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Outdoor Sketching

Outdoor Sketching

Outdoor Sketching

A year ago, I started to go out sketching once a month with my artist pals Colin Joyce and Roy McGowan. We went to Edinburgh initially, drawing buildings mostly. I recall a bitterly cold day in February 2019 when Roy and I came close to developing hypothermia. Fortunately, we found our way to a bar where a couple of drams quickly put us right. I’d describe this as a rare example of men staggering into a pub and walking out normally.

Growing the group

We also sketched more locally in Dunfermline. Soon, we ‘grew’ the group by inviting more members of Dunfermline Art Club to join us. I took on the role of coordinator, which involves setting dates and venues and letting people know. Currently, I have about a dozen sketchers, male and female, on the emailing list. It’s an informal group of like-minded folk, which means that its members are free to come along on a specific date, or not, as they wish.

Problems? No, not really…

Since it’s fair to say we’re all of a certain age, the state of the weather is a significant factor in the decision-making. Given that we reside in Scotland, which isn’t known for being warm and sunny, the weather is problematic. During the winter months, I’ve been picking places that offer the possibility of sketching somewhere indoors (e.g., the National Museum of Scotland) if it’s too cold and/or wet outside.

Another factor is transport, although it hasn’t caused us any real difficulties. We use the local buses or share cars if need be. We’ve been to various locations. So far, if I remember correctly, we’ve visited Edinburgh more than once, as well as Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy, Cupar and Ceres. When I say Ceres, I mean the picturesque Fife village of that name, and not the asteroid. (We’re not that adventurous).

What the sketching involves

When we’re out, we tend to split up into twos or threes to find somewhere to sit or stand to sketch. (Clearly, sitting is preferable, but not always possible.) There’s no pressure – you can spend ages on one sketch, or just a couple of minutes. Later, we meet up again for coffee and lunch, and then maybe sketch some more.

Sketching doesn’t demand a lot of equipment. A decent-quality sketchbook and a pencil or pen will do. And, if you insist, maybe an eraser and pencil sharpener.

I think we all find the practice of sketching enjoyable. I do, personally, and I think the others do too, because they keep coming. Initially, it was a bit daunting to stand and sketch outdoors, in full view of the public, but I think we’ve all gotten past that awkwardness. Being with other sketchers makes the experience easier and safer.


I’ve managed to fill a couple of sketchbooks since we started. The quality of my drawing has improved a bit, too. I won’t say it has improved a lot. The main difficulty, I’d say, is drawing with one hand in a book you’re holding in the other hand – sometimes the linework goes wonky as a result.

I’m not sure what the future holds for the group. Hopefully, we’ll keep growing and going. I hope so, anyway.

My featured pic is my recent sketch of a stegosaurus skeleton at the National Museum.

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