We Need a Travelsketchers Manifesto

We need a Travelsketchers Manifesto. I am an Urban Sketcher who wholeheartedly supports and embraces the Urban Sketchers Manifesto, only tagging posts with #usk if they conform. But I am also a travelsketcher, as are the majority of the Urban Sketchers out there, I have travelled with sketchbook in hand for 25+ years. So why a Travelsketchers Manifesto?

First a bit of history. In 2007 Urban Sketching (USK) began in Seattle, WA, the area where I lived for the last 35 years before moving to France. Gabe Campanario began posting sketches on Flikr, the idea spread as other artists posted – Gabe started an Urban Sketchers Blog, and started the first USK group. In 2009 Urban Sketchers was established as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit group. Since then the movement has grown to chapters in 60 countries and 336 cities. There are over 120,000 official members and thousands of unofficial members such as myself that practice and embrace the USK Manifesto. Gabe deserves so much credit for stimulating sketchers around the world to connect and share what they do, thank you Gabe.

So why a Travelsketchers Manifesto? Let’s begin with a quick look at the USK Motto and Manifesto.

Urban Sketching, “Seeing the world one sketch at a time.” The USK website declares their manifesto and values:

1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

2. Our drawings tell the story of our surrounding, the places we live, and where we travel.

3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.

4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.

6. We support each other and draw together.

7. We share our drawings online.

8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

Here is an USK I did on a trip to Rome a couple of months ago – done on location one cold early morning from a cafe across from our hotel. It fits all of the criteria for an urban sketch.

Here is a sketch I did yesterday from a visit to Jorge Castle in Lisbon. We had a wonderful time, climbed way too many stairs, and enjoyed amazing views of the city. However when I posted this sketch on Instagram I did not tag it #usk for one reason, it was not done on location, it was done in the hotel room from a photo I took earlier in the day.

My mantra, that followers of this blog hear frequently, is that we sketch to capture the moment. Ideally that aligns completely with the first item of the USK Manifesto, and it is by far my preferred situation. Sitting down to do a sketch, rather than the take-a-selfie-and-run style of travel, lets you experience the time and place in a way like no other. In these situation USK and TSK are the same.

Often, in the realities of travel, the luxury of always having an hour or so at a place is not realistic. If you are with a group, on a tour, or have a tight schedule you still want to sketch, but may need to make some adjustments – even if your travel partner is as supportive of me taking all the time I need, as Tricia is.

One adjustment is to learn to do really quick sketches, five minutes or less. Here is one I did in Sintra, Portugal this morning, and it does in fact align with the USK guidelines – but it is pretty loose to say the least, pretty much just the skyline outline of the Moorish Castle. It took no more than one minute, it would have been nice to do something more complete, and I may do that yet.

So if I was to write a new Travelsketchers Manifesto it would include all of the USK Manifesto, with a couple of tweaks.

The Travelsketchers motto would be: “Capture the moment, share a place, then relive a memory.” The day before we left France to come to Lisbon I flipped through the pages of a sketchbook from earlier in the year, many of those sketches brought back memories and even the emotions of a time and a place in the past, this is one reason I sketch.

The major tweak I would make would be to allow sketching from photos you took while traveling. When Tricia and I travel we usually spend our evenings in the hotel room, she sorts her photos that she will use in her blog, while I sketch from a photo I took during the day’s wandering. These evenings are one of the favorite parts of our journeys.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Whatever you do, keep on traveling, capturing the moments as you go, sharing the sketches for us to enjoy. Here are few more recent sketches some Urban, some Travelsketches, some both.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Good idea; you need to start a movement!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. griswhirl says:

    Hi Terry!  I love your post about travel sketching and agree who

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, you can always tag posts to #thetravelsketcher, or #travelsketching that are not USK.


  3. I love the thought of sitting down, taking the time to sketch a scene rather than the current trend of posing 100 times for the perfect shot which misses the scene entirely. But…. I can’t draw. So I do sit or stand and admire at times.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Except… I believe everyone can capture a m’ont on paper, we are not trying to create a piece of art, only a memory. I just read about a lady who when in a hurry just paints a large dot of a color that reminds her of the place.

      And, I am convinced everyone can draw a bit, you did when you were a child. If you want I bet with a couple hints you cold be doing something surprising.


      1. That’s probably true but both my brothers are artists so I guess I have high expectations that never work out. Maybe I’ll try 😊 Maggie


  4. I certainly agree Terry. Travelling in a caravan is a stop, go affair. Sometimes I have hours to paint flowers and other times it’s go go go. The evenings are a time of peace and reflection a time to listen to the night noises and become immersed drawing the details of an intriguing building. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oddly some of my super fast sketches, that are quite unpolished, get great responses when they are posted, better than some i have spent a long time doing, go figure.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Shirley says:

    My two cents…..The finished product and the feeling it evokes is all that matters; whether you create and/or finalize the sketch from a memory or a photo. I imagine there is real satisfaction in putting on the finishing touches that you might not have time to do while sitting in a cafe or perched on a stone wall looking at the view. SO–I vote for the Travel Sketcher’s Manifesto that lets you capture the memory any way you want! (Loved all your sketches in this post….)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that, but the logic behind the USK thing was to creat a climate of sketchers doing things together and sharing, it has worked so well. But I do sketch from photos etc as well. You are right, the important thing is to sketch, hope you are doing that 🙂


      1. Shirley says:

        Um….no, I’m not sketching but am thoroughly enjoying your wonderful work!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Check out the book, easy short pages and words 🙂 “Art Before Breakfast” by Danny Gregory. He will get you thinking about the quickest sketches you can imagine.


  6. elissbaker says:

    I had never heard of USK or knew you were a member. I thought you were simply a very talented man who is super devoted to his art!


    1. It is a popular thing, as I pointed out I am not officially a member but don’t really need to.


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