As I find myself a place on the sidewalk, the meeting point of two rivers rushing below me, the warm golden rays of the setting sun hitting my face, and illuminating a landscape that had been used by humans for at least 6000 years, and has a history much richer then that, I begin to hum a song, calling out to the landspirits. My pen hits the paper, my mind goes blank for an instance, when I snap back into it I feel them all around me... The wind sings... The river roars... The trees and bushes dance as I sing between the lines I put on paper. I feel the touch of other, as my everyday mind steps aside, and I allow the spirit of the place to move through me. And although what I'm drawing may be a representation of a modern, urban landscape, being there, at that time, in that place connects me to its history in its entirety.
I have a confession to make... I love urban sketching.... There, I said it....not entirely esoteric, or is it?
Briefly, urban sketchers are a global community of artists that practice drawing on location in cities, towns or villages they live in or travel to. As more and more artists began to submit and share their drawings online, urban sketchers founder, Campanario started a group to support and promote journalistic drawing depicting real life as it happens in front of the artist. The sketches are accompanied by stories providing a background for the sketch: when and where the sketch was created and some details about content – words and narrative that go with pictures. The Urban Sketchers blog gained popularity between 2008 and the present, attracting hundreds and soon thousands of visitors daily.
The urban sketchers manifesto reads:
1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, 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.
For more information on urban sketching check out the website at: www.urbansketchers.org
Seriously? How awesome is that? How often in our modern, busy lives do we take the time to stop and really, I mean really, take in a place? The people, the spirits, the lay of the land...
Besides being an artist, I'm also a spirit worker. Over time, and through experience, I've come to realize that spirits don't only reside in lonely desolate places, in forests or groves. Of course they live there as well, and I've had some extremely powerful experiences in places such as these. But often these spirits are right under our noses. In our houses, our neighbourhoods, our cities even. Michael Bertiaux in his monumental Voudon Gnostic Workbook says "Actually, the spirits are just as near as our fingertips" something I've meditated on often, and try to live by as best as I can.
Another thing to touch upon is the question of connecting to spirit in a land that isn't your own. A little background is in order perhaps here. I currently reside in Manitoba, Canada, I moved here from the Netherlands over a decade ago now. When I first moved here I remember how incredibly hard it was to live in, and honor a land I knew nothing about. Not to be familiar with the spirits that reside that, to have no rapport. For me personally, going out and sketching the world around me has allowed me to make that connection, to use my art as an offering, my body as a crossroads, and to allow the spirits to work through me, to transform the satanic mills into a countanance divine once again!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?