Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Capturing the Event

I was teaching two workshops on the second day of the Urban Sketching Symposium in Santo Domingo. I had seven students for the morning class and we all met at the Centro Cultural de Espana. A sheet of letter sized paper with a bold letter B was taped to the wall. So we could find one another.

My  morning workshop, Capturing the Event, was less about technique and  more about how to make Urban Sketching a daily habit. I'm convinced that artists have a roll in making others aware of the communities in which they live. My most important lesson was that you always have to finish the sketch, no matter what happens. I offered several examples of incidents in which people tried to interrupt the sketch but I still managed to get the sketch done. We walked along the water front and through the stoned streets of the historic city towards the workshop site.

The Workshop took place in Parque Independencia which is a fortification at the end of El Conde Street. There was a monument inside with three large sculptures reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. It was a hot day so I advised everyone to find shade. Barbara Boulter, (BJ) and I were drawn to the stoic guard at the entrance. BJ knew some Spanish so she asked if it was OK for her to borrow a chair. I had my own chair so I sat opposite her in the shade of the large stone arch facing the guard. I noticed two officers in camouflaged military fatigues arguing in the background. Then one of them approached me and started gesturing and speaking quickly in Spanish. I didn't understand a word, so I kept sketching. Through his hand gestures, I became vaguely aware that they must have had a problem with my chair. I then stood and continued to sketch. The senior officer seemed to be loosing patience with me. Finally one of my students, Natali Ovalles, a native of Santo Domingo, came over and translated.

Apparently there was some issue with my being visible from the street outside the fort. It was perceived as a breach of security. BJ was seated in a small alcove which hid her from passers by. With Natali translating, I negotiated for a spot from which I could draw. I sat diagonal to BJ and sketched the stoic guard from behind. The armed guard who had made me move stood behind me the whole time and watched every line that went on the page. A cannon was aimed out over the historic city. The bottom line is that I got the sketch done. Our group assembled near some park benches and compared notes. Kalina Wilson asked pointed questions that helped me further outline my thoughts as I execute each sketch. Minus the run in with armed guards, it was a fun first class. In this case, capturing the event, became the main event.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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