restaurant sketch tips

I love sketching food and in restaurants. The challenge is that the food arrives at your table, and it often gets cold or lukewarm as you sketch it. Or you have a friend or family member who is hoping to eat and have conversation, and you’re just pulling out your pen! Here are a few tips I have found to enjoy sketching at a restaurant or other eating establishment:

  1. Choose The Right Time To Sketch. This sketch was done AFTER a meal with a friend. Though the food would have been fun to sketch at our meal, I wanted to respect her time and our conversation. So we both sketched people sitting in the food court afterwards, as they ate THEIR meals. Be flexible, sometimes you may have to adjust when you sketch.

2. Sketch What You Can. This sketch was done on a trip to Chicago at Beatrix in River North. It was my french toast breakfast with syrup and berries. I started sketching the patron sitting a distance away before the food arrived. Once the food came, I did a quick sketch of my breakfast and took a photo to add color later. But then I decided not to add color and added a stripey color block instead.

3. Create One Strong Element In The Sketch. This sketch was done at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building in Chicago. I was sitting feet away from the bartender as he was mixing drinks and sketched him (that sketch is under the piece of paper, piece of napkin, and drink stick). But his hands were moving so fast as he shook drinks and poured glasses, that I messed them up. While he worked, I also drew my Raspberry fizz which was sitting inches from me and wasn’t moving at all. Later, I decided to cover up the bartender and spent time working on the reds and greens from a photo reference. I now have a strong element in my sketch!

These last two sketches are from when the stars kind of align in the sketching realm.

4. Sketch With Another Sketcher. This is a great option, as you both are there to sketch and no one cares if you are painting while eating your food! This was done in St. Paul with a wonderful sketcher friend, Kathy. I was able to sketch part of the brewery outdoors and my portobello sandwich, from our picnic table vantage point. She was busy sketching too, so we enjoyed a fun lunch and sketch time too.

5. Add Color Later. This is one of my best tips for sketching with family/friends. While waiting for food at the Fatso’s hot dog restaurant in Chicago, I talked with family members, and then when the food came, they let me just sketch away. I sketched the dog and fries, ate my lunch, and since it was hot out, we ordered ice cream and I sketched the sign outside the restaurant window. I took a photo for color references and added watercolor and white accents and a piece of the napkin when I got home.

Sketching in restaurants can be a challenge, but I hope these tips help you. If you have other tips too, please post them. We all learn from one another!


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