Art and about: plein-air sketching on Ilkley Moor

This weekend, I grabbed a sketchbook and pastels and went exploring. Ilkley Moor is one of the local spots I had thought I’d visit within my first month of living up north. But it took me a year to step foot on the springy moor. 

It’s lovely up there. A glorious sense of space and light. I walked far enough to make it onto Burley Moor where I took in the stone circle, and came back down via the waterfall and tarn.

Sketchbook held in front of large stones and outdoor view

All that open space and fresh air is good for the soul. Plein air sketching is soulfood too. For me, it’s less about the results and all about being in the moment and taking it all in. Your eye focuses on different things when you’re drawing, rather than just admiring the view. And there’s something meditative about the soft scratch of the pastel on the page, especially when combined with bird and bug song in the sunshine. 

Box of pastels held up in front of standing stones

I’ve been on many walks with my sketchbook over the years. But in the past, my sketchbook often stayed in the backpack. The fear of a bad sketch turning into procrastination. So there’s a sense of accomplishment when the sketchbook comes out within the first 15 minutes of a walk (for the cow and calf stones), again at the top (for the standing stones) and yet again in the gorge (for the waterfall).

Sketch of waterfall held up in front of waterfall in gorge

Plein air sketching has a advantage for studio time too. Much easier to recreate a scene in paint if you’ve already drawn it in the fresh air. It’s not just about practice and observation. It’s also about connection. Feeling a place. Taking it in.

Here’s to more walks and outdoor creativity! 

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