Sometimes it seems there is a gap between the art world and the exploding popularity occurring in the sketching world. Regularly we hear people define ‘sketch’ as an ‘unfinished work’, a definition that might have been fine when Monet was noodling his ideas about lily pads. But this is not what modern nature sketchers, urban sketchers, travel journalists, etc. are doing. Our sketches are finished works and they’re ending up on stamps and in books. They’re being sold, either as originals or as prints.
Sketching has become a representational art form unto itself. There are new books on sketching or containing sketches being released so regularly that it’s hard to keep up with them. Typically modern sketches are done in sketchbooks, in limited periods of time. Often the artist is sitting on a tripod stool, on location, possibly chatting with passers-by. For most sketchers, their emphasis has shifted from the creation of art to hang on walls to simply enjoying the process of art. Some sketch with precision. Others sketch in very loose fashion. Some border on doing caricatures of their world. Somehow, in spite of these different approaches, there is a unity in what sketchers do, mostly related to the process of doing.
While different from studio art, sketching nevertheless shares many aspects with it and I sometimes lament the fact that so many artists don’t understand, or even know of in this growing part of the art world. But something happened in Quebec City last week that was one of those “we’ve come a long way baby” moments.
It came in the form of a book launch for a wonderful book titled Le Carnet Des Escaliers De Québec. The book was a collaborative effort organized by Natalie St-Pierre. It contains 180 pages of great sketches that represent the majority of the staircases that exist in Quebec City. As an aside, we have a LOT of them because of the nature of the city, including several containing hundreds of steps. The artists involved were, Natalie, Hugette Asselin, Guylaine Côté, Louise Denault, Magelline Gagnon, Louise Grenier, Sylvie Riverin, Monique Rousseau and Pierre Toupin, the token male in the group. Marie Dagenais wrote the text for the book.
The book is not just a great compilation of sketches, however. It’s truly a tourist guide to the stairways. Maps, beautiful sketches themselves, locate all of the stairways ane descriptions and histories of each stairway provide insights into Quebec and its development.
The quality of the book is sufficient reason to write this post but the book launch says something about just how far the sketching world has come. This launch was held at City Hall. It was an invitation only event and was hosted by the mayor. Now if you live in a small town, you might expect a mayor to host a book launch by a group of locals. But Quebec City has 700,000 people in it; our mayor is a busy guy and yet he spent an hour at the book launch. Roughly 100 people were in attendance and we were served amazing hors d’ouevres and wine, along with great conversations. It was truly an inspired and inspiring gathering.