imageUntil recently I’d never heard of Urban Sketchers (though you’d think that to have missed them I must have been living under a rock, or on some remote island without an internet connection). USk as it’s known for short was launched in 2007 by Seattle-based journalist and illustrator Gabriel Campanario who created an online community of urban sketches on Sketchers could scan their drawings and share them on the group’s Flickr site, Facebook page or blog – and the idea went viral; so far communities of sketchers have formed 60 regional chapters in 29 countries. “Artists of all ages and skill levels have stories to tell,” says founder Gabi Campanario. “Urban Sketchers is a free group that provides a platform for them to renew their love of drawing and to learn more about storytelling”.*

In order to qualify, a drawing must be done from life, on location, a record of place and time and done without using photos for reference – and at this time of year in this part of the world that can mean braving some pretty uncomfortable weather – but fortunately drawing barefoot isn’t a literal requirement; this kind of drawing is about going back to the basics, the nitty gritty of connecting with what’s in front of you and getting it down on paper. And you don’t always have to become numb with cold or struggle with wind and rain – indoor sketching is fine (the Yorkshire group have just done a lively sketchcrawl at the Hat Works in Stockport) and sketching from a car, or a window (as my drawing above) is another good grim weather option. No wonder it’s so popular. I’ve joined Urban Sketchers Yorkshire and even though as yet I’ve not made it to a sketch meeting I’m delighted to have found this bunch of friendly sketchers in my part of the world.

There’s an accepted ethos about urban sketching and the group has a manifesto, which goes like this:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

I’ve picked up some invaluable tips on drawing tools and new materials from discussions on the group’s Facebook page (there’s nothing like hearing other people’s personal recommendations and exchanging experiences) – and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to keep in touch this way.

(*Thanks to Lynne Chapman of ‎Urban Sketchers Yorkshire for her short written introduction to USk)