Getting out and about with his sketchbook is Phil’s real passion, capturing the hustle and bustle of a vibrant city scene, teeming with life and energy. He always has his trusty sketchbook and pen case at hand to tackle any sketch situation.

Here’s what Phil has to say about his reportage work

“A lot of my work tends to be simple line work with colour added. My line work is slightly wobbly, which is a combination of how I hold the book and also that I’m not trying to achieve a super straight line. When you go in with pen first, the line work won’t be perfectly straight or even correct, especially when drawing curves, so the wobble gives you a little bit of leeway. The wobbly lines can be overdone, but it does give the sketch a certain charm and also a bit of looseness and vibrancy. A common misconception about urban sketching is that everything has to be perfect and you have to count all the windows and get everything accurate. That’s not what you should be trying to do – I think you should be trying to interpret a scene in a different way.

When it comes to the amount of detail to include, I don’t think there’s a “right” and “wrong” in that sense. It’s very much about what people want to achieve from a drawing. Some people go all in on the detail and go crazy drawing every single brick, others are big on blocking in colours first. That’s the joy of it really. My own personal view is that you shouldn’t waste too much of your time trying to get too much of the detail down while you’re there on location. If you have a limited time frame – you’ve only got 15 minutes or you’re not in a comfortable position, maybe. What I’m really trying to do is get students looking and capturing quick movements. It does teach people maybe not fearlessness but a bit more confidence. In London before

lockdown, you’re often getting jostled on street corners. That’s the beauty of sketching in an urban environment: that energy and that excitement. You want to try and capture some of that and not be too precious about making a mistake – just get on with it and make that mistake part of your finished sketch.

I’m a big believer in trying to sketch something every day, even if it’s just a coffee cup or a book – then you’ve got to get what you’ve got to get. It’s so much about what you want to get from a scene. Think about how far you want to go: sometimes you might want to fill the page, other times the white space can really be a joyful thing”

Phil Dean,
The Shoreditch Sketcher