Sketching AT Festivals

I don’t go to very many festivals, but when I do, it’s a special treat. Sketching at a festival can be overwhelming. There are often crowds, activities, booths, loud people, music, and a lot all going on at once. If you are going with family or friends, it may be difficult to find time to sketch. So here are a few tips to help…

I recently attended Oktoberfest in New Ulm, Minnesota. I had not been to this festival before, so my family and I made the 2 hr. drive from the Twin Cities to the beautiful town of New Ulm. Our destination: Schell’s Brewery (learn more here). After parking and walking a bit, we found ourselves in a very long line on a road just to get to the admission gates. Festival goers were lined up and the line just inched along. Tip #1- Sketch while waiting. I pulled out my sketch book and Sailor Fude pen and started quickly sketching the people in front of me (a couple were dressed in costume, which made them interesting).

Once we got through the admission gates, we were hungry. Another long line later, I had a brat, a bottle of water, and an apple turnover. We found a place to sit and I quickly sketched my food. Tip #2- Build your sketch with things that grab you. I like sketching food and it was part of the festival, so I wanted to have it in my sketch. As the crowds everywhere began to build, my family went to the gift shop and I went back to sketch one thing that had grabbed my attention upon entry: the heavily decorated horses and the beer wagon, loaded with silver kegs.

I managed to sketch the horse and a couple people standing near it when a family of three (parents and an adult woman) came up to me and wanted to see what I was sketching. Tip #3- If you are comfortable, let people see what you are doing. They are usually quite impressed! I talked to the family a couple minutes and offered to add them to the sketch. They were excited, so I did a quick sketch of the woman and had a nice conversation as she stood there. It was a fun interaction, and a part of the sketch experience.

By now, my two-page spread had begun to fill up. I had to make some decisions on what to add with the space I had. I chose to do a quick sketch of the Schell family mansion to add a sense of place, as well as a cup of beer. Later, at home, I added more color, details, some more text, and a piece of my wristband (taped in the book).

This was a super-fun festival and I’m glad I have fun memories in my sketches to look back upon!

In August I went with sketcher friends to Open Streets Minneapolis. Streets were closed and families and neighbors could get together. There were tons of booths, activities, food, music, bands, and all kinds of stuff going on. After a few warm-up sketches on other pages, I found something that grabbed me: a camel. People could buy a cup of carrots and feed it. I began my two-page spread with the camel. Then I wandered around to add more to the sketch.

I sketched a man sitting with a frisbee on his head, the iconic theater sign, and apartments behind it. I walked up the street and added a parked car to my sketch. I saw two men eating concession food, so decided to add one of them in the sketch before he wandered away. I then added a street light, building, and booths, to get a sense of place.

If you have the chance to sketch at a festival, go for it! There is always something fun to sketch, and hopefully these few tips will get you started. Enjoy!

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