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How to sketch New West’s Fraser river?

Artist Jason Wright will teach the basic techniques to turn New Westminster’s landmark waterbody into an artwork, at Arts Council's Sketching Series.
Learn how to sketch the Fraser river at Arts Council's Sketching Series.

Painting a river is more than dipping a brush in azure blue and washing it over a canvas. As per Vancouver-based artist Jason Wright, it all starts with being able to really look at the river.

“It’s about sitting and spending time with something… and just looking.”

That, followed by making some quick strokes on the paper without hanging on to the expectation that it has to be perfect.

Wright, who teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Vancouver School Board and Arts Umbrella, will be at the River Market tomorrow between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., to teach teens and adults how to sketch the river — as part of Arts Council of New Westminster’s Sketching Series.

The workshop is not about creating the perfect art piece, Wright noted.

Sketching in the moment

“You're there to kind of collect information; you're there to come and collect an impression. So it's not really about getting a perfect drawing down. It's about getting maybe a couple of lines that best express what you see in front of you.”

In fact, he added, the drawing could be an abstract representation of what you feel when you see the river, rather than what you see in front of you. Abstract art is encouraged, said the artist, who especially enjoys the abstract works of Joan Mitchell who does abstracted images of nature and landscape.

For Wright, the best part about holding a workshop in a casual environment such as the River Market is to be able to “meet folks who may not have any experience drawing at all.”

All that Wright hopes to do at the sketching session is to instill an interest in people for drawing. “It's [Drawing] not something you can teach someone in an afternoon any more than you could teach someone to play basketball in an afternoon.” 

“But what's good with this series is that you can give someone a tip, or a hint that might push them towards their next tip, their next practice.” 

Basic techniques to draw a flowing river

The first session of the Sketching Series on Aug. 3 saw a sizable number of adults and teenagers learn how to capture the beauty of the running river with just a pencil and an eraser, at Wright’s workshop.

He taught them to use the eraser as a drawing tool (by letting them cover a surface with charcoal and using eraser to build forms), and work on their speed (like drawing a tugboat in under a minute) and capturing information that a photograph cannot capture — like “the feel of the wind, or the feel of the brightness, or a certain feeling around the moment.”

But where exactly does one start when sketching a running river? As per Wright, it starts with focusing on one moment. “Look at a moment and try to kind of figure out that one spot at that one time and use your hands to kind of maybe emulate that sense of movement.”

“Maybe, even moving at the same speed as the river itself... you're trying to be the river in a sense.”

Join the Sketching Series workshop on Aug. 9, 16 and 23 — open for teens from 2 to 4 p.m., and adults, from 6 to 8 p.m. Meet outside the River Market at 810 Quayside Dr., and look for the Arts Council of New Westminster tent. All drawing supplies will be provided. The sessions on Aug. 16 and 23 will be taken by New West artist Sophie Davari.