Arts & Culture

Tacoma’s the big draw at the annual West Coast Sketch Crawl

Quick, draw! Tacoma hosts the West Coast Sketch Crawl

Tacoma's Urban Sketchers have been roaming the city with pencils and paper for three years now, but this weekend they're going big by hosting the 4th annual West Coast Sketch Crawl. The two days of sketching and sharing are free and open to anyone
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Tacoma's Urban Sketchers have been roaming the city with pencils and paper for three years now, but this weekend they're going big by hosting the 4th annual West Coast Sketch Crawl. The two days of sketching and sharing are free and open to anyone

The mission is simple: Get as many people sketching together as you can. Experts, beginners, it doesn’t matter. The annual West Coast Sketch Crawl is open to anyone who wants to draw — and this year it’s in Tacoma. Organized by Tacoma’s Urban Sketchers, the event this weekend will bring sketchers from up and down the coast to draw, share and explore our city one pencil line at a time.

“It’s an exciting thing to have 100, 150 urban sketchers together with all the different styles,” says co-organizer Frances Buckmaster, at a recent sketch-out for the Tacoma group.

It’s an exciting thing to have 100, 150 urban sketchers together with all the different styles.

Frances Buckmaster, Tacoma Urban Sketchers

“And we really wanted to showcase Tacoma,” says co-organizer Kate Buike.

Buckmaster and Buike have 160 people signed up for the welcome dinner Friday (sign-up now closed), and while that includes partners and spouses, they’re expecting many to show up to the sketching sessions starting at the Washington State History Museum on Saturday morning and Tacoma Art Museum on Sunday morning.

The urban sketching movement, started by Seattle Times artist Gabriel Campanario in 2007, has caught on around the world. Now a nonprofit with a goal to show the world through drawing, it has international chapters and symposia, a robust online community and 32 chapters across the U.S. from the District of Columbia to Oahu.

Tacoma’s chapter, begun three years ago by Buckmaster with just a monthly sketch outing, now sees around 20 folks show up four times a month. The premise is straightforward: Meet at a scenic location (indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather), fan out to sketch whatever you like, then meet again as a group to share sketches. The goal is learning and having fun, rather than critiquing.

“We share, we don’t compare,” says Buckmaster, quoting an Australian sketcher.

For the West Coast Sketch Crawl, the idea expands into several days and locations with a much bigger group: more styles, more ideas. This is the fourth crawl, with previous ones held in Portland, San Francisco and San Diego.

For Tacoma, it’s an honor, say organizers. For visiting sketchers, it’s a reason to explore a new place with people who know the area. For locals, it’s a chance to meet folks and show off your town.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people from all over,” says Rebecca Vader. An engineer by profession, she’s new to sketching but looked completely in her element at the last Tacoma sketch-out. Surrounded by pens, pencils and watercolors, she sat cross-legged on the sidewalk across from the downtown library to sketch its exterior.

“I live over by the Narrows Bridge,” she says, “so I’m hoping to get a group over near the bridge around sunset. Tacoma’s a great city (to sketch), but it’s a morning city.”

While the welcome dinner sign-up deadline has passed, the rest of the events are open for anyone to join in.

There’s also an added visual component: a retrospective group exhibit by the Tacoma Urban Sketchers at the downtown library’s Handforth Gallery. Organized in groups by artist, it’s a big show that offers both a window into Tacoma and a surprising variety of sketching styles. Roy Cutler does neat, detailed work with simple palettes of two-to-three colors, like a Harley Davidson with greenish tires and magenta metalwork. Evelyn Redfield and Ray Steiner are more impressionistic, with dabs of color in a fruit stand or swirls of light on the Freighthouse Square windows. Ken Fulton does neat black-and-white close-ups of landscapes, while Rom LaVerdiere fills out clear, architectural sketches of landmarks like Old City Hall or the Heritage Park rotunda in Sumner.

In keeping with the group’s goal of inclusivity, everything at the West Coast Sketch Crawl, from sketch-outs to show, is free.

“We try and keep it as simple as possible,” says Buckmaster. “To serve the public that would like to sketch, and involve them in a community of artists.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti

West Coast Sketch Crawl

Saturday: Registration begins 8 a.m. Saturday near the auditorium of the Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. Sketching begins 9:15 a.m. Meet to share sketches at 11:30 a.m. on plaza at Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. Final sketch share at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Sunday: Meet at 9 a.m. by front door of Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. Meet again to share sketches at 11:30 a.m. in Tollefson Plaza, 1700 Pacific Ave., Tacoma.

And also: Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass and State History Museum will offer reduced admission for badge-holders.

Cost: Free; bring snacks, drinks, sketching supplies.

Information: 4thwcuskskcrawl.blogspot.com.

Urban Sketchers Exhibit

When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Sept. 6.

Where: Handforth Gallery, Tacoma Public Library main branch, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma.

Cost: Free.

Information: tacomapubliclibrary.org.

Urban Sketchouts

When: Next one 10 a.m. Aug. 25.

Where: St. Nicholas Church, 3510 Rosedale St. NW, Gig Harbor.

Cost: Free; bring snacks, drinks, sketching supplies.

Information: urbansketcherstacoma.blogspot.com.

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