First-time urban sketchers share their experience at Sketcher Fest Edmonds 2023

Sketchers concentrate on their work during Sketcher Fest Edmonds.

Adrienne Benedict sketched and made notes in her drawing pad outside of Little Bipsy Collection by the downtown Edmonds fountain. Several sketchers sat near her — on a bench or folding stools on the sidewalk — quietly drawing what they saw in front of them as visitors and residents meandered past.

Some paused for a few seconds to watch what they were doing. One woman chatted with a sketcher for a few minutes and shared a laugh.

Adrienne Benedict shares her notes and sketches at Nishant Jain’s workshop on framing a composition.

Benedict, a Southern California resident, was among 150 attendees at Saturday’s workshops, part of the weekend-long Sketcher Fest Edmonds.

“I came here because I want to focus on urban sketching. My background is in landscapes,” she said. “And I thought this is a wonderful opportunity to come up and join Urban Sketchers Seattle and see a very beautiful part of the country.”

Urban Sketchers is a global community where people practice drawing what they see on location. Founded by artist Gabriel “Gabi” Campanario in 2007 on Flickr, these groups have sprouted in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand.

Nishant Jain provides a sample of how he frames his composition.

Benedict took Nishant Jain’s class on how to frame a composition, where Jain emphasized that it’s OK to make “bad art.”

“I learned how to simplify things,” she said. “Not to be worried about perfection, but to really appreciate and practice — like he said, ‘do bad art’ — lots of bad drawings today.”

Like Benedict, Carol Ulrich and Robbin Sheltren traveled to Edmonds together from the Bay Area of California to experience Sketch Fest Edmonds. For both of them, this was their first time doing art in public.

Carol Ulrich (left) and Robbin Sheltren sketch at the corner of the downtown Edmonds fountain.

“I had to bring my bravery because I’ve never been brave enough to sketch anything in front of anybody,” Ulrich said. “I got over it—obviously this morning — especially I just eased into it, which was fine. I got overloaded today. It’s a lot to take on because I’ve never done this before.”

Ulrich and Sheltren attended David Chamness’ workshop, during which they learned how to sketch quickly without worrying about the details.

David Chamness sketches the Kingston-Edmonds ferry at an outdoor workshop.

“I learned that I can sit down and draw in front of people and with people. And both of my teachers made me feel more confident that I could make mistakes and fix mistakes and not be so judgemental about my artwork,” Sheltren said. “Remember that it’s a joyful experience and to be sitting and drawing for the pure fun and joy of it, not to be producing something to hang on the wall.”

Seattle-based artist Eleanor Doughty was also one of the workshop teachers. She had taught urban sketching with Campanario around the world for several years.

Eleanor Doughty demonstrates sketching with calligraphy pens at the Edmonds Fishing Pier.

“I’m teaching a workshop on drawing with calligraphy pens,” she said. “The contrast of lines that you can get with one pen. With the same pen you can get a delicate thin line or a chunky bold line and some other lines in between. I’m just really excited that something was happening in our backyard — in Edmonds — and it’s a quick ride from Seattle.”

No one is certain if there will be a Sketcher Fest Edmonds next year, but if there is one, some attendees from out of state said they will likely return.

“I loved seeing how all the other different sketchers interpret the same thing and willing to see what I can do to improve, and just meeting all the other people from all over the country,” Benedict said. “I’ve never been to Edmonds before. Gorgeous here!”

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

  1. Nick – you totally hit the mark and describing what it was like for the new Sketchers coming to this event!

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