Urban Sketching Tips: 5 Best Places for Travel Sketching in Athens, GA

Uncategorized Oct 19, 2020

Travel, in the form of art retreats and art workshops abroad, is one of the things we as an online art school embrace. While we appreciate the fact that the worldwide web gives us the ability to offer our students online oil painting classes (among other things), we know that nothing sharpens the artist’s eye quite like drawing from life.  

As such, we’re ever ready to pull out our art travel kits and do some travel sketching when we’re on a trip somewhere. 

We encourage our students to do the same, whether they’re at one of our local art workshops in Georgia, like John’s upcoming fine art doodling workshop, or treating themselves to some art tourism in some amazing places around the world.

Here’s why. Most of the time, we view ourselves in relation to other things, like family, friends and even the place we live. 

Any time we can experience ourselves in relation to something new, like a new place, we change our vision of the world and subsequently, our vision of ourselves. Our art virtuosity can only level up from there.

Travel and Urban Sketching Ideas for Athens, Georgia

But artists can apply the principles of travel sketching to any of their life drawing activities. Research now tells us that one of the benefits of drawing and doodling is that these activities allow us to see the world more accurately in general, according to Think Big

This means that if you draw your own backyard, your own hometown, even your own room, you’ll start to see the world anew, even if what you’re drawing is something you’ve seen at least a zillion times. 

It’s in that spirit that we’ve put together the following list. It encompasses the best places for travel and urban sketching in Athens, Georgia. 

While we’re sure that some of the participants of John’s doodling workshop will take advantage of our travel sketching ideas in their off hours, we also hope that those who live here in Athens will also get out and draw their hometown. 

Travel and urban sketching are creative ways to see the local landscape through the eyes of the tourist. Or as urban sketcher Jim Richard explains, urban sketching is a “vital and living way to document, to see, to value culture.”  

As ardent culture warriors, we couldn’t agree more. 

With no further ado, here is our list of the five best places to do some traveling sketching while you’re in Athens, Georgia. 

*We know that many of these places are closed at the moment, but they won’t always be. As such, the destinations on this list are worthy of mention, because they benefit travel artists and urban sketchers. 

1. State Botanical Gardens of Georgia

Located on the campus of the University of Georgia, the botanical garden’s lush grounds often play host to weddings and other special occasions, like birthday parties. 

Throughout the year, a number of family-friendly festivals, events and camps take place. These are experiences that invite garden visitors to look at butterflies and other insects up close, to learn about plants and to carry out scientific inquiry. 

Of particular interest is the Children’s Garden, which sees around 50,000 visitors each year. It’s a place where kids and kids-at-heart can immerse themselves in learning-based play. 

On a related note, those who have kids in a school that embraces arts integration lesson plans for science and other STEM subjects, the botanical gardens have much to offer.  


For the traveling artist and urban sketcher, the State Botanical Garden is the place to go to draw and paint beautiful flowers, exotic birds and reptiles and much more. 

The beauty of this place offers artists an excellent excuse to try out all the cool colors in their travel watercolor paint kit. Can you imagine how juicy the colors in your sketchbook will look after a drawing session in the botanical gardens?

One final note: In recent months, the garden has offered limited touring hours. Be sure to check to see if the garden is open. Spaces, like the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, have reopened (by appointment). 

If you’d like to take a virtual tour of the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia before you come to Athens, check out the garden’s virtual tour

To learn more about upcoming activities and to find out what hours the garden is open, visit the botanical garden website

2. Bear Hollow Zoo 

While all drawing activities benefit those who draw, drawing from life can be especially beneficial for artists who feel the need to create more authenticity in their artwork. 

However, many artists find life drawing challenging and not just because it forces artists to learn to translate what they see in 3D to a 2D piece of paper or canvas. Finding a model who’s willing to sit for a portrait often becomes an exercise in determination for those who take online art courses in figure drawing. 

That’s why it’s so great to draw animals in the zoo. Aside from that, it’s just an all-around good way to get to know Athens. 

