Urban Sketching With Kids at Atwater Market

It’s a very empowering thing to let go of your notions of perfection and, with a few key basic steps, be able to produce a snippet of your experience of any given place. Urban sketching is about more than drawing what you are looking at. It’s about immersing yourself in the place where you are and drinking in all of the things you might never have noticed had you not stopped to look at it with a sketcher’s eye. It’s about connecting with your community and the passers-by who often have some interesting tidbit to share of their own experience of the place.

Urban sketching is for everyone, no matter the age or skill level. It’s an amazing thing for youth to get involved in, for all of the reasons I just mentioned, and for the incalculable emotional benefits that finding an avenue of expression can provide. Urban sketching allows the sketcher to take ownership (and control) of where they are in the world, in their own small, but significant way. And it makes me think, in this sometimes dizzying digital world we live in, it’s a profound thing to actually step outside and be a part of the world, to slow down and see – I mean really see – something. And then to record your interpretation of it in a way that is uniquely you.

To this end, I teamed up with UrbanSketchers.org to offer a one day sketching workshop for kids and teens. As these things go, they are hard to get off the ground sometimes, and in the summer, even harder, so the teen class was shelved due to under-enrollment. For any of you hoping to plan something like this in summer in your community, note that advertising for workshops is more effective if done in late winter/early spring when parents are looking to book summertime activities to keep their kids busy.

The kids’ class went ahead. We had four kids and four parents. I had offered the class free to parents if they wanted to stay with their children ( but it was optional). The thinking behind this was that, 1) it would help me to be able to solely focus on teaching and not have to worry about wrangling possibly wayward kids and the legalities of the adult to child ratio, and 2) sometimes kids need a little extra over-the-shoulder encouragement. These were only really a concern if I had filled the class to 15 children, in which case, I may have struggled to meet the needs of all of them on my own. Granted, I would have brought my 16 year old daughter along as my helper, but I decided to experiment with the free parent thing. Aside from my more selfish reasons, it was really sweet to see parents and children learning together. As it was, we were a nice sized group.

We focused on the basics of perspective. It made for a sort-of dry-ish first hour, I’ll need to tweak that, but I think it helped the kids (and parents) to feel more confident when diving into their sketches. In the future I think the 3hr-one-day time block is maybe not ideal for kids (tweens). Even though it went quickly, I think they would benefit more from a more drawn out approach. A regular weekly meeting may be a good way to go, or a week long daily class. Perhaps in the future I will offer a family class for a reduced rate instead of the free offer to parents, in order to have the option of all family members to take part. I’m also looking at other class models, like day camps for professional days off school (we call them PED days here).

If you have any feedback on art related classes you or your children have taken, or tips and tricks that you have used for rallying and teaching your own creative kids classes, please share in the comments.

In preparation for the class, I did some brushing up on my knowledge of perspective.

I watched Stephanie Bower’s Perspective for Sketchers class on Craftsy. Stephanie is an architect and Urban Sketcher based in Seattle.

Below are some other Urban Sketchers who have produced classes with Craftsy. I highly recommend (and not just because these are affiliate links and I get a very small kickback if you buy classes via my website, but because I either know these sketchers personally and greatly admire them,  and/or have taken their class(es) myself).

Shari Blaukopf 

Sketching in the City in Pen, Ink and Watercolor

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink and Watercolor

Marc Taro Holmes

Travel Sketching in Mixed Media

Drawing People in Motion



More about Julie Prescesky

Julie spends much of her time paying attention to what's happening around her. At Design Inkarnation, she's head designer, illustrator, and creative problem solver.

    1. Yes! Making it intergenerational ( being a grandparent I would like to be included) is a fabulous idea! “Seeing” and expressing the city and landscape is the step forward.

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