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Enniskerry – a charming tiny village on the outskirts of Dublin and on the edge of the Wicklow mountains – was a hub of artistic activity this past weekend. Usually packed with Sunday hikers and bikers en route to the forests and trails of the Wicklow countryside, this time it was artists and sketchers that had the quiet village abuzz for the Spring ArtFest at the Schoolhouse for Art. As music played and the sun shone between torrential downpours, we gathered in groups in the Schoolhouse sculpture garden to sketch the clock tower and pretty facade of shopfronts that grace the village centre.

The Schoolhouse offers art classes and workshops in all media – oil, pastel, watercolour, sculpture, portrait, life drawing and childrens’ classes – but this weekend we wanted to introduce something new –  the art of Urban Sketching – to our area. While Urban Sketching has taken off around the world it has been slow to take hold in Ireland.  Our sole regional correspondent, Róisín Curé is doing a magnificent job of holding the fort and spreading the word in Galway, and now, starting here in tiny Enniskerry, Urban Sketching has arrived in Leinster!

imageBy sheer good fortune and a series of happy coincidences, Roisín herself was with us all weekend to inspire, encourage and get our fledgling sketching group off the ground. After two full days of talks, demos and guided sketching events, we have 25 “Leinster Urban Sketchers” ready to go.

The appeal of Urban Sketching is huge, and very natural – it’s the ease and simplicity – just you and your sketchbook, some simple materials, and this present moment before your eyes. No pressure to perform or produce, no time consuming set up, no stress. This truly is “art for everyone” – open, easy, natural and fun.

imageI teach oil painting at the Schoolhouse, with a group of talented and dedicated artists who take their art very seriously. What Urban Sketching offers us is art with no purpose other than the enjoyment of the process, and the strengthening of our “seeing”. Our sketches stand alone on their own merits as a testimony to the time we spend absorbing and recording our impressions. With no goal to reach or standard to attain, we are free to enjoy the exploration and new discovery that may result, and lose our inhibitions in the process. It allows us to get unstuck and see with fresh eyes.

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My own journey as an Urban Sketcher started long before anyone had thought of the term – in 1974 as a student of art history travelling around Europe.  I recently came across my Venice sketchbook from that trip – my only record, because I had no camera – and the memories it evokes are as fresh as ever. The act of sketching anchors you in time and place, that special quality of attention creating your most memorable moments.

Ireland is just waiting to be discovered by the global sketching community. With our glorious green countryside, vibrant cities, lively pubs and rich musical and cultural heritage, it is a perfect sketching destination.  As we grow our home base of Urban Sketchers, we look forward to welcoming many of you from all over the world to join us here