Winter Landscape with Skaters

I read a short text today that made me think about the artistic origin of urban sketching.

Avercamp- winter landscape with ice skaters

Winter Landscape with Skaters is a 1608 oil on oak painting by the Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


Urban sketching, as a contemporary phenomenon, is indebted to the Seattle-based journalist and illustrator Gabriel Campanario, who in 2007 created an online forum

for all sketchers out there who love to draw the cities where they live and visit, from the window of their homes, from a cafe, at a park, standing by a street corner… always on location, not from photos or memory.

A year later, Campanario invited a group of sketchers to share their drawings and storytelling in a blog, Urban Sketchers, where readers could

“See the World, One Drawing at a Time.”

As of today the Urban Sketchers facebook group has 59 821 members, and the next big symposium will be held in Porto in 2018.

These are a few of my favorite contemporary urban sketchers (they will not necessarily call themselves this – but one could)

FELIX jerusalem

Felix Scheinberger: Jerusalem 2009



Daniel Nies: Venice (2017)


The absolute biggest shining star in my urban sketching univers at the moment, is the Japanese sketcher Yohji Kato.

Kato snow

Yohji Kato


But even if urban sketching as a concept was invented in 2007, the need for making ordinary life into art has been there all the time. To be human, I have come to believe, is to create – in one form or another. We have always had the need to capture our surroundings, telling stories about people, time & places through verbal and/or visual notes. Sometimes the result of this activity is called art, sometimes sketching or journalling. I’m not really that interested in the labelling, what delights me is the fact that so many of us do it – even in these extremely digitalized times.


I planned to say something wise, in this post, about a time and place which seems to have been exceptionally fertile for “urban sketching” – the art of the 17th century Holland; but I think I have already written more than enough for one post. So instead I’ll leave you with this exceptionally beautiful piece of historical urban “sketching”:

The Courtyard of a House in Delft

Pieter de Hooch: The Courtyard of a House in Delft (1658)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. bluebrightly says:

    Delightful all around!

  2. Joe Hart says:

    So interesting to think about the genealogy of this. I wonder if there are earlier sketches that have been lost to time… I’m sure there are. Thanks for sharing – never thought about this before!

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