When I was in high school, I spent a sizable chunk of my time buried in a sketch book. I fashioned a makeshift studio out of a corner of my bedroom with an easel and supply cabinet. And instead of posters of musicians or actors, I decorated most of my spaces with prints by my favorite artists.
In college, though, I fell out of practice because I didn’t make the time to pursue it. I still have the easel, and on occasion I’ve sat down, started something, then eventually given up because I was having problems coming up with subject matter. And while I’ve enjoyed my time spent with other pursuits, there have been moments where I missed the quiet of just working on a sketch for a couple of hours.
Subsequently, it was a very happy accident when I purchased tickets for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Hidden Cleveland Tour and a link for the Cleveland Sketch Crawl caught my eye. As I quickly learned, the CLE Sketch Crawl is an ongoing series sponsored by the DCA that falls on the first Saturday of the month. A different spot is highlighted each month where the group gathers to learn a little history, then sketch it. And my favorite part … free access to some of the most interesting places in the city.
The most recent event was this past Saturday at the Carnegie West branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The Sketch Crawl met at 10 am on the steps of the library, which is located at 1900 Fulton Road. Before we set about sketching, the branch librarian went over the history of the building and gave a behind-the-scenes tour. Carnegie West is both the first branch library in the city (celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year), as well as the largest (28,000 total square feet).
During the tour, we had the opportunity to see not only the main rooms of the branch, but also the old Dickens room, the former auditorium in the basement, and a handful of other rooms that are generally inaccessible to the public. Although restoration efforts need to be made to some of the rooms, a lot of the original – and beautiful – framing and woodwork is still there. Additionally, we learned about some of the upcoming events at the branch including their Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival (April 8, 15 & 22 at 5:30 pm) and a Jazz concert featuring the Oberlin College Music Conservatory (April 17 at 2:00 pm).
After the tour, we got down to sketching until noon. With its modified Renaissance style of architecture and brick structure with terra cotta trim, the exterior of the library provided ample subject matter for a number of us. However, the park and other nearby structures — such as St. Patrick’s Church on Bridge Avenue — were also interesting. Even the interior of the library was where some focused their attention — one group member did a beautiful watercolor depiction of the art tiles above the fireplace in the Children’s Room.
Although this was my first Sketch Crawl, this event series has been taking place since 2007. Recent crawls have included the Metroparks Zoo’s Rainforest, the old Gospel Press Building, and Tyler Village – former home of the Tyler Elevator Company. And now that the weather is turning warm, the May Sketch Crawl is supposed to be at the Mather/downtown lakefront area.
Besides getting to explore unusual spots in Cleveland, the Sketch Crawl is worth checking out because it provides a low key venue for people who use a variety of mediums (from pencil, ink, and charcoal to watercolor and photography) and also bring different skill levels (from someone like me – who was 10 years out of practice – to individuals with a finely developed skill). I’m excited to check out the Sketch Crawl in coming months and am pleasantly surprised that my new pursuit of discovering and writing about Cleveland has led me to rediscovering another pursuit I used to enjoy so much.
CLE Sketch Crawl/Carnegie West Library 411:
Cleveland Sketch Crawl
First Saturday of every month at varying locations
Sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance