"…in cities all around the world a silent sketching revolution is taking place. Countless artists or 'correspondents', are picking up their sketchpads, pencils and paints and venturing out onto the streets to capture stories unfolding in real time – a reportage formerly reserved for the written word…" exhibition introduction Urban Sketchers London 2012
See Urban Sketchers Manchester gallery below
I've recently returned from the annual Urban Sketchers symposium, this year held in Barcelona. Urban sketchers is a worldwide collective of reportage sketchers who believe in the importance of drawing on location. It was started by Gabi Campanario, staff artist on the Seattle Times in 2007 and now has a following of thousands. Different correspondents from hundreds of cities on six continents, post blogs on a daily basis on the website www.urbansketchers.org and I'm delighted to be the recent appointed urban sketching correspondent for Manchester. Urban Sketchers is a registered charity and our mission is to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and where they travel.
We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time.
Obviously there are important stories to tell in the development of our towns and cities and how interesting it is to communicate this by drawing. A drawing can capture an emotional response to a location in the way that a photograph or computer generated image would struggle to. It also contextualises said story within the bigger picture of its environment. I'm not talking about traditional architectural illustration here as such, I'm talking about sketching to capture the subject matter with all of its context; be that people, lamp posts, tram lines, street signage and furniture – all our beautiful urban clutter.
No surprise then that Urban Sketchers is such a global success. This year's symposium sold out within a couple of hours and over 300 people attended, with another 100 or so forming a fringe group. On the Saturday afternoon, which coincided with the 40th annual worldwide sketch crawl, it was estimated there were over 500 of us out drawing on the streets of Barcelona. A number of urban sketchers as you would imagine are architects, landscape architects, illustrators and teachers / lecturers – but what I hadn't considered were the lawyers, accountants, microbiologists and housewives! And from all round the world, there really is that much enthusiasm for it, I heard 60 countries were represented, I certainly met people from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, California, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Canada and obviously most European countries.
How interesting then that one of my summer commissions is to draw a major building site in Manchester, it certainly ticks all the boxes I have mentioned, as I personally am fascinated by drawing the urban environment in all its complexity. If anyone would like to join me sketching we have a Manchester group who meet once or twice a month, or if you'd like to discuss a potential commission, please get in touch.