Kreativtour Urban Sketch of the Heidelberg Castle Ruins. Done in Watercolor and pencil. It demonstrates composition and watercolor washes with attention to detail.

Kick off the Year with Urban Sketching

Embark on the Kreativtour with Urban Sketching

Have you ever passed by someone doing urban sketching? Did you feel a pang of jealousy because you wished you were that person—brave enough to draw in public? Talented enough to draw in public? Have time enough to draw in public?

Did you ever love drawing anything, ever, at all?

Don’t think, just answer. Why did you stop drawing? And if you’ve never sketched from life, what has stopped you from starting?

Get ready. This year is your year to embark on the Kreativtour.

What is the Kreativtour?

The Kreativtour is a way of life for me. It is a way of taking note of the things around me in form of urban sketches and landscape drawings. But it doesn’t stop there, because what you see influences what you do, think, draw and relate to.

In a way, it is discovery and exploration of your environment and yourself all wrapped up into one.

This year learn how to draw from life. Be it through urban sketching, landscape paintings or just drawing people passing by.

Read more: The Kreativtour, Saving the Best for Last, Part 1 and The Kreativtour, Saving the Best for Last, Part 2

9 Reasons Why Urban Sketching Is Worth Learning

Not a New Year’s Resolution

Don’t think of this as a New Year’s Resolution because it’s not.

I mean—cross your heart and hope to die—how many New Year’s resolutions have you really kept in your lifetime? I think that a new year or a new decade should be seen as inspiration for you, not as a promise to keep or break.

How many times have you seen an artist happily sketching away and you’ve wished that you were them? How many times has your inner voice told you to forget it, because it ain’t happening?

Have you ever wondered why your inner voice became a nay-sayer? Was it the bad grade you got on an art project in school? The one you were most proud of? Was it your parents saying, „Learn something sensible. You don’t want to be a starving artist, do you?“

Well I don’t want you to be a starving artist, either. And an artist starves when they don’t create. Take my word on it. The three years that I stopped drawing were the three most miserable of my life. I want you to flourish and grow.

“But I Can’t Draw!!”

But I know you can. If you’ve read this up to here, you have something in you that wants to sprout. You want to pick up that pen or pencil. You want it to dance across the page. 

The good thing about the Kreativtour is that you can do your urban sketching anytime you feel like it. The difference about the Kreativtour is that all you have to do is to show up. Show up for yourself. And if you only draw for 5 minutes, then you only draw for 5 minutes. But you have drawn. It is that simple. 

Read more: About me – “How did hoffmanillustrates! Come About” as well as “Getting back to my creative work”.

Falling into the Flow

One reason I think I’d gotten accepted into Parsons School of Design was when Timm Gunn asked about how I feel when I draw. I answered that I felt transported. I could „feel“ the objects that I was drawing without touching them; and although I lost my sense of time while drawing, I never felt lost when I drew. 

Today they call this phenomena the „creative flow.“ My colleague, Roberta Bergmann wrote a book about it called “Kopf frei für den kreativen Flow”.* 

It is a mesmerising feeling. I guess you could liken it to meditation. The world around you begins to open up and show you its secrets, its colors, its forms and its wisdoms. At the same time, the ballast that has been weighing you down becomes light and unimportant. Everything just feels right.

When you begin urban sketching and landscape drawing, you become part of the flow of the environment. And the environment becomes a part of you. 

Self Care

Are you a person who puts others’ needs before your own? Why? Maybe you’re looking for approval? Maybe you think that doing something for yourself is selfish? Believe me, it is not. 

Maybe you are sooooo busy that you can’t even think about taking a short break. The dishes need to be done, the dog needs to be walked, the boss is demanding the report by tomorrow morning. You feel like there is a war going on for your attention and this war is exhausting. You not only burn the candle on both ends, but up the middle, too.

It is time you remember to breath and do something for yourself. No one is helped when your nerves are wrecked. No one is helped when you short change yourself. The rule in an airplane is always put on your oxygen mask before trying to help anyone else. The Kreativtour is like an oxygen mask. The meditative feel of breathing and drawing, even if it is only what you see outside your window, helps to bring you back into focus. 

Brain Food

When you begin urban sketching and landscape painting you gain a new perspective. You begin to notice details in your environment you’ve never seen before. The Kreativtour is a way of opening up new perspectives. You begin not only to notice small differences in architecture, but you see smaller things, like typography, color, light and dark with new eyes. 

I would say it wakes up your brain. You begin to look for the smallest details and get excited over textures. You feed your brain with new stimuli and awaken your curiosity. 

Brain Training

When you start your Kreativtour and begin urban sketching and landscape painting, you might not feel very strong at it. You might feel like giving up after a few minutes. But it is like anything else. It is just a matter of training. If you are a person who is often described as „flighty“ or „lacks concentration“, just set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes. 

