Preserving landmarks on paper

When the Urban Sketchers showed up at David Pecaut Square beside Roy Thompson Hall on Sept. 20, they weren’t expecting it to be filled with trucks, workmen and assorted junk being dismantled from the closing of TIFF that day. But that is the beauty of sketching, you can ignore anything you don’t want to see and concentrate on the good bits.

Urban Sketchers is a group of dedicated people who—as their name implies—sketch urban settings. They do so around the world. From a small beginning in Seattle in 2006, they have evolved into a world-wide movement sharing their sketches on social media and gathering, those who can, in one city somewhere in the world for a yearly convention and show. Last year’s gathering was in Singapore, and next year’s will be in Manchester.

Toronto group organizer Marie-Judith “MJ” Jean-Louis actually became the founder of the Toronto group by attending the 2012 Barcelona event.

“We had just moved to Toronto and I didn’t find a group that met on a regular basis. After talking to some of the sketchers in Barcelona, they suggested I just start one,” Jean-Louis recalled. “I also connected with the organizer from Kitchener Urban Sketchers who was also in Barcelona and when I came back to Toronto, after settling in, I started the group.”

The Toronto group contacted The Bulletin‘s history columnist Bruce Bell in August looking for recommendations for historic and endangered landmarks to sketch before they disappear. That project produced some lovely results—including a sketch of iconic Honest Ed’s at Bathurst and Bloor—that will be turned into a book and a show at the Areej Gallery on the Danforth from Dec. 5 to 19.

Sketching is something that can be (and usually is) done individually but through Facebook and Meetup Groups, the local bands organize regular Sunday outings. Twenty to 30 people meet, they disperse, they sketch and return a few hours later to share their trophies. It’s an all-season, all-weather activity (although in winter they tend to look for more salubrious indoor venues).

Jean-Louis explains what keeps her going: “There’s a lot. First it’s the opportunity to spend time with other creatives doing something fun and relaxing while discovering various parts of the city. There’s a lot to see in Toronto and I don’t think I would know as many places as I do now after being here for barely over two years, and there’s so much more to explore. There’s also so much to discover in the city and experience. I also love to see the works of so many talented people and learn from their techniques.”

For more information and samples of the group’s work, visit Toronto Urban Sketchers on Facebook.

Posted On: October 01, 2015