It’s Not a Competition

“It’s not a competition.”

I read those words as I browsed books at Amazon, and with a sigh of relief — and gratitude — I quickly downloaded the book they were from. It’s Urban Art Guide — How to Draw Urban Settings.

Now, why, you will ask, would someone who has never been able to draw buildings ever want to try sketching urban settings? Good question, and I’m not sure I have a good answer. Maybe it’s part of my philosophy of pushing myself in art, always finding challenges and learning new things.

Framed CityscapeThat’s part of it, I’m sure. But there’s more. I love cityscapes. I had fun with the first — and only — cityscape I attempted, a watercolor cityscape from a lesson at The Virtual Instructor.

Gotta love that leaning tower, right?

OK, so that one comes under the heading of “Hey, I tried.” It could have been worse, and even though the results were a little wonky, I loved doing this cityscape.

To me, there’s an undeniable energy in cities, and while some people may think of cities as cold, impersonal, and unfeeling, my thoughts are quite the opposite. Cities are filled with warmth, color, people, and emotions. Just as with a landscape painting, a cityscape can run the gamut from the darkest depths of sorrow to the highest expressions of joy.

I would love to draw and paint cityscapes, but you know me. I’m the struggling artist who just can’t draw buildings, the one who gets horrible headaches from trying to approach even the simplest architectural drawing. I don’t even want to think about the time I tried drawing an open door. Yes, I remember well the pounding headache I had after that frustrating lesson.

And then there was the time I tried to draw the Scrovegni Chapel.

Arena Chapel

It was a sad moment. Very sad. I have nothing to show for it, only lots of frightening memories. Be glad I gave up on that drawing.

So, back to the question. Why would I want to try urban drawing and sketching? I guess it’s truly a matter of perspective. My perspective, that is.

Over the last few months, I’ve learned so much about art and how we can approach drawing and painting. I’ve learned that I can create believable drawings, that slowing down and enjoying the process is every bit as important as the results, and that art isn’t about perfection. Add to that what I’ve learned today: It’s not a competition.

Some things in art are competitive, of course, but only if we choose to participate. I will be taking part in my first two art shows next months, and yes, there will be winners — meaning that the rest of us will be losers. But I choose not to think of it that way. I’m winning by taking part. I’m winning by sharing my paintings with others. I’m winning by being an active part of our local arts community.

All in all, I think I’m developing a winning attitude about my art, and I’m looking forward to filling a sketchbook with wonky, out-of-proportion buildings, streets whose perspectives have gone all askew, and other urban sketching monstrosities that spring forth from my pencils, pens, and paints.

Urban Art GuideThe book I downloaded is currently available for Kindle at no charge — even without Kindle Unlimited. I can’t speak yet for the quality of the instruction, but I do know how it begins.

“It’s not a competition.”

Reading those words put me at ease, and I’m sure I will glean at least a few good tips from this guide.

All in all, I think it will be fun to try urban sketching now. I’ll just take my time, do my best, and enjoy it.

After all, it’s not a competition. Oh, I love those words. Those words are going to become part of my new art mantra. It’s not a competition. It’s not a competition. It’s not a competition.



    1. Participation is one of the building blocks of happiness, I believe. Life is about more than just “showing up”. The more we do, we more we become active, involved, and “visible”, the richer and more meaningful life becomes. That’s how I see it. 🙂 It is a little intimidating to think of taking part in an art show. It’s exciting, too. I’m looking forward to both shows coming up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so right. Life offers us such an opportunity for rich experience. In my circles we often call it “training for reigning”. I think the embracing of the experience and involvement life offers us is itself a reward that echoes from eternity.

        Liked by 1 person

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