Opening Sketching: A Way of Seeing | Three Generations of US Artists

The humble sketch is rarely showcased as an art-form in itself. Using inexpensive tools and materials – and without the help of photographs or the leisure to rework a scene in the studio – the plein-air sketch is direct, spontaneous, immediate, and definitive. Sketching in public sometimes turns into performance art, too. Like early drafts of a poem or out-takes from a recording session, sketches reveal the creative process. Artists often use sketches to explore ideas for a painting or other finished piece. Even with no other purpose in mind, the practice of sketching contributes to an artist’s store of visual memories. It also hones observational skills and dexterity with pencil or brush. And then there is simply the delight of making marks on paper. Most children know this joy as part of spontaneous play; any adult can recover it, too. Like meditation, sketching invites us to slow down and become aware of the excellence of the present moment. It is a practice, moreover, that is accessible to artists and aspiring artists of any age or stage of life – as this exhibition demonstrates.

Gregory Robison has sketched, drawn and painted for most of his life. He took basic drawing courses at the École des Beaux Arts in Nantes, France, and studied in the atelier of Kate Downie, RSA, in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a solitary practice requiring patience and humility – and best undertaken in silence – Greg also treats sketching as a sort of spiritual exercise, a complement to meditation.

Giles Kelly sees sketching as a challenge and as a necessary skill in the practice of more formal drawing and painting. Before WW II, while in training at the Merchant Marine Academy, Giles served as Art Director for the yearbook, and made a few sketch-like illustrations of life at the Academy. During WWII in the Navy, for security reasons, personal cameras were not allowed to be taken to sea, thus Giles was ‘reduced’ to sketching mementos. Now in his mid-nineties, Giles continues to sketch and work in watercolors and oils.

Val Lucas runs Bowerbox Press and has a background in painting, drawing and printmaking. She graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2005 and began collecting and restoring letterpresses as the basis of her printing and design business. She is currently focused on creating woodcut prints and cards and sketching landscapes on her travels.