Profile: Urban Sketchers

Published on 11 May 2015

Urban Sketchers Singapore explores a city — one sketch at a time.

BY pamela ho

These are guidelines you’ll have to observe when you sketch with the Urban Sketchers, an interest group founded by architect-turned-art/design educator, Tia Boon Sim (above), in 2009.

Urban Sketchers Singapore has affiliations with the global group, Urban Sketchers, founded by Gabriel Campanario in Seattle, USA. It was Tia’s obsession with on-location sketching that led to her searching actively for like-minded people in Singapore and forming a branch here.

“Urban Sketchers grew out of a strong online community, built around our blog and Facebook group,” reveals Tia. “From four members, we now have 50 to 80 participants at any of our sketchwalks.”

The group meets every last Saturday of the month, near an MRT station, for a quick briefing before dispersing to sketch in smaller groups. Their sketchwalks have taken them from tourist attractions to lesser-known enclaves like Eunos and Kranji as well as places that are facing potential redevelopment. After two to three hours, everyone re-assembles for a show-and-tell.

“Many newcomers have initial fears, but they gain confidence as our members are always encouraging and generous in sharing tips and techniques,” assures Edric Hsu (right), a full-time actor and singer, who joined Urban Sketchers in its early days. “Our members range from hobbyists to professional artists and freelance illustrators, from ages six to 60.”

Beyond sketchwalks, the group has staged many exhibitions and published a book, Urban Sketchers Singapore: Volume One (2011). Their second volume will be launched on 16 May at the National Library. Come 22 to 25 July, Singapore will play host to the global Urban Sketchers Symposium 2015.

The best way to start is to join one of our monthly sketchwalks. Observe where other sketchers stop, what they sketch, what they use, and ask questions,” Tia advises. “Start with a small sketch. You can also join sketching workshops to pick up skills.”

Adds Hsu, “Being a regular Urban Sketcher has really helped me improve my craft and opened many doors for me as a freelance illustrator and artist. It even led to the publication of my first solo book, Scenes of Thailand.”

To find out more, visit A sketching workshop, We Draw Singapore Together, will be held on 30-31 May. Register at

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