Each month (more or less) I will be posting a feature on someone, or something that makes me wish ‘I’d done that’ or some such exclamation. I aim to be generally design based, but will inevitably wander off as my whim takes me. So far, I have planned out pieces on designers, illustrators, photographers, typographers, products, advertising, type, retro design and, of course, one or two guilty pleasures! Enjoy.



To begin with I would like to bring to your attention the subject of Urban Sketching and the work of Wil Freeborn. Urban sketching is, as you may have already gathered, the art of drawing cities and the urban environment, directly from observation on the spot. Wil lives and works in Scotland, and has a great eye for capturing the ‘sharp’ essence of the urban life he sees, and appears to draw every day, judging by the frequency of the posts on his website. I particularly enjoy the candid  images of people when they are not posed and undertaking unimportant daily tasks – the cyclist eating his lunch, above, and the sleeper on the train, below, are especially strong for me. (Click on the images for a better view)

freeborn 2

The appeal is in their immediacy – a snapshot of ordinary, swiftly (but deftly) rendered, echoing the carefully composed and prepared painting of ordinary life, much like like those of Degas and Pissarro.


There is also a level of consistency in his work – this type of drawing can appear repetitive and without conclusion to some, but the continuation of observing and recording everyday life within the format of a sketchbook, affords these images a greater visual resonance.  There is also a lot of personality in these images; the illustrator as voyeur, outsider, choosing to see the ordinary but interesting things and situations that remain largely unobserved by most. There is also an element of social importance that can (should) be attached to this type of work. Their documentary of social and cultural events could be considered as important as the engravings of Hogarth’s (below) London and the diaries of Samuel Pepys from the 17th century, in providing a record of daily life for our times.


As well as sharing his sketches online on his website, Wil also uploads to Flickr and has also published his sketchbooks in book form which can be purchased here and will certainly be amongst my own books very soon…

Here are a few more of may favourites, although I found something worth showing on every page, these grabbed my attention. These three show Wil’s sensitive observations of; the beauty of nature once it’s ‘beauty’ has gone; an event, where individuals are grouped together and standardised by uniforms, but still retaining their individual postures and personalities; and the single element in what is usually a constant parade of shoppers… mmm!




If you like this type of work, you may also want to check out Ingo Giezendanner who draws fascinating pen/line sketches of the most amazingly mundane, but beautiful urban landcapes. There is also a network of urban sketchers, whose collective work can be found here.


If you are inspired to draw by these wonderful people, do so – there is subject material all around you. Go check out Wil’s site in any case; there are some wonderful viewpoints to be had in life, even if they are not our own…


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