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Drawing with the Next Generation of Urban Sketchers at Atelier Communidée

June 12, 2014

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The other day I was talking to Julie Prescesky of Design, and she revealed something very cool. She’s a mom and a home-schooler, and, as the resident artist in her co-op Atelier Communidée (French word-play on Community and Idea), she is making sure the kids have a great art program that includes Urban Sketching.

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I dropped by the school to meet the kids and do a couple of hours sketching down by Montreal’s Lachine Canal. They seemed old-hands at field sketching. Some of them immediately found the best vantage point on top of a stone lion.

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I was impressed how well they did, even the younger ones were into drawing from observation. Trying to make a record of what they saw. I don’t mean that’s the limit of their imagination – at least one fellow was drawing a big turkey leg on a dinner plate. And it wasn’t even that close to lunch time.

As a kid, I certainly didn’t have the concept of location drawing introduced this early. It was all storybook drawings and comics at first. This has the potential to radically change up a kid’s approach to learning to draw. Clearly I’m not a parent, or I’d have clued into this earlier. I wonder if anyone else out there is doing Urban Sketching with kids? Let us know about your program – it’s always possible you have a USk correspondent in your area!

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Here’s a short Q&A with Julie, and some pics from the day.

MTH: How would you describe your art program – just a few lines I can use to introduce you:

JP: Centre Communidée is a community run centre in St-Henri catering to homelearners in the Greater Montreal area, and beyond. We are a group of parents who collectively offer our children learning opportunities in areas we have skill (and/or interest) in.

Atelier Communidée is a workshop space we’ve recently added to our Centre that facilitates woodworking, pottery, sewing and more for us AND the greater public. More info on how to join [here] .

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MTH: Was it in fact USK (Montreal) that got you interested in taking the kids out and drawing on location – or were you doing it already?

JP: I seem to recall admiring the USK:MTL blog and Facebook posts long before I ever actually joined you guys for a Sunday Sketchcrawl. I started getting out and sketching urban environments on my own and really fell in love with it. I had been teaching a basic drawing class to the kids at the Centre at the time, and, with the weather changing for the better, I thought the kids might enjoy getting out there too.

That was when I met with USK:MTL for the Little Burgundy Sketchcrawl and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. I was in love. And I was excited to share it with the kids. So, yes, USK:MTL planted that seed, absolutely. (Ed. Note: *fist pump – yes!*)

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MTH: Do you notice any of the kids engaging with the world through drawing on their own, outside of ‘official’ drawing time?

JP: Indeed! One parent told me that after only one session with us, her daughter was out and about in their neighborhood sketching all of the time. My own daughter will sometimes draw herself to sleep. Sure not outdoors, but she’ll use drawing as a way to calm her mind and prepare for bed. My boys draw crazy contraptions all of the time, but they haven’t yet crossed the threshold of wanting to wander outside and draw on their own.

I think having the opportunity to go out and draw on a regular basis with their friends will help inspire them to do it also during their own time. I try to keep drawing time really low pressure. Nothing squashes interest like expectations. The goal is to have fun. I want to foster a positive connection to drawing for these kids.

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MTH: What do you think are the benefits to starting observational drawing so young?

JP: We have a wide array of ages in our little group, from toddler thru teenager, to mature adult, and we all mix and mingle together. I’ve seen that the younger ones, though still sometimes self-conscious, tend to have an easier time letting go of what something is “supposed” to look like. It seems like a much scarier thing for the adults to do.

Sketching and “learning to see” is a great tool for recognizing that things that once seemed unattainable, are absolutely within their grasp, and all it takes is an appropriate attitude (i.e., a willingness to try despite self-doubt, or a willingness to let go of the notion that they CAN’T do it).

We have also noticed that observational drawing helps you to connect with your environment in a very quiet, yet spectacular way. Things you’ve passed by hundreds of times suddenly become fresh and beautiful. You start to form a different kind of relationship with that place.

Just like music holds memory, and scent holds memory, I think these sketches will hold memory for our little urban sketchers. And, it could very possibly yield a sense of greater pride in our community.

You can see some of our urban sketching adventures in and around St-Henri on my blog.

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MTH: Thanks to Julie for inviting us to her kids sketching group, and I hope they keep at it, and one day we’ll see them sketching at a USk event!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2014 9:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article and pictures. – Sharon

  2. julesmae permalink
    June 12, 2014 11:11 PM

    Love it! Thanks Marc. The kids will be thrilled.

  3. June 30, 2014 7:57 PM

    Marc, I don’t know how I missed this post! I’ve been teaching observational sketching (sometimes in the wilds, sometimes in urban locations) to kids and adults for years. It’s what I did before I moved to Quebec, and I’m back at it, now that my French is adequate. I would love to “chew the fat” re facilitating observational drawing for children, and the possibility of collaborating on that here in QC or in Montreal.

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