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    I created a challenge for myself earlier this year to get out of the office on my lunch breaks and start sketching more of Calgary. There were actually a few reasons behind this. For one thing, my Downtown Calgary print was one of my most popular, but it was frequently being followed up with ‘Do you have anything else like this?’ whenever someone found it. I wanted to add to the Calgary library, to see and celebrate more of my city. The other reason? I was getting entirely too comfortable working off of images on a computer, and the Urban part of my Urban Sketching was beginning to feel like it was falling by the wayside.

    I spent six weeks allowing myself to get out over the lunch hours, stool and sketchbook in hand and set up in various locations around my office. I could usually get a sketch completed in one or two sessions, usually about 40 minutes each once I was settled in. Several of those sketches are still in my book waiting for color, but still, I learned a few valuable lessons this year.

    1. The nerves will go away
    I touch on this all the time in my classes, about how nerve wracking it can feel to be on site, sketchbook in hand, feeling like you are doing something odd and that you are going to attract attention. It’s a learned skill but honestly the faster you can stop giving a shit about what others think of you IN ANY AREA OF YOUR LIFE, the better for you. I promise.

    2. Flow comes faster
    I was surprised to find how quickly I could begin mapping out my sketch after the first few sessions. I became more efficient at blocking things on my page and even things that would seem overwhelming at first could be overcome.

    3. More things begin to catch your eye
    There are certain streets we drive down on the way home that I am forever wanting to sketch. I think spending time outside in drawing mode would encourage my brain to switch to observant mode with ease any time I was outside.

    4. It’s a great way to meet people
    I have two examples of this coming immediately to mind. The day I was sketching the library I was tucked unobtrusively onto the sidewalk. A girl stopped, did a double take and came over to take a look. She actually works with the Library Foundation and asked me to tag them once the finished sketch is posted. I’m currently working on that one, it’s sitting on my desk about 60% complete now. The new Central Library opens November 1st – so I want to have it ready before then.
    The second example was in asking my husband’s office manager if I could use the roof of their building in Inglewood to sketch the skyline from 9th Avenue. He was so accommodating! The office is overtop of a restaurant they own as well, and one of the girls brought me sparkling water and a blanket to sit on while I sketched the skyline on a 30 degree day in Calgary. This is one of my fondest memories from this year. I could have been so overwhelmed staring out at that skyline, but I took a deep breath, started making markings on my page and in a little over an hour the entire base sketch was completed.

    5. the switch to working on site becomes easier
    This made me chuckle a little – I was so used to drawing off images on a computer that I thought it would be a little harder to get into working on site. Imagine my immense surprise at the end of six weeks when I went to start the calendar and had a new hump to deal with. I was no longer able to scale with ease off of a photo! At this point I have shifted back to working primarily on a computer, but I am itching to get back outside to see what happens.

    If you’re interested in sketching around Calgary and brushing up on your own sketching skills, there is a group meeting up weekly.

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