A Foray into Urban Sketching

A couple of days ago I ran across "Urban Sketchers" on Facebook. Wowzers! I am smitten! I absolutely love, love, love the idea because it's so much simpler than plein air painting. Granted plein air is wonderful, fabulous, marvelous, gorgeous, etc., etc. But, I have yet to figure out how one would do it in a city and since I'm not located near fabulous vistas of mountain ranges or vineyards or woodland streams, well... Urban Sketchers kind of fills the bill. Sure, I could go and take photos and come back to the studio and work up a painting, but that doesn't get me what I want - the immediacy of on site observation. Don't misunderstand me, I will do the photo thing, because there are incredibly interesting places in Detroit - ones of decay, that I find fascinating and their locations aren't going to lend themselves to "urban sketching" either. The camera does have its uses...

Anyway, since the weather today was not predicatable with its "scattered thunderstorms", I decided to forego the mural work and do some urban sketching instead. I grabbed a sketchbook and some pens and pencils - I couldn't find my travel watercolor sets. I only have three! One of them I left in Maui, last March. (I left most of my art supplies that I took, with my brother. I specifically did that so I wouldn't have to pack them ever again.) The other two are somewhere in my studio (?), a knapsack (?), a drawer (?), a coat pocket(?)... I don't know! I've actually been looking for them for about a month, but I can't find 'em. I have the travel watercolor brushes, but no pan sets. gr-r-r-r.... My straw hat, a power bar and my waterbottle completed my gear. So-o-o simple and out the door I went.

I decided to go to Bell Isle. I figured it was a hot day, being near the water would be nice. Besides, Belle Isle has lots of interesting and beautiful things on it. I drove Woodward Avenue down to the river. I much prefer Woodward Avenue to the expressway. The expressway is so boring. It's just a big concrete canal. Woodward is full of life. It may not always be pretty, but it's real! I contemplated going to Hart Plaza for a moment as I reached Jefferson Avenue and saw Joe Louis' fist, but decided to stick with the Belle Isle plan.

The island was still fairly quiet. Not a lot was going on. Some cars had arrived and people were starting their day of fun or going through their morning jogging session. I wanted to park in the shade since it was going to be another hot day. There was a nice patch of shade across from the Conservatory, so I thought, "Oh, I'll do the Conservatory roof. I can sit on my tailgate in the shade."

Oh, naive child of urban sketching... What the hell were you thinking?! Hello-o! Conservatory? Many, many panes of glass? This is what my muse started thumping me in the head with. "Okay, okay...", I argued back. "I can do this. It's just a sketch. Not an architechural rendering. Relax. It'll be fine..." And so I muddled on. I didn't want to get myself freaked out or bogged down so I gave myself a half an hour to complete the sketch.

This is what I came up with. Not terribly accurate, but it works for a sketch.

I then got up and walked over to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum building. On the grounds, near the entrance is the anchor of the Edmund Fitzgerald. To the left of the anchor is a large propeller. I don't know what the propeller belonged to because the bronze plaque is missing (removed by a scavenger, perhaps?). I don't know if it was from the the Edmund Fitzgerald, too. I don't think so, but I don't know. I found it to be quite interesting, sunken in cement and weed-filled cracks for evermore. Kind of run aground in an odd, permanent way. I did this sketch standing, which had me juggling my drawing tools and wishing I had eight fingers on my left hand so I could hold and manipulate everything easier.

And there you have it - my first foray into urban sketching.


dayana said…
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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