Have you ever wondered what goes into making an interesting sketch? Then stick around because in today’s post I will walk you through the anatomy of a sketch; or more precisely, a closer look at how I go about creating one of my urban sketches.

Anatomy of a Sketch

When you’re setting out to create a sketch, the first thing of course is to decide on your subject. These days, when I head out with my sketchbook, I’m usually on the lookout for interesting architecture. Fortunately, there’s no end of beautiful architecture in New York City! Yesterday’s sketch was focused on this majestic landmark building at 418 Central Park West:

Photo of the Braender Condominium building at 418 Central Park West

A Thumbnail Sketch…

Is definitely a good idea – especially when you’re tackling a large and intricate subject such as the pre-war Braender Condominium building, above. To that end, because I only need a small piece of paper for my thumbnail sketches, I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying around TWO sketchbooks:

Photo of my two Moleskine sketchbooks.  I use the smaller watercolor sketchbook for thumbnail sketches;  the larger art sketchbook is for my finished urban sketches.
The anatomy of a sketch includes a peek inside both of my sketchbooks.  In this photo you see the thumbnail sketch for my "Delivery" urban illustration, as well as a portion of the final full-sized "Delivery" illustration.

(The small black Moleskine pocket watercolor sketchbook is for my thumbnail sketches. I reserve my larger blue Moleskine Art Sketchbook for my finished urban illustrations.)

Best-Laid Plans…

Don’t always guarantee initial sketching success – especially when you draw in pen! My first attempt yesterday, though interesting, left no room for adding a human element:

Moleskine ink drawing of details from the Braender condominium building, by Joana Miranda

And while urban sketchers often leave out the human element (or just loosely suggest a few people here and there), I prefer to tell a story with each and every one of my illustrations.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Try again! While this urban illustration took longer than I originally anticipated, I loved the process and am happy with how it turned out.

Ink and watercolor urban illustration - Delivery - by Joana Miranda


Photo of framed Delivery urban illustration by Joana Miranda

The print version is now available in my shop at Etsy!


  1. Helen Reich says:

    I like. Your urban sketching style is has become so distinctive. Quite a departure from the more stylized, cartoony drawings.

    • Joana says:

      Thank you, Helen! I feel like I’ve finally found my voice. All of my past cartoon figure drawing practice has been invaluable, but now I feel like my figures have a place and a home to inhabit. 🙂
      Meanwhile, the fall NYCB season starts tomorrow. So far, I’m hired for everything in the Fall, Nutcracker and Winter seasons. So I’ve been squeezing in as much drawing and Graphic Design study (in addition to practicing the viola) because I know that free time will be in short supply. Sigh.
      Maybe we can find a time to catch up by phone again in a few weeks? xox – Joana

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