Urban Sketching Workshops

Workshop Format for 2020:  

Part 1 Instruction, Demos, Exercises over Zoom
Part 2 Application to a longer drawing, Individual Feedback, and Group Discussion Zoom / On location

For part 2 you have an option to:
- Sketch on location with the instructor (all workshop locations allow to maintain plenty of physical distance)
- Sketch from your immediate surroundings
- Sketch from provided references

All workshop participants receive a high resolution demo of the process drawing beforehand.

At a Glance

  • Out of town participants are welcome to join us!
  • You can REGISTER for one workshop at a time or purchase several at a time for a reduced rate
  • Scholarships are available
  • For questions contact urbansketcherspdx@gmail.com

Upcoming Workshops

July 11, 2020 10am - 1pm

Can you see the Forest for the Trees: Urban Tree Canopies

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Peninsula Park

Trees are a vital element to the health of any urban setting. From the purely artistic point of view they filter light, create intricate textures, and mark seasonal changes. Yet, drawing natural looking greenery could be challenging–some sketchers get lost trying to draw every single leaf, others struggle with drawing convincing canopy shapes. The instructor will demonstrate how to capture different elements of a tree and how to use color to make sense of light and shadow to portray urban forests.

Learning Goals: Effective use of texture, watercolor, shadows, color casts, learning to draw trees

Level 1 2 3

July 25, 2020 10am - 1pm

Urban Dictionary: Step by Step Guide to Sketching a Typical Street

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Fields Park

A modern American street consists of predictable elements: sidewalks, buildings, trees, cars parked along a curb, pedestrians, or urban furniture. In this workshop we will learn how to place all of these elements accurately from a one point perspective in a step-by-step fashion making sure that all of the elements are proportionate and consistently adhere to the perspective grid.

Learning Goals: one point perspective, street elements, proportions, architectural drawing, putting it all together

Level 2 3

August 1, 2020 10am - 1pm

Worth A Thousand Words: Visual Storytelling for Urban Sketchers

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Saturday Market

We all love drawings that are not only beautiful to look at but also tell a compelling story. How do you infuse your work with meaning that is intuitively and universally understood? Successful visual reportage requires familiarity with your subject, research, and time for extensive exploration. How do you tell a good story as you witness it happen in front of you with limited time and tools while standing in a crowded place? This workshop will introduce you to the key ingredients of a visual story and teach you easy to follow recipes to put together one of your own.

Learning Goals: Learn quick techniques for visual story telling on the go, learn to zero in on the most important, people drawings, techniques for capturing action

Leve 2 3

August 8, 2020 10am - 1pm

What’s Your Background: Giving Your Sketch Depth and Dimension With Picture Planes

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Waterfront

How do you create a drawing that intrigues and conveys the richness of the world as we experience it? The answer is often in being able to see and emphasize the difference in distances of objects in front of us and convey depth. This workshop will hone in on ways to start communicating depth and distance in your sketches.

Learning Goals: depth, observation, communicating distances and picture planes, using your tools effectively and consistently

Level 2 3

August 29, 2020 10am - 1pm 

A Million Dollar View: Drawing Stunning City Panoramas

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Pittock Mansion

When we visit a new place we always search for that perfect, postcard view of the city where the skyline dramatically meets the natural setting. In this workshop we will sketch Portland from above in all of its glory. I will share some of my time tested techniques for not getting lost in a complicated tapestry of buildings, conveying urban density with textures, and capturing a breathtaking landscape.

Learning Goals: simplifying, not getting lost in details, scaling, convening the impression of density, combining man-made elements with the natural elements, panoramic drawings, speed sketching tips

Level 2 3

August 30, 10am - 1pm

The Cave you Fear Holds the Treasure You Seek: Overcoming Obstacles and Celebrating Every Sketch

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Kennedy School

The quote by Joseph Campbell will guide us on a journey of exploring and overcoming common setbacks we all face as sketchers. What are some themes that are holding you back? How do you calm an inner critic? I will share some of my failures and success stories and show examples of how to turn a failed sketch into success or at least a learning experience.

Learning Goals: overcoming obstacles and fears, strategies, building a sustainable sketching routine, “rescuing” a bad sketch

Level: 1 2 3

September 12, 2020 10am - 1pm

In the Swing of Things: Building Confidence in Capturing Human Bodies and Gestures

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Tom McCall Waterfront Park

This workshop will put us face to face with one of sketchers’ major challenges–drawing people that look and appear to move naturally. Drawing convincing human gestures requires one to rely on a solid visual vocabulary of people in specific circumstances. We will explore some of Rita’s favorite shortcuts for drawing people and build a vocabulary of gestures that describe a typical person, so next time you are drawing dynamic subjects you won’t throw in the towel before you even begin.

Learning Goals: Human anatomy, vocabulary of gestures, speed sketching,

Level 2 3

September 19th, 2020 10am -1 pm

Sense of Place: Quick Perspective Sketches to Capture Urban Spaces

Jason Roberts
Location: ZoomPearl District

In this workshop an urban sketcher and architect Jason Roberts will show you how to capture an urban setting on the go. Using playful thumbnail sketches that emphasize perspective Jason will demonstrate that one doesn’t need hours to grab the essence of a place successfully.

Learning Goals: perspective, quick thumbnails, ability to simplify complex scenes, capturing the essence of a place

Level 1

September 26, 2020 3pm - 6pm

Not Another Grey Wall: Tricks to Liven Up Dull Industrial Scenes

Instructor: Rita Sabler

Location: ZoomSE Morrison and 3rd Ave.