Kids love to come to the zoo to see animals, like eagles, bears and otters. For the art lover, the zoo offers a repository of living creatures that deserve a place of honor in a travel journal sketchbook. Memories of playful otters, majestic owls and deer are preserved in the artist’s zoo animal drawings. 

The Bear Hollow Zoo also offers exhibits. For more information about the zoo hours of operation and its exhibits, check out the zoo’s website.

3. Memorial Park 

Memorial Park is just next door to Bear Hollow Zoo. It’s often open, even if Bear Hollow Zoo and Sanctuary is closed. Additionally, when the zoo is open, people visit Memorial Park for a picnic after they’ve spent time drawing the animals in their travel journals and sketchbooks. 

It also has a number of amazing sights that would appeal to the traveling artist. The basketball courts and the playground offer places to blow off some steam after work (or after art workshops in Athens as the case may be), and the pond is often home to friendly families of ducks who make great sketch subjects. 

There are often a number of people around. And of course, there's plenty of flora and fauna. As such, they’re also excellent places to do some gesture drawing or plein air painting. 

For more information about Memorial Park, check out the park’s website.

4. Who Let the Dawgs Out?

One of the more fun things you can draw as an urban sketcher in our city is the bulldog statues that dot the Athens landscape. Part of the “We Let the Dawgs Out” public art exhibit, there are around three dozen bulldog statues in Athens, Georgia. 

Aside from giving art aficionados the opportunity to see some great art outside of art galleries or museums, they’re also just fun to draw and paint and an important part of Athens's cultural heritage. 

Additionally, they are fun to draw for people who are into cultural tourism or who want to learn about local art history here in the city, too. 

Each bulldog features a different paint design on its outer “skin.” As such, each pup potentially offers the traveling artist an opportunity to try out all various supplies in his or her art travel kit. 

To make the most of your art tourism activities, be sure to check out the Visiting Athens, Georgia website for a map of the dogs’ locations around the city. 

5. World of Wonder Playground

When we were developing the ideas for this post, we wanted to include places that would be interesting to draw. The World of Wonder (WOW) playground is just such a place. 

It resembles a fairy tale fortress, complete with places to climb and slides to slide on. The shapes of the playground items also offer artists a chance to practice positive and negative space drawing, as well as the chance to draw cylinders, boxes and other basic shapes. 

WOW additionally offers an abundance of places to sit so that urban sketchers and travel artists will be comfortable while they fill up the pages of their travel journals and sketchbooks.  

In all, WOW includes 10 slides, a slide tower, a climbing wall, swings and even an augmented reality area. (This area may attract tourists, so keep that in mind as you set up shop.)

And as a bonus, one of the dawgs from the section above makes its home here, so it’s a double bonus.

Find out more about Wow here

Photo caption: Drawing from life has the power to spark your creative ideas. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

Final Thoughts on Travel and Urban Sketching in Athens, GA

When you're out making some travel sketches, you're creating new worlds in your watercolor sketchbooks with just some watercolor pencils, brush pens and maybe some colored pencils. 

These small paintings, doodles and drawings in your sketchbook have the power to change the way you see and interact with the world. After a time, you'll begin to see that the city has the potential to be beautiful in the same way that masterworks in a museum do. 

Additionally, drawing from life is one of the best sketching workshops you’ll ever have. You’ll learn to see both people and the landscape around you in a different way. It’s a powerful way to boost your artistic development and to gain mastery over your art skills. 

Finally, such a practice is sure to infuse life into your studio work, whether you’re a pastel, pencil, abstract mixed media or even fiber artist. The truth is people travel for any number of reasons. We think that becoming art tourists just happens to be one of the best reasons to travel. 

Happy travel sketching!

For More Painting and Drawing Tips, Check Out These Offerings

John’s On-Campus Fine Art Doodling Workshop “Your Inner World” - Oct. 24-25, 2020

How to Varnish Your Oil & Acrylic Painting

How To Draw a Self Portrait

More Articles

Get useful articles every other week!