Urban Sketching is among us – so pay attention

People who draw and paint outside the confines of their studio are now known as urban sketchers. In fact, there is a world-wide organization —  a long-standing one, I understand — of Urban Sketchers with a substantial website.

Here’s the Urban Sketchers manifesto:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

Manifesto is probably a bit heavy-handed, but we won’t quibble. This organization recently came across my radar, and I joined up (it’s free). There are local chapters just about everywhere, but unfortunately, there’s not one in East Tennessee, where I live. It may be time to start one before long.

Here’s the point: Drawing and painting outside the studio (house, home, apartment, whatever) is a natural activity for an artist and should be viewed as normal in a society where lots and lots of people spent inordinate amounts of time staring at their cellphones. We live in an age where art is devalued and where standards of quality have been blown away by the concept of personal expression.

I have done some “urban sketching” — outside, among people — in the past and want to get started at it again. I spent a couple of summers in Chicago in the late 1990s working for the Chicago Tribune, and I did quite a bit of it there. In fact, on July 4, 1998, I found myself at Wrigley Field watching the game between the Pittsburg Pirates and Chicago Cubs. I had taken some sketching tools with me, and this is what I produced:

As the game was over, and I was finishing up, a guy who was sitting behind me complimented the drawing and said, “I spent more time watching you than I did watching the game.”

That was a compliment worth keeping.

Check out the urban sketching website. You will see some amazing stuff — art produced on-site, on-the-fly. And take a look at CitizenSketcher.com

If you see an urban sketcher, stop and watch for a moment. Observe what he or she does and how it’s done. Ask, politely, to see the work in progress. If appropriate, offer a compliment or some kind of encouragement. Artists want attention and support.

Urban sketching gives you the opportunity of doing that.

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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