A Pretty Sketchy Bunch

Running on about five hours of sleep and nursing a mild hangover, I sit sipping my coffee in Cafe Bar 19 waiting for the Urban Sketchers to arrive. Having interviewed urban sketcher Omar Jaramillo before and being familiar with the quality of his work, I had asked for him or one of the other Urban Sketchers to create a drawing of the interview. As I begin re-arranging the furniture in the small cafe to make a more interesting scene for the drawing, I notice two people sitting at a table nearby scribbling away in their sketchbooks. “Hi, are you guys with the Urban Sketchers?” I ask. “I’ve set up an area for us over here.” They both laugh, and one says, “The point of urban sketching is that it is not a set up.”

 urban-sk-2Sketchbooks from the Berlin Urban Sketchers. Anything look familiar? Photo: Chris Phillips

As I later found out, the urban sketchers manifesto includes several guidelines distinguishing urban sketching from normal drawing, such as sketching quickly from a live scene. “So if I go outside and take a picture of Oranienstrasse then go home and draw it, that isn’t urban sketching?” I asked them. “No, to us that’s cheating,” they responded. But aside from their artistic principles, what really makes the Urban Sketchers unique is that the group is open to anyone, and they even provide free instructional material on their blog, free drawing workshops, and print publications to help artists get started with urban sketching. If there is one thing I know about artists, it is that they value their own unique styles and many have a “I thought of it first” mentality, so for artists to share their artistic formula with the larger art realm is a true rarity.

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