For its fourth annual symposium, Urban Sketchers took to the streets of Barcelona. Over 200 artists from around the world descended on the capital of Catalonia, taking part in a three-day drawing tour of the city's most famous sights.
Founded by Seattle Times staff artist Gabriel Campanario in 2007, Urban Sketchers is a non-profit organisation that champions the art of 'on-location drawing.'
"It's just plain fun," founding board member Marc Taro Holmes says. "Getting out there, meeting other artists. Drawing on location is great training for an artist: you learn perspective first-hand, memorise light and specific detail, see things you wouldn't think to make up. It all enriches the work that you do back in the studio."
Urban Sketchers began life as a Flickr group, but then quickly grew into a successful group blog. One hundred specially invited artists were recruited as correspondents, regularly sharing their direct-observation drawings and the stories behind them.
A succession of meet-ups followed. Urban Sketchers has since spawned over 50 "chapters" around the world, each with their own Flickr groups and blogs. Its first annual symposium took place in Portland in 2010. After events in Lisbon and Santo Domingo, the sunny coast of northeastern Spain was selected as the setting.
Each day began with a three-hour workshop of participants' choosing – on topics such architecture, picture design, storytelling, reportage – with afternoons dedicated to demos, lectures and a further workshop. Evenings were open drink and draw get-togethers.
Urban Sketchers' central website is now in its fifth year, and Marc advises Googling for your town followed by USK to find your closest regional meeting. Brazil played host to the most recent symposium; the town of Paraty was selected for its "historical subjects in a tropical setting."
"I frequently hear people enthusing about how great it is to go in a group, to kind of take over a space," Marc says. "What can seem weird solo is much more positive in a group. How often do you get to draw with a bunch of people that love it as much as you?"
Go to www.urbansketchers.org for more information on Urban Sketchers and visit Citizen Sketcher to see artwork and insights from freelance artist Marc Taro Holmes.
This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 104.
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