Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Urban Sketchers Manifesto Monday: 1

1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

This simple premise is the foundation of all "Urban Sketching". It changes everything. 

I've been in landscape painting workshops where very early on the instructor suggests eliminating the graveyard in front of the barn, and moving the mighty oak tree from one side of the painting to the other. This is all under the banner of "composition" or "artist license". Both of those concepts have their time and place. But, so does working on location AND capturing what we see from direct observation. 

Most art movements have a manifesto so they can define their intentions and even set themselves apart from some other art movements. I believe this first principle is the key one that distinguishes "Urban Sketching" from its close cousin- modern day plein air painting (where shifting the world around in time and space is often acceptable).

Urban sketching grew out of artist as reporter. Reporting the world around them and day to day drama as it unfolds, through their art. Some have gone on to make this a lively career choice. It informs our choices to select locations and themes. It infuses our art with stories and urgency that draws people and artists in.

One of my favorite urban sketching opportunities was the juxtaposition of headstones from the 1700's in the foreground of new construction behind St. Paul's Churchyard (209 Broadway, NYC, NY, facing Church Street/ WTC-Ground Zero). I was able to capture a sense of solemnity and remembrance that framed dynamic construction efforts leading to recovery and growth. I know that in a year or so the scene will be totally different with the buildings finished and the transportation center open. The headstones will continue as witness and touching memorials. My Urban Sketching captured a specific moment in time in the real world from direct observation.

Some people have asked if it's called "urban sketching" can you sketch in other places? The founders of Urban Sketchers have addressed this directly. They consciously chose not to limit the locations to urban ones only. In fact, they encourage it. It's fun to plan our art in terms of places, events, and opportunities through this artistic lens.

So, pick up your art supplies and jump right in. Stayed tuned for Urban Sketching principle 2. Share any comments reactions or your art in the comments section.

1 comment:

  1. This is a well-done thoughtful essay. I agree with your conclusions and don't know that anybody has really explored this idea as you have. Thank you, I look forward to the next one.