Lecture: Passing By, Stopping, Walking On: Urban Sketching in Context

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By Ruth Rosengarten

Urban sketching is all about observational drawing on location, as if to say “I am here, now.” In this paper, I situate such a testimonial claim historically at the intersection of various different disciplines: architectural drawing, ethnographic watercolours, and the representation of everyday life. Asking why, in an age of digital technologies of image capture and reproduction, so many people love the manual activity of drawing, love to apprehend what they see in their own cities and in places to which they travel, I examine the urban sketch in relation to the broader activity of walking in the city.

Desenho urbano ou “urban sketching” como é conhecido, é sobre desenho de observação no local como se afirmássemos a nossa presença pelo acto, “eu estou aqui, agora.” Nesta apresentação, situo esta afirmação reivindicativa do “urban sketching” na intersecção de várias disciplinas: desenho de arquitectura, aguarelas etnográficas e a representação do quotidiano.
Questionando o porquê deste interesse, na época das tecnologias digitais, que leva tantas pessoas a um desempenho manual, a desenharem o que vêem na cidade em que vivem ou nas cidades em que viajam, eu examino o “urban sketching”em relação à actividade mais ampla de caminhar na cidade.


"Carnaval da Rua da Prancha," by Jean-Baptiste Debret. From the grand series of engravings collected into three volumes as Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Brésil, ou Séjour d'un Artiste Français au Brésil ("A Picturesque and Historic Voyage to Brazil, or the Sojourn of a French Artist in Brazil", made between 1816 and 1831 and published in France between 1834 and 1839.