Let’s face it– some of modern Portland architecture seems to be designed to kill any desire to sketch it in color. We are surrounded by boring grey walls, faceless parking lots and bland highway overpasses. This workshops will teach you how to look creatively at this visual blandness producing sketches that are bursting with color, life and personality despite the grey subject matter.

Learning Goals: creative use of watercolor, mixing techniques, textures, architectural drawing

Level 2

September 27 10am - 1pm Workshop is Full. Email to Waitlist

Plan Slowly, Conquer Swiftly: Composition Techniques for Sketches that Command Attention

Instructor: Rita Sabler

Location: Zoom / Lan Su Chinese Garden

A lot of times we are so concerned with what we are drawing we forget to pay attention to how we are translating what we see onto a page. Strategically planning your sketch is something that all successful artists do before they make their first mark. In this workshop we will learn various approaches to composition and how applying these principles can solve a lot of issues for you in the process: relative size, what to include and what to leave out, choosing the layout, “finishing” the edges, and how the overall shape of your drawing is an important ingredient of success.

Please note that the entry fee (around $12) to the garden is not included in the price of the workshop.

Learning Goals: rules and principles of composition, working with thumbnails, strategy, planning

Level 1 2

October 3, 2020 3pm - 6pm

So Many Windows, So Little Time: Simplifying Repeating Architectural Elements Without Compromising Quality

Instructor: Rita Sabler

Location: Zoom / Director Park

Many of us give up when faced with the task of drawing a block of multistory buildings that features thousands of bricks windows, columns, and other repeating elements that are tedious to draw and seemingly impossible to represent with structural consistency. Who has time or patience to draw every window and render every brick? This workshop will focus on creative time-saving techniques for urban sketchers who do not want to get bogged down in monotonous details, yet still produce believable accurate sketches of their surroundings.

Learning Goals: speed sketching techniques, textures, architectural drawing, creative problem solving

Level: 1 2

October 17, 2020 3pm - 6pm

Pencil to the Rescue: Food and Character Illustration with Watercolor and Colored Pencil

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom / Portland Mercado

Sometimes you finish a watercolor drawing and despite your best effort the drawing looks really flat, lacking visual interest. Adding colored pencil to your watercolor illustration can help you achieve several things at once: add spontaneity, increase contrast, and fix a washed out drawing. In combination with watercolor a few strokes of pencil can help salvage an otherwise “flat” sketch. In this workshop we will explore innovative ways to use pencil and watercolor to achieve vibrant, fresh and juicy sketches of food, characters and beyond.

Learning Goals: colored pencil on top of watercolor technique, food drawings, character sketches, juice intriguing sketches, spontaneous lines

Level: 1 2

November 14, 2020 3pm - 6pm

Around the Table One Face at a Time: Portrait Sketching Over High Tea

Instructor: Rita Sabler
Location: Zoom Only

We will celebrate our last workshop of 2020 with a portrait party. In a fun relaxing setting of an afternoon tea party we will engage in the favorite activity of urban sketchers when they all get together and that is to draw each other with abandon. But first we will delve into facial proportion lessons, demos on how to mix colors for believable skin tone, and pro tips on making your portraits ooze with personality and likeness. Did we mention there will be desert?

Level 1 2 3

About the Program

Urban Sketching Workshops program (AKA "10x10") provides opportunities to develop and deepen skills related to sketching-on-location for current and aspiring urban sketchers, using Portland's sites and culture as our inspiration and playground. Now in its fourth year of existence it was conceived in collaboration with the international Urban Sketchers organization and designed to address common challenges faced by sketchers, celebrate the richness of urban, natural, and cultural offerings available in Portland, and inspire more drawing on location from Oregon sketchers and visitors.

Participants will receive full details about the meeting place, materials, expectations, and other useful tips before each workshop. Scroll down for information about registration, level, cancellations policy, and scholarships. For questions contact urbansketcherspdx@gmail.com


Workshops are designed for all levels of participants from beginners to advanced sketchers. Instructors will provide guidance and tips necessary to get started for beginner sketchers while more seasoned artists will be challenged to further their skills with a fun array of fast-paced subjects and themes. Look for level indication under each individual workshop to get a sense of how much previous experience will be helpful but not required.


You can register for individual workshops, take the entire series of 16, or pick and choose from 10, 7, 5 or 3:

One workshop at a time $45
Pick and Choose 10 (take 10 at $30/workshop) $300
Pick and Choose 7 ($35/workshop) $245
Pick and Choose 5 ($37/workshop) $185
Pick and Choose 3 ($40/workshop) $120

Register through Eventbrite
Reserve your spot with a few clicks and maximum convenience through Eventbrite.


Register by Email

Avoid fees and register by emailing urbansketcherspdx@gmail.com with your choice of workshops.
You can send you payment by:
  1. Venmo (@Rita-Sabler)
  2. Cash App ($RitaSabler)
  3. Paypal (ritasabler1) Keep in mind PayPal charges a small fee unless you use the "friends" option. 
  4. Check to Rita Sabler 1001 SE Water Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97214


Before you request a refund please consider that your tuition goes to support USk educational programming and opportunities. You can donate your unused workshop to a sketcher who would like to participate but is experiencing financial difficulties.

If you must you can cancel any workshop or package for a full refund. Starting July 1, 2020 cancelations are subject to $20 processing fee and will be honored at least 10 days prior to workshop's date.

If you registered through Eventbrite your service fee is subject to Eventbrite policies. 


Are you a student or simply can't afford the full cost of taking a workshop? We still want you to join. We are making a limited amount of scholarships available.  Please send us a message about your sketching goals, background, and financial need to urbansketcherspdx@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, I emailed my registration for the two June workshops, and am mailing a check for $90 to Rita Sabler. I can't wait!!