Traveling Artist Qian Shi Creates Urban Sketches Of Ancient Towns

It is human nature to want a souvenir when we travel. Some take photos, some buy keepsakes from local shops. But there are people who would much rather make their own mementos, like Chinese urban artist Qian Shi. Because instead of simply snapping a quick photograph to document his travels, this artist from Chengdu, Sichuan prefers to make a more personal connection towards the places he visits by sketching and painting it. And the resulting whimsical images he’s created have captivated tens of thousands.

The type of art that Qian creates is called urban sketching. In a nutshell, this art style is all about “capturing the energy of the world around you, doing it quickly, and keeping it loose”. The Urban Sketchers movement was founded by journalist Gabriel Campanario in 2007. Since then, the members have been showing us the world, one drawing at a time. Urban sketching is challenging and enriching at the same time, as it requires one to pause and acquaint oneself with the details of their surroundings, which would normally be overloooked when going through the motions of daily life. Awesome Inventions reached out to Qian to gain more insight towards his art. Read on below to get to know this awesome urban sketcher.


Meet Qian Shi, the self-taught urban artist who’s wowing the world with his quick sketches

At first glance, you’d think that for Qian to be able to draw and paint so well, he took formal training or went to art school. However, that isn’t the case. According to the artist himself, he has always been interested in the arts ever since he was young. “I have always been fascinated with painting since childhood,” he shared. In addition, he also said that he learned “mainly by self-study”, because he likes to travel while painting. Somewhere along the road, he “fell in love with the city sketch” so he decided “to become an urban artist”. Qian’s process of selecting his painting subject is uncomplicated.


“If I’m on a trip and the scene strikes me, I want to draw them.”

Of course, sketching isn’t the only thing on his travel itinerary. After all, we travel to experience and discover! “If time is limited, I will also film them and go home to paint it. If I could, I would rather paint while traveling than painting photos indoors,” he said.


Urban Sketcher Qian Shi captures the essence of a location on his sketch book


“Usually when I want to paint something, the first sight can move me, let me want to draw it. At present I draw a lot of buildings, but later I should be able to paint some other things.”


His art does not discriminate from the unassuming alleyways of Shanghai to the grandiose European architecture

Qian’s sketches have a certain charm. The combination of his gestural lines and delicate washes of watercolor evoke feelings of tranquility, nostalgia and even wonder. However, the artist hopes to convey something more important through his art.


“I think I can express the culture of some old buildings in the city through some of my works, or the old buildings that are about to be demolished. Another is to pass on what I have seen and heard on my travels.”

It goes without saying that art has played an important role in teaching us about our history. From sculptures to paintings by the old masters, these creations have helped us see the world the way they saw it, and urban sketching is keeping this tradition alive. Globe-trotting artist Qian Shi has certainly seen and heard a lot of things. But surprisingly, he has yet to travel and paint in his favorite place. “Actually I haven’t been to my favorite place,” he shared. “I love Morocco and hope to go there to paint.”


Urban sketching is about capturing a place’s spirit as quickly as possible

You might think that Qian spends a lot of time on his artworks. But that isn’t so. As we’ve mentioned earlier, urban sketching involves speed. And Qian is definitely quick. “The painting time varies according to the size of the picture and what you want to express,” he explained. “During the journey, the painting time is very short, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes to 1 hour.” Then, when circumstance prevents him from working on the spot, he takes his work indoors. According to him, this gives him more time to perfect his work – from the pen line draft to coloring. At most, this will take him 2 hours.


You can try urban sketching too


“Finally, I would like to say to those who love urban sketch: carry a pen and a sketch book, use your free time to draw all kinds of objects around you. [It] will help you improve the sketch[ing] skills. Painting is a lifetime thing, so anyone, as long as you keep on painting, you will find that your work will be better and better! In addition, everyone’s painting style and what they want to express are different. In fact, as long as you paint what you see in your mind, it is successful.”

It’s astounding to realize how the potential of ink and watercolor on paper is limitless. If seeing Qian’s quick sketches have sparked your interest, he absolutely encourages that you give it a try! He accepts commissions – all you’ve got to do is send him an email. You can follow Qian Shi on Instagram and Weibo.