Out and about: why artists should embrace on-location drawing

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

The Urban Sketchers group temporarily take over public spaces – all in the name of art, of course

For its fourth annual symposium, Urban Sketchers (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) in 2007, Urban Sketchers is a non-profit organisation that champions the art of 'on-location drawing.'

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

Sketches are made, advice is shared – that's what Urban Sketches is all about

"It's just plain fun," founding board member Marc Taro Holmes (opens in new tab) 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."

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

A sketchbook needn't be limited to featuring black and white line drawings, as this group member demonstrates

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.

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

Kiah Kiean with his sketch of Barcelona's Arc de Triomf

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."

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

Barcelona's historic architecture proves to be a great sketch subject

"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?"

Why these artists took their Flickr group to the Barcelona streets

Sketching and painting in the warm Spanish sun – what better way to spend the day?

Go to www.urbansketchers.org for more information on Urban Sketchers and visit Citizen Sketcher (opens in new tab) to see artwork and insights from freelance artist Marc Taro Holmes.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab) magazine issue 104.

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Beren Neale
Deals Editor

Beren has worked on creative tech magazines and websites at Future Publishing for 13 years. He started this journey as Staff Writer on the digital art magazine ImagineFX, and in 2012 found himself bridging the magazine/website divide as Commissioning Editor on the newly launched Creative Bloq. Since then he took the editor role on ImagineFX, was Launch Editor of the fine art magazine Paint & Draw, moved to Canon Pro Europe website as Deputy Editor, and then edited the graphic design magazine Computer Arts. In 2020 he moved back to Creative Bloq, the biggest global art and design website, and as Deals Editor has applied his expertise in creative tech to help digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need and love. Outside of work, Beren is an avid rock climber and music nut.