Sunday Sketch: Urban Sketching in Minnesota

Urban sketching is a pastime gaining in popularity here in Minnesota. Urban sketchers draw on location, indoors and outside using direct observation. Urban sketchers are not always professional artists. Sketching facilitates placemaking; sketching in a city requires time and concentrated observation, rooting the sketcher in one place for few minutes or several hours. Not surprisingly, there are several architects among urban sketchers in the Twin Cities.

Artists sketching on location in cities has likely been around for as long as there have been cities and artists, but the new crop of sketchers are linked by the ability to easily post and share their sketches as well as share tips and organize sketching trips, or sketch-outs. Another reason why sketching has grown in popularity is the creation and rehabilitation of parks and public spaces worthy of sketching such as the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis or the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

Seattle Times artist and reporter Gabi Campanario started the Urban Sketchers movement in 2007 with a Flickr site that led to the creation of the Urban Sketchers blog. There are now scores of Urban Sketchers franchises in cities around the world including the Twin Cities (I am the admin of the Twin Cities Urban Sketchers blog). The mission of Urban Sketchers is to “show the world one drawing at a time”. There are a few rules that prohibit sketches that use photography and imagination, allowing wide latitude of styles and mediums. Some Urban Sketchers prefer to pursue their craft alone and others sketch together in groups – it’s a lot of fun.

There’s a whole lot of drawing and sketching going on in the Twin Cities has a good bunch of sketchers. The Metro Sketchers, a Facebook group created and managed by artists Tim Jennen and Liz Carlson meets every month at a different location. For sketchers who prefer to sketch in journals, there’s the Minnesota Center for Book Arts Visual Journal Collective created by sketching/journaling guru Roz Stendahl and now helmed by Suzanne Hughes. The University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History has a sketch night every month during the academic year. There’s a Community Drawing Circle at the Black Dog café in Lowertown led by artists Tacoumba Aiken and Lisa Mathieson the third Sunday of every month. Every year the aforementioned Roz Stendahl leads a sketch-out safari to the Minnesota State Fair – video from last year’s State Fair sketch-out on Roz’s blog.

In future posts of Sunday Sketch, I’ll be posting my urban sketches and sketches of other Twin Cities sketchers. I’ll also write about observations and thoughts I have while sketching our urban landscape. I won’t be dwelling on artistic stuff too much, but if readers have any questions about art materials or techniques, they can leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer the question.

Until next time, here are three sketches I did a while back in Minneapolis, panoramas of the Stone Arch Bridge, the Sabo Bridge on the Midtown Greenway and the Open Streets on Lyndale Avenue.




Ken Avidor

About Ken Avidor

Ken Avidor is an illustrator, cartoonist and occasional courtroom sketch artist. Ken Avidor is an active urban sketcher and maintains a daily, illustrated journal. Ken is married to urban cartographer and talented sketch artist Roberta Avidor in the Union Depot in Lowertown, Saint Paul. Follow Ken and Roberta's sketching/bicycling adventures on their travel blog.