The urban psychogeographer-sketcher

Sketchers need to have their eyes open; the act of looking closely at the environment is fundamental. But we all see something different, have different styles, and draw a multiplicity of truths about the same street scene. The mantra of ‘draw what you see, not what you think you see’, has limited value, it seems to me, if it carries any implication that there is a correct version that we can all agree on. Of course it is vital to get beyond the assumptions that we ‘know’ what something looks like – but what emerges is never a ‘correct’ version but rather an unlimited number of unique drawings.

As a beginner I have been trying to ‘draw what I see’, and in the words of the urban sketchers manifesto, ‘be truthful to the scenes we witness.’



But more and more I realise that I want to draw something more. This part of the manifesto I find far more appealing: – ‘Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.’ Telling a story seems to liberate me from the challenge of accurate reproduction; it catapults me forwards into new possibilities, and takes me right back to the drawings that I did years ago … and here we bump up against that word ‘doodle’ – yet again! This is what my sketchbook looks like lately – a mixture of this –



and this…..CCI05072015


All this has been illuminated by my reviewing ‘Walking Inside Out’  a wonderful book edited by Tina Richardson about contemporary British psychogeography. It’s a stimulating mixture of academic and literary contributions, all emphasising the impact of the physical environment on our identity.  Where and how we live, our sense of place and belonging are all bound into our relationships with others, and make us who we are. We all have an internal psycho-social landscape.

Psychogeography encourages us to look closely at what is around us, throw away the map and explore the marginal spaces, opening our eyes to the way in which we have become habituated to surveillance, social control, privatisation and consumerism. Along the way, it is witty, playful and somewhat anarchic – I thoroughly recommend it, especially to urban sketchers with social constructionist leanings.

Psychogeographers are trying to capture the emotional resonances, the social history, the political forces that permeate the streets that they walk. Like urban sketchers, they are physically in the environment they are trying to understand, experience, and describe. It seems to me that there is an alliance here that could be very productive and creative – the urban sketcher- psychogeographer; the psychogeographical urban sketcher. Maybe I could join a group – or even start one up?







2 thoughts on “The urban psychogeographer-sketcher

  1. Chris Post author

    “side stepping the what of the image’ – what a great phrase, Pam! And thanks for the techie hint, I’ll see how it’s done!

  2. Pam Lunn

    This is such an interesting post, for me, in several ways . . .

    You’ve been at Lowsonford – did you visit the Antony Gormley installation? I was there photographing it a few weeks ago.

    I looked at the book link (BTW: you might want to consider making your links open in a new window so as not to take people away from your blog when they click) and I recognise one of the contributors – some one I know, who I know is a photographer. That me me thinking – being someone who can’t/doesn’t draw – about ‘street photography’. It’s a genre that I’ve always avoided . . . insufficient interest, embarrassment, awkwardness around others’ responses to the camera . . . and so on. But I’m now wondering if stepping right outside my comfort zone on this might turn out to be sufficiently interesting and potentially-creative to overcome my reluctance.

    And also that the difference between the sketch of the Lowsonford bar and the ‘doodles’ below it parallels what I’ve been exploring recently: between ‘photographs of’ something, and photographs that are plays of light, patterns, textures, shapes – that’s also about a different way of seeing; seeing-without-labelling, so sidestepping the ‘what’ of the image.

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