Artists devoted to depicting the human figure may be used to timed poses in the studio classroom, but plein air painters usually have only the fleeting light to set their deadlines. The Urban Sketchers group in San Diego found another method of creating drawing deadlines: a trolley schedule.
Lead Image: Laurel Moorhead’s sketches from the San Diego Urban Sketchers’ trolley ride
Urban Sketchers San Diego planned a “Trolley Trek” in which participating members of the group rode one of the city trolleys and sketched at several stops — working just until the next trolley arrived at their station. The routine was ride for five minutes, get off the trolley and sketch for 10 minutes. Then get on the next trolley, and on to the next stop.
“It was really fun,” reports Lydia Velarde. “I was surprised at the different scenery we got. One lady even drew a trolley crew working on the line. People used watercolors, colored pencils. We usually meet for two hours to sketch, but 10 minutes was, surprisingly, enough time to get a good sketch in. We laughed a lot because it was so fun and different, but really got down to business when we sketched. The urgency made it fun, actually.”
The group only traveled to five stops, but the outing lasted much longer because of a lunch break and because the group sketched for a while at the main station where they gathered for the trolley trip. One group member, Trixxie Land, organized the excursion. “She helped us get our tickets and laid out the way it went,” says Velarde. “It really helped to have someone experienced there because not all of us are familiar with mass transit.”
The San Diego Urban Sketchers usually attracts about 20 participants for its events, but only six opted to go on the trolley trek. Velarde wasn’t surprised. “It was a bit of a test,” she says. “Plus, it was during the week.” The artists didn’t know what they would encounter, and Velarde, for one, was concerned that the scenery encountered would be less than compelling. “We weren’t sure what we would have to draw,” she relates. “We thought we might just have trash cans, and no people around. But some stops were really crowded. Others were pretty deserted except for us. In other stops, we could see down the track and how the track turned and the old houses along it.”
The group will likely board the trolley again.