Sunday, January 22, 2017

Urban Sketching and Social Justice

I was weary after attending the huge, hours long Womxn’s March in Seattle on January 21, 2017.  Yet, at the same time, I felt mobilized because at day’s end, I had to ask myself for the umpteenth time in my life: ‘Who am I now? Who will I yet become?’ A powerful, meaningful event is an agent for change.

Recently, I’ve been paying ever-more attention to REPORTAGE SKETCHING—because it seems to be fitting for exploring my interest in what it means to be a citizen today.  Reportage is about sketching an unfolding or ‘breaking story’ which depicts people and their concerns in a specific context. 

I left the Womxn’s March knowing I will be spending much more of my time actively supporting values and concerns which must be attended to, nurtured, fed, protected, and supported in every era, in order for them to survive and even better, thrive. 

The Womxn's March helped me learn some things about reportage sketching:

I began the morning at 4th and Pine in Seattle simply thinking, “I’ll just stand right here and sketch the marchers.” Oh naïve sketcher. I was surrounded by people. I was merely one little fish egg in a pound of caviar…one tiny grain of sand on a vast sandy beach. Even hours before the event began,  I was completely separated from having A CLEAR VIEW OF THE STREET where the March would  take place. What now?

I decided to sketch the tops of the tall buildings, the tops of light poles, the tops of  trees while I waited…which I did. It was my idea to capture marchers, eventually, at the bottom of my page. I tested my theory by adding a few people already present, but quickly got confused and lost control, IN INK....
So…. I turned to a blank page.

Suddenly a well prepared troupe of religious folks with huge signs marched by using bull horns to share their thoughts. Next came a jolly phalanx of police on bicycles (I could see their heads, and therefore, their smiles.). They were ensuring the pink-hatted sidewalk crowds were leaving room for the pink-hatted marchers. I could see, in bits and pieces, when the river of marchers finally began passing by. What to do with THAT on my blank page?

I remembered: Urban Sketchers sketch what they see before them, being true to what is present, not sketching from photographs or imagination. Well then, Pink-hatted Urban Sketcher Woman: Do that!

 I began thinking and seeing foreground, middle ground, and background before me, instead of the chaos.  So, I sketched the closest person in front of me, mere inches away. It was a person who seemed to have an intent to be there for awhile. Next, I sketched other folks to her right and left. None of these folks were actually standing there at the same time.

My middle-ground-marcher-attempts blended so much with my background marchers, that I forgave myself my lack of giving them definitive space. I concentrated instead on two things: capturing the quickly passing pink hats, and the quickly passing sign boards. Next , I added heads under pink hats, and added sticks to the signboards, and finally, I attached bodies of currently passing marchers to all of the above. 

What still remained to do? I relaxed and waited. At ease, I wrote onto my blank signboards the best sign slogans that happened by, when I was ready to render signage. Done. Whew! 

I added colors to my sketch at home….as, I relaxed with my feet up, listening to the day's news and our President's latest tweet. 



To see some sketches and read stories  by Seattle Sketchers go to:

1 comment:

  1. You nailed "reportage sketching," and I, too, would like to do more of it to raise awareness. It's one of many things I hope to move forward on as a path of action. I felt so invigorated by the march and knowing I'm not alone! Indeed, we are very strong together!