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Sketching in Bali
Recommended Art Books about Sketching
You can find my recommendations about books about sketching and sketchbooks in two places.  Both have links to Amazon.
  • Art Books - recommended - my art store on this website which has a whole category devoted to sketching and sketchbooks.  It's a mix of sketchbooks I use, sketchbooks I've read/looked at and books about how to keep a sketchbook.
  • The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching - Do you want to learn how to draw? Do you want to find out which which are the best books about drawing and sketching? This site covers books - and book reviews (Linked to

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Sketchercise - how to combine sketching from life with exercise
This Ning group is for people with an established Sketchercise habit and membership is by invitation only.  We aim to keep it a small group
I created Sketchercise in May 2009 as a small community for people who combine sketching with exercise to maintain or improve their health.  (Read why in my blog post about Sketchercise!) .  Activity to maintain your health or become healthier doesn't need to be done in a gym. This group is for people who enjoy sketching from life (no photos!), have already developed the sketching habit AND have found ways of getting out and about and exercising with a sketchbook. Walk or cycle or paddle your own canoe - it doesn't matter what form of exercise, so long as it involves activity and sketching!
A Postcard from my Walk
This blog records a monthly postal exchange of sketches on postcards between 14 members of Sketchercise over the course of one year.

Every month we each create a postcard from a walk
....and send it around the world another member of the Sketchercise group

Sketchercise on Flickr i
This is for people who would like to give the idea of Sketchercise a try - but haven't as yet developed the habit.  Membership involves demonstration of an existing ability to sketch from life
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Other sketching communities
The Sketching Forum
Russ Stetler started this small, informal gathering of people from all over the world who like to sketch. The purpose of this forum is to provide a source of inspiration and encouragement.
Urban Sketchers - see the world one drawing at a time
Urban Sketchers is a network of artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel to. This is a group for all sketchers out there who love to draw the cities from the window of their homes, from a cafe, at a park, standing by a street corner... always on location, not from photos or memory.
  • Urban Sketchers - This is the group, membership is invitation only.  (I'm a member)
  • Urban Sketchers London - I'm a founder member of this new group for Urban sketchers in London
  • Urban Sketchers on Flickr - there are a few rules such as the drawing must be done on location, not from photos or memory. The subject of the drawing has to be primarily urban - drawings must have city elements

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International Sketchcrawl - Drawing marathons from around the world
The idea of SketchCrawl is that of a global drawing marathon: taking a day to journal and draw all that is around you.

Sketching in Nature
An international group of artists learning from the best teacher there is - nature!
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