At 9am on the second Saturday of every month a group of local artists called the Salem Sketchers meet,  fan out, and draw for an hour.   At the end of the time, the artists regroup and share their drawings, frequently taking pictures to post to Facebook.  The group came together after a workshop at the Art Department when some of the participants were so inspired to continue sketching they organized monthly meet-ups. The Sketchers evolved into an informal, supportive group which is open to everyone who wants to sketch, regardless of  age or skill level.  The group lists about 150 members, with an average of 10-20 at any meeting.

Sketching sites are different each month. Members suggest places that appeal to them, a site is decided on and the information is posted to Facebook.  Past spots range from Wilson Park and Deepwood through the Amtrak station, and even a grocery store.  The sketches represent whatever catches the imagination of each artist at the site, providing an interesting glimpse of what they enjoy and find inspiring. The group  provides an incentive and opportunity for the artists to sketch, and an opportunity to meet others.  Katy Vigeland and Linda Rindy both stress that it is a supportive and non-critique oriented group, where newcomers are free to ask for advice or technique help, but nobody’s work is judged or criticized.

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The most important thing is to get a mark on the paper, and to enjoy it. They say this is the main purpose behind the group, encouraging people to take time to draw the world around them, exercise their creativity, and have fun. There are no rules about what to sketch, or what media to use, resulting in a wide variety of sketches at the end of the hour. The point is to create something, and have fun, not to worry about having a hanging-ready piece.

Aside from Facebook, the Sketchers have not previously shown as a group, but the month of July provides a special treat when the work of about 15 Salem Sketchers is featured in Lunaria’s Loft Show. Running from June 29-Aug 1, “Sketch the Town,”  provides an opportunity for people to enjoy something they rarely get to see, a selection of unplanned, off-the-cuff sketches produced for the simple enjoyment of drawing and sharing the experience with friends.  The Sketchers are excited to be showing together, and enthusiastic about the unique form the show will take.  Instead of  “gallery finished” pieces, the show will remain true to the informal structure of the group, and consist of the un-framed, un-matted sketches just as they were created.  Lunaria is also setting out paper and encouraging members of the community to sketch during the month.

An opening reception on First Friday, July 1st, from 7-9pm gives the public a chance to meet the artists and try their hands at sketching, as well as to enjoy Lunaria’s feature show “Life Sized”, which showcases the sculpture of Deborah Unger and the jewelry of Alex Chaney. Both shows run through the month.  Anyone interested in following the Salem Sketchers can get information on their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SalemSketchers/   People can also call the Art Department the week of the meeting for the location of each month’s sketching site.