08 September, 2012

Sketching outdoors - spectators–love them or hate them

Some of you know that I love to draw outdoors. Over time, I have come to enjoy interacting with people who are curious enough to stop, look, and have a chat. But sometimes, spectators (for example, children who place their heads between yours and your sketchbook!) can be annoying. Whether you love or hate them, they will always be around, so don’t let them come between you and your love for plein air drawing.
Mother and baby sketchHere are a few things that I have come to realise:

1. Love them

If you are just starting to draw outdoors, having spectators can be a little uncomfortable, especially when your drawing isn’t going well. Some of us many not think highly of our own ability to draw, but remember that it is a special gift. Those who don’t draw are fascinated and think it is amazing that you can draw. When someone wants to have a peek at your drawing, consider it an honour. Smile, and it could be the beginning of a wonderful interaction. If you are travelling, it is a great way to get to know the locals.

2. A sure way to attract them…

Working with colours is a way to make sure others know you are drawing or painting. Open up your box of watercolours, and watch children and adults turn your way. Hide your colours; use a pen/pencil and chances are no one will even realise that you are drawing.

Love to draw on the iPad? That is another way of attracting spectators. I had a drawing project where I used the iPad to draw my characters. I often drew in a cafe and found that even men (who are often more reserved) became curious and wanted to know what app I used. 

3. How to avoid them 

My friend gave me these 2 tips if you want to be left alone. I have not put them to the test, but here they are:
- use headphones. People might still peek, but will not try to chat to you.
- wear sunglasses to draw portraits. If you are discreet, your models will not even know you are drawing them. A good tactic on the train - if you can draw with your sunglasses on.

Over time, you will learn to be thick skinned, and just enjoy yourself.

Please share your comments and other learning points – love to hear them.


  1. Lovely painting Evelyn. I dare say I prefer to draw in private, must be the introvert in me!

  2. Christine
    :) Sometimes I do too. I'd just hide in the privacy of home....


  3. I'm not really a draw-er so wouldn't know...but I've often thought it would be really wonderful to sit outside and do just that. The idea that others would be there to critique...keeps me from doing it. Maybe I'll give it a try anyways.