If you’re like me, you might just feel like making sure you have enough coffee before you start drawing, make sure you have an eraser (which you will not need), you might want to just give up before you begin. Don’t set the timer until you have your comfort needs taken care of (i.e. beverage, bathroom visit, etc) and have your sketchbook and your pen at hand. 

Once you set the timer and begin sketching, you will be surprised at how fast the time goes by. Knowing you only have 10 minutes to work on something, no matter how neat or messy the result, lets you get into the flow more quickly. 

It is like doing any form of exercise—the more often you train, the easier it becomes for your brain to settle in to what you are doing. 

It is also a little addicting. The more you train, the more you enjoy going out and sketching. The more you enjoy urban sketching and the Kreativtour, the more often you want to do it. It is a wonderful cycle.

Sketching Builds Confidence

I think one thing that many Creatives often lack is confidence. We may have felt like „outsiders“ in our childhood, just because we could see things that others could not. Because we were told that we should learn „sensible“ occupations, go to work from 9-5, get a weekly pay check. Does that sound familiar?

I’m not saying quit your job, we all need to earn a living. I am saying that when you begin to get (back) in touch with your creative you, your self-confidence grows. 

There are birds that can swim for long periods underwater and fish that can fly through the air. Are you one of them? That is great. 

Have you been out of your best environment for too long because someone said you’d surely suffocate or drown if you go there?

How long have you been out of the water? You are unique. Should you give up that special part of you, just because others think you should be „sensible?“ 

I find doing what you you were born to do and learning to do that better every day builds your self confidence. It helps you face the nay-sayers, it helps you wake up in the morning excited to greet the day. 

Practice makes Perfect

The more self-confidence you feel, the more you will want to practice. It doesn’t feel like a chore. It doesn’t feel like a task on your to-do list. It feels like passion. And just like being in love, you want that daily douse of happy hormones every day. 

The more often you sketch, the better your urban sketching skills get. The more you will want to practice. And you will find that some of your drawings are pretty darn good. 

When I am drawing and am happy with how I am drawing, I still hear my professor’s voice: „Hot damn! She’s drawing!!!“ Sometimes I hear Mary Martin singing the Peter Pan  „I’m Flying“ song written by Caroly Leigh in my head.

„Take a look at me
A see how easily it’s

I’m flying!“

You can find the song on Spotify or on YouTube. Turn up the volume and get inspired.

Urban Sketching takes You Places

OK, the Kreativtour might not take you to the Great Wall of China, but urban sketching will get you out of the house.

Maybe you are a busy parent with kids clambering to go to the playground. Where you have been almost every. day. since. they. were. born.

Wouldn’t it be a different experience with your sketchbook in hand? Instead of Instagram photos of your kids, you might have instagramable sketches of your kids on the slide, in the sandbox, running around and generally being kids. Wouldn’t that put a smile on your face? Experiencing your children in a different light? Watching how your daughter climbs up into the fort to conquer the dragon, seeing your son running as fast as lightning because he has new sneakers? Taking in their gestures, recording with your own hand how they smile?

You will not forget those moments.

I drew this woman and her infant at an Event Drawing for my book, Mannheim wimmelt. This was done in a Marker technique using Copic Markers on absorbant paper.
These are graphite and color pencil sketches I made when I was developing the book "Heidelberg wimmelt". There is a child sitting on a rock. It is wearing a yellow shirt with bright green alligators on it. There are two slightly overweight mothers playing with their cell phones in the background sketch. And there is a small child in silhouette in the right bottom corner.
This is a sketch of children playing at the water playground at the Neckar shore in Heidelberg, Germany. I used this sketch as a base for my book, Heidelberg wimmelt.
These are individual sketches I drew when I was working on the book "Heidelberg wimmelt" It shows three children and a chariot bike trailer, which is red and black. The child in the left corner wears a minion print t-shirt. The girl in the left corner has her right knee hugged while she eats a snack. The bike trailer is on the right in the middle of the page and in the lower right corner is an uncolored sketch of a baby on its tummy.

No Kids? No Dog?

But maybe you don’t have kids. Or a dog. Then you really do need to get out of the house. Sun yourself in a cafè. In the winter here in Germany, the cafe owners place blankets on the chairs outside. Or you can go to the nearest park to take in and interpret the landscape.

You don’t have to go far to go on a Kreativtour. You can get to know your home town better just by getting out there. And most people don’t know how beautiful their own home is. 

By practicing urban sketching and the Kreativtour close to home, you will feel confident enough to pack up your sketchbook and go to other places. It is a wonderful feeling seeing the world with your eyes wide open instead of through the filter of a phone camera. 

You never know who you will meet and maybe you’ll find a tribe of sketchers just like you to hang out with. 

The biggest place you will discover is your own world of creativity. I am here to guide you there.

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