Some of the artists stood, while others sat on the ground or at picnic tables.
Some used pencils, others chose paint or pens.
For some, the food trucks at John Dam Plaza in Richland — the subject of last week’s gathering — dominated the sketchbook page.
The bright colors, the busy workers preparing for the lunch rush.
For others, it was the background elements that captured attention and brought inspiration.
“For me, you’ve got the trees, the lights — it’s not just (the trucks) but all the things around them,” said Dave Poynter of Richland.
Urban Sketchers: Tri-Cities draws artists of all skill levels, and each brings his or her own process and perspective. That’s part of the fun.
“We come from different backgrounds, and yet we all share this (passion),” said founder Jim Bumgarner of Richland.
To sketch the world around them.
The group meets each Wednesday at spots around the Mid-Columbia.
It’s open and informal; the only rules are that you must bring something to draw on and something to draw with. Sketchers must be 18 or older, or accompanied by an adult.
Beginners are welcome.
Bumgarner, a retired high school biology teacher and administrator, got the group going about five years ago. It’s part of the international Urban Sketchers network started by Gabriel Campanario, a Seattle Times artist and blogger who’s known as the Seattle Sketcher.
“One of the things in Urban Sketchers international is that we show the world one drawing at a time,” Bumgarner said. “Here in the Tri-Cities, what we’re trying to do is show the Tri-Cities one drawing at a time.”
The group doesn’t work from memory or from photographs. Sketches are done in person, in the moment.
Part of the appeal of the group is the social aspect, sketchers said. It’s fun to be with other artists — to talk about technique, about perspective, to share work.
Last week at John Dam Plaza, Poynter showed his sketchbook. It was filled with lively renderings. Of coffee shops, of a Kennewick fire truck.
He said people shouldn’t be intimidated to try their hand at sketching.
“If you doodle, that’s really just sketching. Sketching is just a doodle about a place and a time,” he said. “It’s fun stuff.”
Patti Kirch of Kennewick, who sketched the food trucks from a spot on the grass not far from Poynter, also shared encouragement.
“Every time you make a mark on your sketchbook or paper, you get better,” she said.
Her sketches were beautiful and vibrant — a mix of paint and ink.
Kirch is a tennis pro who said she finds escape in creating art.
For Pam Sharp, who lives in Benton County, the Urban Sketchers group represents a chance to loosen up.
She paints professionally. “This group stretches me. Normally I’m a studio painter and I paint very, very tight. When I come out here, I can do free landscape. I’m not looking to be tight and get every detail. I’m trying to get the general gist of what it is. That’s what draws me to come out here and expand my horizons a little bit.”
She said people of all levels can gain something by joining in.
The group meets from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays.
The artists’ work will be featured at Cheese Louise in Richland during April, and also at the Richland Public Library for about a week starting March 22.
Bumgarner also organizes “sketch crawls” on the West Coast, in which sketchers meet together for all-day sketch fests. The next one is planned in San Diego this summer.
At John Dam Plaza last week, the sketchers spread out to make their drawings.
Bumgarner studied the food truck tableau, his eyes darting back and forth between the trucks and his sketchpad as he worked.
He’s on his 28th sketchbook. Each is like a time capsule.
“I can look at it and tell you exactly where I was, what was going on around me,” Bumgarner said. “It’s the spontaneity. It’s the capturing of — I like to capture the essence.”
The group’s next meeting is at 10 a.m. March 18 at Beaver Bark Gift & Garden Center in Richland.
For more information, go to the group’s Facebook page under USkTC or go to www.509urbansketchers.blogspot.com.