In the first issue of GRAPHITE magazine, Eleanor Doughty takes us on a sketching tour of sites in New York City. In this exclusive extra piece, she draws one of her favorite spots in Brooklyn.

Eleanor Doughty is a freelance illustrator and urban sketcher living in Brooklyn. Visit her portfolio HERE and see more of her sketches HERE. A full tutorial by Eleanor, with more locations, images and extra tips, will appear in the first issue of GRAPHITE magazine!

I did this drawing from a rooftop in my neighborhood, a few blocks from my own apartment building. Looking west, you can see all the way to the Manhattan skyline; to the east you see every building in Bushwick and all the way into Ridgewood in Queens, with the M train running through it all on its elevated rail. It’s one of my favorite places in the city, a secret spot. A few buildings over, there are some guys who keep hundreds of pigeons in cages on their roof (this is a pretty common hobby in my neighbourhood, for some reason), and they let them out to fly around in huge flocks. Sometimes they fly so close to this roof that you can hear all their wings beating!


Establishing the first landmark: the rest of the scene will be in relation to it.


I fill in more buildings on the street, using the church as a reference for size and placement.

On the day that I drew this, it was beautifully lit but extremely windy, so I had to be fast: no time for sketching. The gusts were so strong I didn’t have complete control of my pencil, so it became a pretty loose drawing! Things like this can convey the experience of being in a place, so sometimes a loss of control can be interesting. I wanted to take advantage of my vantage point: you see everything from the cars on the street below to the skyscrapers in the distance. I love these opportunities to convey depth in location drawing using atmospheric perspective: the idea that levels of contrast express distance.


I lightly sketch in the far background, keeping detail to a minimum and focusing on the overall silhouette.


I darken the contours of the closer buildings, and add shadows and more detail to the foreground to pull it visually forward.


A sky tone brings out the foreground buildings; a layer of white china marker pushes the far background back.