Wild Sketching Tips from Matt Johnson

Take inspiration directly from nature with Seasalt artist Matt, as he shares his techniques for mindful sketching.

For me, sketching outside is all about seeing things first-hand and taking the time to really look at the landscape.

Drawing focuses your attention entirely on the surroundings and the present moment, so it can be a great exercise in mindfulness.

I try not to worry about the finished picture. The sketch is just a way to make you look at something for a sustained time and examine it, bit by bit, like a meditation. Then when you’ve finished, it’s lodged in your memory, no matter how the actual drawing came out.

I often start by simplifying what I can see into rough blobs of paint. Once those are dry, I add details over the top. I keep to just a few colours, or no colour at all, so I don’t have too many choices to make, but I like using a few different pens and pencils so there’s a variety of marks.

We have the amazing scenery of the Helford nearby, but you don’t need the most epic view in the world. There are things worth drawing everywhere. I try not to be picky, and if I can’t decide where to start I just draw the nearest tree.

Outdoor Sketching Tips


Before you leave home


  • Travel light and with a limited palette – keep to just a few colours, so you don’t have too many choices to make.
  • Sharpen all your pencils.
  • If you have a large sketchbook, grab a couple of bulldog clips to stop the pages blowing everywhere.
  • Dress warmly – standing still, you can get cold quickly.

When you’re out and about


  • If I can’t decide where to start, just draw the nearest tree.
  • Treat the first drawing you do as a warm-up. It really helps to take any pressure off and will help you focus on the process, not on the end result.
  • Don’t try to draw everything – simplify and leave things out as you see fit.

Matt went sketching along the Helford River. We’d love to see where your wild sketching takes you, so share with us on #SeasaltArtsClub.

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