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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Urban Sketchers Cincinnati: Capturing the Here and Now

Highland United Methodist Church, Fort Thomas, by Robin Ewers Carnes

By Mary Casey-Sturk

Maybe you’ve seen them sketching in your neighborhood or posting on Facebook, this group of local artists capture the beauty of our city and then share their creations with each other. Some make their living as artists, others are simply talented residents who find joy in expression, and together, there is a lot here to love.

Who are these eager artists? 

Urban Sketchers “See Cincinnati One Drawing at a Time”

Founded in Seattle in 2007, “Urban Sketchers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel. We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time” as shared on their website,

The Cincinnati Chapter of Urban Sketchers started in 2017 and has grown and gained interest among all levels (and ages) of local artists and beyond. Their Facebook page has 600 members, and many of those belong to other Urban Sketching groups around the country. It’s a great way to see what artists in other cities are up to, and members from other chapters are welcome to join up with sketching events in other places that they visit.

Hyde Park Living Magazine spoke with Robin Ewers Carnes and Jeb Brack recently to discuss how this group has remained active and connected before and during COVID-19. 

Carnes shares about members, “locally, there are about 100 core members that are active, and you’ll see many at events, all ages are welcome, all levels are welcome.” Adding, “We have professional artists and first-time artists.”

Carnes and Brack both emphasize that it’s important not to let your skill level (or perceived skill level) keep you from joining. “Everyone starts somewhere, and we like to help each other and share,” says Carnes.  

Brack notes, “All you need is your choice of drawing instrument and a pad of paper to get started.”

See Cincinnati one drawing at a time

Mount Lookout Observatory by Jeb Brack

The Urban Sketchers have met at places such as the Cincinnati Zoo, Ault Park, the American Sign Museum and the recently opened Art Climb in Mt. Adams. There is no fee to join the group and all are welcome, but every now and then they do go to a venue that requires a ticket and the group has participated in workshops at Plaza Artist Materials and Framing in Kenwood.

Previously, the group was meeting for sketch outings monthly on the third Saturday as well as the first Thursdays. Impromptu meet-ups also happen, this is when an artist will announce on Facebook where they’ll be working and invite others to join in. At the end of each session (usually 1-1/2-2 hours), the sketchers do their “throw down,” which is when they all share their works and a group photo is taken.

During COVID-19, sketchers have been having Zoom throwdowns and sharing their work this way, as well as on Facebook. During the summer, they started to meet up again with careful social distancing guidelines. The Zoom throwdowns and Facebook posts have helped keep the camaraderie going during challenging times. Brack notes that there has been “growth in the art being shown virtually” during the pandemic. They hope to return to a normal meet-up schedule in the future.

Supporting each other

SkyStar Wheel, Cincinnati, by Robin Ewers Carnes

Carnes emphasizes how open everyone is to giving helpful, supportive and kind feedback to each other, “We did not come out of the womb as artists, we’ve all worked at it and you can see the progression of our skills in our sketchbooks.” If you’re feeling unsure about your talents, both Carnes and Brack urge you to come out. Says Carnes, “You can take art classes, but you might learn even more from your fellow artists.”

Brack adds, “Eventually, you’ll build your kit for sketching-pens, pencils, watercolors, brushes, crayons, sketch pads — whatever you feel like you will want with you.” Often, they noted, artists will work with watercolors on these outings and artists also finish their works at home and post them later. 

Carnes notes one of the goals of Urban Sketchers is to draw “as you see it, how you see it.”

Hyde Park School by Christina Wald

Whether you are a budding artist or earn your living as an artist, sketching is a way to connect with your community and make a record of where you are at that moment in time. You could be on your porch or in front of grand building, it doesn’t matter. It’s capturing that moment, for what it is, that counts.  

Maybe you’ll be the next on to join them, capturing Cincinnati, one drawing at a time.

For more information, go to or see Urban Sketchers Cincinnati on Facebook at

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