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Phil Dean – We chat to the Shoreditch sketcher

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It’s not everyday that you get to have a sketching workshop with one of the creatives you’ve been avidly following on Instagram over the years, so when we discovered that the Shoreditch Sketcher, aka Phil Dean, was heading north to Kirkgate Market, we jumped at the chance to pop along, pick his brains and get a few sketching tips.

Phil Dean, Leeds Market, Awesome Merchandise, Leeds, Kirkgate Market

Graduating from Leeds College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design, Phil’s love of drawing was spurred on from his days at art college, finding himself studying at a time before digital had taken over and drawing was still an intrinsic part of design.

“Fifty percent of our time was spent drawing,” Phil Explains.  “We originally started going out around Leeds and drawing in and around the city. Ever since then i’ve always loved that urban sketching and getting out and about.”

However, it wasn’t until Phil moved away from Leeds, making the move to London about four years ago that he truly caught the urban sketching bug, partaking in a dose of what we’ve dubbed ‘next level people watching’ whenever he can. He’s now best known for observing and capturing the details and atmosphere of a moment, whether this be depicting a crowd or getting to know the details of city architecture.

“For me it’s about having that good mix. I love drawing this scenario here [Kirkgate Market], but then I love drawing the people moving about. Buildings are great because they never move but people watching and people sketching is one of my guilty pleasures.”

Although, his passion may have been reignited down in the Big Smoke, we can see that Phil’s equally at home nestled in amongst the stalls of Leeds Market, and iconic buildings such as The Corn Exchange have been known to pop up on his Instagram feed from time to time.

“I love the architecture in Leeds. If you’re in a place like the market today, there’s that kind of Victoriana architecture that I absolutely love. Leeds has some really grand architecture from the era when it was a really important wool city.”

So when you literally have inspiration around every corner corner, a Moleskin notebook and set of Edding 55 pens to hand at all times, how do you go about deciding what’s sketch-worthy?

“Deciding what I draw is quite an organic thing. It depends what mood i’m in. I could be walking around and I’ll fancy something that’s old, old, or sometimes I will like the juxtaposition of old and new. You’re always looking for the unusual angles and the different views. You notice detail and all of the measurements, the shapes, the ornate features. You’re always looking up at things and deciding what’s a good view.


“I definitely noticed that when i’ve been out and about I try to find time to find a view and get my sketch book out.”

Although Phil’s art is created in these moments of calm with good old pen and paper, his work transcends the pages of his notebooks into the noisy world of social media. And with his Instagram followers rapidly increasing all the time, this digital platform has opened up views and opportunities that would previously have been off limits.


“Instagram has taken over everything in that channel really. Everybody’s curating their own Instagram feed. I’ve turned mine into a sketch feed, which is what I do. It’s been really instrumental in me getting commissioned work and sharing my stuff with people around the world. I’m just doing a series of drawings for a hotel chain in America and they saw my work and liked it. That wouldn’t have happened without Instagram, so Instagram has become a sales tool as well.”

Although there’s still some places he would like to explore,  as he admits that although he’s sketched most buildings on his ‘To do’ list, there are probably loads of nooks and crannies locked away behind closed doors that would be a dream to draw.

“Somewhere like Buckingham Palace would be fun. It would be fun to sketch in somewhere like that where you’re not allowed in.”

Getting the opportunity to walk around and sketch from the balcony in Kirkgate Market was, for us, one of these ‘not allowed in’ moments, as unfortunately this birds eye view is normally off limits to the public and we’d like the thank Phil and the market for having us down.


Check out more of  Phil’s work and his finished sketch from Kirkgate Market here.

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