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Drawing on urban life

September 12, 2011 – 1:41 pm

Urban sketcher and architect Luiz Ruiz's sketch of Estepona beach.

We all take photos endlessly these days, using a wide variety of hardware, from the simplest mobile phone, via ipads, to digital cameras – from tough, chunky children’s models to high-tech professional ones, like photographer Michelle Chaplow on our website. I love photography, and the freedom which good digital cameras give you, to take reasonable photos in all lighting conditions, situations – I take thousands of photos every month, for blogs, of my children, of my garden. But what of other media, involving brushes, tubes, paints and paper?

The views I’m used to seeing of Andalucia’s towns and cities are photographic ones – the Mezquita in Cordoba, the beaches, the Alhambra. So it makes a very welcome change seeing these familiar sights not as photos, but as hand-drawn pictures. A new non-profit organisation called Urban Sketchers (USK, naturally), which started in the US, promotes the idea of “drawing on location”, where you live or where you travel to. It has members all over the world, including 70-odd in Spain, with Malaga having the biggest representation, as well as Seville and Cordoba.

The Mezquita in Cordoba, by urban sketcher Alvaro Carnicero, an architect who hails from the city.

Since Andalucia is such a gift to any pictorial representation, with its strong natural light, historic buildings and vibrant sense of life, there are many “urban sketchers” here. Most have a day job – often architects, who indulge their love of buildings by drawing them in their spare time. They’re usually watercolours rather than just sketches, but “urban watercolourists” doesn’t have quite the same impact.

Alvaro was working on this patio in Cordoba for his day job as an architect.

Detail of the arches in the patio.

They even organise “sketchcrawls”, where groups of artists meet and move around a city or town, from location to location (building, plaza, beach), each drawing their own version of what they see – street, buildings, trees, people. As you can see from these drawings, they use small, portable notebooks and paint across the spine.

These sketchcrawls have so far taken place in Granada, Seville, Cordoba, and most recently in Estepona and Malaga. Another is set for Puerto Santa Maria in October. The artists are extremely well organised, with blogs and Flickr pages full of their wonderful renderings of Andalucia’s most historic sights, as well as fascinating stage-by-stage videos of how they made their sketches.

Sketches by Luis Ruiz of the Malaga Feria.

These pictures by Malagueño urban sketcher, Luis Ruiz, of the Feria de Malaga, and were of particular interest to me, partly because I’ve never seen these colourful outfits before, and partly because I’d never heard of biznagas until this summer.

The Urban Sketchers do draw grittier urban scenes – the ones I’ve chosen here are of clearly touristic scenes – so for more examples of Andalucian Urban Sketches, see the links below.

Drawings used by kind permission of Alvaro Carnicero and Luis Ruiz. You can see more of Alvaro’s sketches on his Flickr page and his blog; Luiz Ruiz also has a Flickr page and blog; and Urban Sketchers Spain has its own site.

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