It looks like an innocent black-covered diary, nestled under a small zip-up case next to Frances Buckmaster’s coffee cup. But open it up and you’ll find an array of pens, pencils, erasers and colors, plus dozens of neatly outlined watercolor scenes: Tacoma’s Spanish Steps, the Museum of Glass cone, the roaster at Bluebeard Coffee.
What you see, though, isn’t just a sketchbook. It’s a visual record of the South Sound that is shared around the world because Buckmaster is part of the growing organization called Urban Sketchers, folks who meet to draw their environment and share it.
Begun by Seattle Times’ illustrator Gabriel Campanario in 2008, the Urban Sketchers movement has gone from a small group of Seattle enthusiasts to a global organization. Now a nonprofit, it has chapters in 31 countries from Australia to the Ukraine, 100 regular contributors on the central blog, annual international symposia and members who teach online drawing classes. The focus is on meeting monthly to draw a local neighborhood or site; the manifesto is to “show the world, one drawing at a time.” This is done both physically, with sketchers returning to a central place after a sketching session to compare work, and digitally, with contributors posting sketches on local blogs and Flickr sites, following artists around the world and discovering new techniques and places.
Buckmaster, a retired Puyallup Unitarian minister and avid sketcher, began the Tacoma group after a few long drives to Seattle Urban Sketcher meet-ups. Along with Renton artist Kate Buike, Bonney Lake printmaker Rom LaVerdiere and Kent designer Mark Ryan, they began Pierce County-based meet-ups on first Saturdays of the month (such as this Saturday at the Meeker Mansion in Puyallup) and launching a Tacoma blog and Flickr page.
The results? Improved art skills, and a deep connection to the world. All four Tacoma Urban Sketchers founders got together to talk with The News Tribune.