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3 Lessons I Learned Hanging With 70 Artists

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See. Do. Share.

A group of artists in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area gathers monthly to sketch. They call themselves MetroSketchers. These are talented people with facility for capturing life on a page. Yesterday I showed up to sketch alongside them at the Como Zoo in Saint Paul.

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  1. Look To See. It’s easy to spot these sketchers in the crowds at Como. They are the ones balancing a sketchbook, and possibly watercolors or an arsenal of color pencils. They are the ones looking up and down and up and down at the very scene I dismissed with a quick glance. It’s the lingering look with an intent on capturing what they saw that was meaningful to me. Sketchers linger far longer than the causal passer-by. They must.
  2. Do It. Right now. That’s it—just get it on paper. Whatever you can. This is a lesson that carries over for me from writing. Do it badly, but just get one good stroke on the paper. One good mark among many bad marks. My great contribution to the day’s artistry was the Polar Bear Butt (the only animal who insisted on posing). Bad as it is, it is still a move toward representation.
  3. Share It. These uniformly talented people were also great encouragers. To a person they were all about what you saw and the marks you made in response. They found good stuff to say even when good stuff was pretty well hidden behind lots of not-good stuff. They also loved to talk about paper weight, the best inks to use, how small they can pack a watercolor kit and, “…here, let’s just walk through my sketchbook together.”

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I spoke with many during the sketching and they were more than happy to show what they were doing, to describe how they were seeing and to talk about the difficulties in representation.

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More than one sketcher expressed delight in what they were seeing—and if that is not a perfect reward for the interaction between drawing and seeing, then I don’t know what is.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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