If you've ever seen a motley crew of ten or so individuals in Pastime Ace Hardware in El Cerrito sketching a row of toilet seats — enraptured — or tracing columns of roast ducks on a corner in Oakland Chinatown, you've probably encountered the Bay Area branch of Urban Sketchers. Their subjects may skew toward the ordinary, but their goal is to capture the extraordinary therein.
Urban Sketchers is an international organization started by Spanish-born illustrator and journalist Gabriel Campanario, a staff artist and blogger at The Seattle Times who in 2007 noticed a bourgeoning online community of people sharing various on-location sketches. As is so often the case, Campanario realized it was high time to start a blog. From London to Lisbon to Singapore to Seoul, sketchers from more than fifty cities in more than thirty countries began posting their renderings on the nascent Urban Sketchers site. As the community grew, people realized that others nearby shared their passion for sketching. The San Francisco Bay Area group started three years ago with that premise.
"Traditionally, artists have tried to do pretty, and that was often showing the beauty of nature," said Jana Bouc, a member of the Urban Sketchers Bay Area group. "We happen to find beauty and — mostly curiosity I guess — in urban areas."
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This article was originally published on EastBayExpress.com on January 16, 2013.