Issue 10.2: April / May 2007

Art, Al Fresco

story by Sue Kiyabu
photo by Ann Cecil

On a bright Saturday morning, the corridor between the Maunakea Marketplace and the Oahu Market is vibrant. Colored plastic bags ruffle in the wind on the arms of shoppers. Children scamper around discarded cardboard boxes. A young man shouts in Cantonese on his cell phone. Hugh Mosher and Mark Spencer stand in the bustle, holding sketchbooks and talking. They glance up occasionally and put pen to paper with quick, reflexive movements. For fifteen minutes, they work to capture the street scene and then move on.

All over the world, others are participating in a similar exercise. From San Francisco to Cairo, artists and enthusiasts have gathered for a designated daylong sketch session called Sketch-Crawl. The idea is to get drawers and doodlers to capture their communities, together. Web- driven, SketchCrawl was founded in 2004 by Enrico Casarosa, an animator in San Francisco. "Everyone has a different take," says Honolulu organizer John Yamashige. "Some people will sketch a lamppost, others will sketch a person walking, others will even sketch the person sketching next to them. It's about sharing that moment together."

A recent Honolulu SketchCrawl drew a diverse crowd. Although there were more than a handful of experienced sketchers, only one, Mosher, makes his living in art (he teaches it at Punahou). Others included an architect, a travel agent and an orthopedic surgeon. The morning began with Ed Korybski, the executive director of the Honolulu Culture & Arts District, who took the group on a brief tour of the downtown/Chinatown area. At the McCandless Building, he shared the history of the onetime brothel. At the Wo Fat Building, he talked about the revitalization of downtown. After the tour--designed to give the sketchers a foundation for their work--the drawers dispersed to wander through markets and streets. Some kept on the move, working fast and loose, while others set up portable easels. At the end of the day, they met again to share their work, their experiences, their tips on equipment. "We all learn from each other," says Yamashige. "And some of the best drawings are the crudest. They show a humane side of us, the side that makes us people."