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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Online Lessons


My online classes bring the lessons, techniques and personal tips from my in-person workshops and make them available to you, anytime, anywhere. The Skillshare classes are part of an ongoing series that address a range of topics in depth, all resulting in a personal watercolor sketch project you can create. The Craftsy class is at once comprehensive and very detailed, and covers my process from selecting urban sketch subjects to creating final color sketches. The advantages to these classes are that you own access to them forever, you can watch and repeat them as many times as you like, and you are right there, watching closely over my shoulder to see every nuance as a drawing comes together.


Sketching Your World: Exploring Composition and a Dramatic Sense of Depth



Sketching your world isn't about talent, it's about principles and techniques anyone can learn. In this class, you'll learn to create fresh, lively line and wash sketches with dynamic compositions and a real illusion of depth. You'll learn editing, foreground/middleground/background, overlapping, line weight and other techniques to recreate real life, 3-dimensional scenes on a flat sketchbook page. It's not magic; these are relatively simple techniques you can master. There's even a bonus lesson on using dramatic darks, and 9 downloadable reference sheets to enrich your learning experience.

This is a class for all skill levels from beginners to professionals. The lessons are drawn from Jim's decades of sketching in 45 countries around the globe. By the end of the class, the lessons will be your own, and you'll be sketching the places you live and travel with new skills and confidence.


Bring City Scenes to Life: Sketching Cars, Trees and Furnishings












Learn to quickly sketch vehicles, trees and street furnishings to bring your city and travel sketches to life. These elements add realism and a sense of authenticity to your city scenes. They can also help balance your composition, provide an interesting foreground, lend a rich layer of detail, and tell us something about the city and culture you’re in.

I'm going to show you my professional approach to rapidly sketching each of these important "entourage" elements. Then we'll pull them all together in a quick, loose, ink and watercolor sketch of a city scene with a sense of depth and lots of character.  This is a class for all skill levels.


Travel Sketching Essentials: A Great Sketch in 5 Steps














More than a hobby, travel and sketching are a perfect pairing, like great food and fine wine. But complex urban scenes can be overwhelming. 

In this class, you’ll learn my step-by-step approach to on-location sketching that dramatically simplifies a complex scene, saving you time and frustration, and making your efforts more effective and enjoyable. I’ve taught this approach to thousands of students across the globe with great success.  By class’s end, you’ll have the tools to be successful as well. This is a class for all skill levels.


Urban Sketching Essentials: Drawing People and Crowds Made Simple














Are you a beginning or even seasoned sketcher that’s intimidated by the thought of adding people to your drawing?  You’ve come to the right class!  People are the life of the city, and drawing them into your urban sketches gives your drawing movement, character and energy.  

This remarkably simple, step-by-step technique will have you drawing believable people and crowds in almost no time.  You’ll learn proper proportions for figures, the importance of the "eye level line," how to use people to establish an illusion of depth, and how to draw figures in motion. We'll conclude with a watercolor sketch of a plaza filled with a lively crowd. This is a class for all skill levels.



Essential Techniques for Sketching the Energy of Places














This is my first and most comprehensive online class, offered by both Craftsy and The Great Courses Plus. It's almost 2 hours of instruction, spread across 7 lessons. We start with how to select hour scene and draw believable crowds with proper proportions. Next, you'll learn my step-by-step process to avoid being overwhelmed by complex city scenes. Then you'll learn my urban sketching tips for breaking down large buildings into simple shapes and textures. We'll tackle drawing trees, cars and other urban features with confidence. Finally, you'll learn to bring your work to life as you discover how to illuminate your sketches with watercolor washes and use opaque colors to refine the details.

I'm very proud of this class and of the thousands of sketchers who have broken through to new heights in their sketching journey. It's available through subscription OR purchase of this individual class. 










Here are some excerpts from reviews by students:

·    “I've been waiting for this class for 30 years... It's hit the nail on the head for me. Thanks Jim!”

·    “Best class ever!  I've taken a lot of Craftsy classes, but this is by far my favorite.”

·    “Thanks a lot James for your absolute great loose sketching lessons!!!! It's so wonderful to experience and I’ve never had the skills and confidence to go for urban drawings, far too difficult for me. But you've changed my mind about that completely!”

·    “I was really sad to finish this class! Happily I can go back and watch all the lessons again. James Richards has a really engaging and entertaining teaching style and I found his instruction so helpful.”

·    “James bring valuable insight to both the thought and process of sketching and I had so many "wow" moments - the clouds of doubt and confusion of the past disappeared and the technique or concept was right there and I was able to go try it and WOW - it made a huge difference - this was just the guidance and instruction I have needed.