Our In the Studio artists took to the streets of London with their sketchbooks, led by Adebanji Alade, Vice President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters

On 1 and 15 May, our In the Studio artists ventured across London, armed with their sketchbooks, taking inspiration from Adebanji Alade’s approach of drawing around the city.

A true Londoner, Alade often uses the city as his studio, observing and drawing faces and places – an activity he calls “sketchercise”. Alade finds sketching in urban spaces to be a “fun and relaxing” experience. Not only is it “a great opportunity to practice and improve one’s drawing skills,” Alade also enjoys the public interaction it provokes: “nothing beats a day when you can go out and explore your environment by sketching the things others would just pass by or take for granted, it’s like seeing beauty in everything and representing it in our own unique way.”

Anna Stevenson, Rebeka-Louise Lee and Adebanji Alade outside Sloane Square station

On 1 May, the group met at Sloane Square station planning to board the Circle Line and spend the morning drawing passengers while travelling across the whole line. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Circle Line was suspended that morning! Thanks to Alade's problem-solving skills, the group ended up on the District Line to Upminster instead. Several busy stops later, more seating became available and the group were truly at home sketching not just their fellow passengers but also each other.

Owain Hunt, Adebanji Alade and Rebeka-Louise Lee on the train

Sketching in public is nothing new to Suzon Lagarde, who always has her sketchbook at hand, but she enjoyed the experience of doing it collectively and learning from Alade. “I absolutely loved Adebanji’s first advice: Just Smile! He's so right, and in many ways, this goes beyond drawing merely to practice skills, and extends to sketching for the joy of connecting with life, with the world around us.” Lagarde muses, “As we scribble, most importantly we look more intensely to what's in front of us; and cannot be anywhere else but 'in the moment'.”

Suzon Lagarde sketching on the tube

Rebeka Louise-Lee had never drawn in such a public and confined space before. “Previously I think the closest experience I'd had was drawing sculptures in a busy gallery,” she says. As a result, she felt nervous in the beginning. “You’re stuck with those passengers for around 5 minutes, you can't just walk away if they catch you staring at their facial features.” In order to gain confidence, Lee explains, she started out drawing the backs of people’s heads, their shoes and tracking the movements of their feet, gradually working up the nerve to draw their faces. 

Two weeks later, and the In the Studio artists were invited for a second urban workshop with Adebanji. This time, meeting at St.Paul’s and spreading around Paternoster Square, to capture the architectural shapes and movement of the City. The square’s benches, columns, pavements and very inviting ‘deck chairs’ became their studio equipment. 

Owain Hunt enjoyed observing Alade transform “a public space into a dynamic studio space.” He was also intrigued by the immediate gratification and feedback that dealing with the public provided – a stark contrast to the solitary way in which many artists work from the confines of a studio.

In the Studio artists' sketches of Paternoster Square


Suggested Materials:

  • Black BIC Ballpoint pen and an N75 TOMBOW Marker.
  • Oil-based pencils. One extra soft and one medium.
  • Chunky Graphite and a 0.5 mechanical pencil.
  • Assorted coloured pencils.


1. Make sure you have a nice little sketchbook anything smaller than A4 will be fine.

2. Where you decide to sit in public transport matters a lot, don't be in people's faces or directly opposite them, they may feel intimidated.

3. Sketch with a smile on your face and if anyone asks why you sketch, explain in the most polite manner, the reason for your passion.

4. If you are a bit timid go for people that are sleeping or really glued to their phones and iPads.

5. Make sure you sketch lightly, always focusing more on the person you are sketching than the sketch itself. This would help you to resist sketching from what you think is there.

6. Be ready to seize every opportunity to sketch on public transport, so don't put your sketchbook in your bag, hold it in your hand or get one that fits in your pocket. You must be able to quickly access it when an interesting commuter is spotted.

7. While sketching on the trains, if I get any serious bad looks and I think intuitively that danger is ahead, I'll follow my heart and stop immediately. Also, if anyone tells you to stop, please cooperate and stop.

8. While sketching, don't go for perfection, go out to develop a habit, observe, analyse and respond. 

9. Always have at least two drawing materials for this challenge. One drawing tool for lines and one for tones. It helps you work faster.

10. The human figure is a bit complicated but always think in terms of shapes, lines, tones and structure.

Adebanji Alade discusses sketching architecture with the In the Studio Artists, Paternoster


Suggested Materials:

  • Graphite 2H for construction lines and 2B- 4B for tones and textures.
  • Chunky soft graphite stick for heavier tones and broad strokes.
  • Pen and ink (brown ink on a slightly beige or cream or off-white paper has a nice appeal)
  • Fine liners. 0.3-1.0 would make interesting lines.
  • Watercolour wash and lines with coloured pencil.
  • Three coloured pencils-black, brown and red on white sketchbook sheets.
  • Ball point pens/pen and ink.
  • Watercolour or gouache.
  • Pastels on coloured paper.
  • A simple pencil. Whatever you use, enjoy the process and make something ordinary look exciting!


1.  Make sure you focus on the overall structure of the building

2. You can't escape the dreaded perspective here, so make sure you have a keen brush- up on your perspective lines- which mainly converge to a vanishing point which is always on your eye level.

3. Buildings always look more interesting when there is a play of light on them.

4. It's not necessary that you put every little detail in, do your best to edit the unnecessary information.

5. Use powerful construction lines, which are very light lines to get the windows and doors in the right alignment if they come straight under each other.

6. Make sure you give the building a variety of textural effects to depict the different bricks, glass or wood used in the building.

7. Think of how you can abbreviate, edit or make simple, everything that may seem complicated. Simplicity always tends to excite as we see too much detail in real life.

8. The use of shadows can really make a dull building look phenomenal, make sure your shadows are not all too heavy but have a transient and light touch to still reveal what is hidden.


Find out more about In the Studio here.