Starting September 17, 2017, I will be the instructor of a workshop titled “Urban Sketching: What’s your story?” at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, DE. The workshop’s objective is for participants to sharpen their observation skills and enabling them to focus on their stories and filtering out distractions.
I have been a member of the Urban Sketchers (USK) movement for a long time, so the principles of the USK manifesto are very important to me, like “we are truthful to the scenes we witness”. I don’t mean that we should make up or alter the scenes we sketch. But I’ve learned that I shouldn’t pretend to capture every little detail that I see; that’s what cameras are for. Think of a newspaper: I want to my sketches to be an editorial of the stories that surround me.
We all may struggle when trying to capture a focused story on location. So many details, people are moving, lots of distractions. It happens to alll of us. I sketched this a few weeks ago while waiting for my train to work. I had less than 10 minutes, so I had to work fast. Even though I like it as a sketch, it didn’t capture my story. At all. Not even close.
All day long I kept that sketch in my mind. What happened? How I can improve it? It’s loose, not too much details, usually a good formula. But my story isn’t there. The story is the soul of an urban sketch, so a sketch without a story is just an exercise of mark making and technique. And then something clicked. I knew what i had to do.
Next day I went back and sat on the same bench, same time. And this was my sketch:
My story is there, all the activity that happens every morning by the Schuylkill River Trail. Serious runners, amateur joggers, casual bikers and avid riders, all coexisting in the same place. And I think that’s wonderful. I feel this quick sketch is much more powerful than the one from the previous day, just by focusing on the real story and filtering out distractions. The buildings are there, but are not the story. The trees are there as well, but just as a backdrop. The overhead wires are definitely out. People moving along the path are the subject. Notice how irrelevant they were in the first sketch!
This is part of what we’ll be covering in the workshop. if you live nearby I invite you to join us. So, what’s your story?
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please let me know.