Urban Sketchers take to the streets instead of the studio

[blockquote quote=”“We have 56 local artists who are members of our Facebook group,” source=”Jim Bumgarner” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]”R

Renee Martinez of Richland looks forward to Wednesdays. That’s the day she meets up with fellow artists at different locations each week to sketch whatever suits her fancy.

Her subjects vary from week to week because the environment changes, which is what the Tri-City chapter of Urban Sketchers is all about. For Martinez, the ritual not only helps keep her artistic talents honed, it also provides some therapy for a traumatic brain injury she sustained a year ago. She took a fall in her front yard and ended up with a slow bleed in her brain, she explained.

“(Doing art) is good for people with brain injuries like mine,” Martinez said. Traumatic brain injuries can produce cognitive, physical, behavioral or emotional impairments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site. By continuing her sketching, Martinez says her memory and attention span have improved.

Martinez is one of dozens of like-minded Mid-Columbia artists who meet once a week for a sketching outing.
The group is part of a global community of artists who practice drawing in various cities, towns and villages where they live or where they travel.

The movement was started on Flickr in 2007 by journalist Gabriel Campanario. The local group was organized by Jim Bumgarner and Dave Pointer in 2011. “We have 56 local artists who are members of our Facebook group,” Bumgarner said. “Attendance at our weekly sketch sessions averages at about a dozen. We have had as few as one and as many as 20, so interest is growing.” And it doesn’t cost a dime to be a part of Urban Sketchers, he added.

“There is no commitment or fees, and artists come and go all the time,” he said. All you need is a pen, a pencil, a brush and paper to sketch on. And there’s also a comaraderie among the artists that keeps Kathy Criddle of Richland involved with the group.

“I have made some wonderful friends here,” she said. “They educate, give helpful hints, are encouraging and they don’t judge. They just inspire you to create.” Another member, Patti Kirch from Kennewick, finds that being involved with Urban Sketchers inspires her to be even more creative with her tapestry art. “We draw what we see and sometimes that gives me ideas for tapestry projects,” she said.

As for Martinez, she believes everyone is an artist at heart and Urban Sketchers is a great place to see how far you can take it, whether a person has ever attempted the art form or not.  “Just pick up a pen, pencil or brush and anything is possible,” she said.

Bumgarner said the group has a simple purpose. “We draw the world, one sketch at a time.”

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More information about Urban Sketchers can be found online at www.509urbansketchers.blogspot.com.


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