The following post is by Charlottesville architect and artist Jessie Chapman. She is part of the Urban Sketchers group that goes on location to observe and document buildings and street scenes here in Charlottesville. On occasion, Jessie takes the extra step to photograph her work on site and create these “sketch-in-context” photos. C’ville Images is thrilled that Ms. Chapman was willing to share a few of her images with us along with some of her thoughts on each subject. Jessie told C’ville Images recently, “sketching isn’t so much about making art as about seeing and slowing down.” We think her work captures this idea perfectly.
Under the Belmont Bridge: This area drew my attention after working with UVa Architecture students on a design project to reimagine the bridge that seems to divide downtown more than a bridge ought to. I know that there used to be a lumberyard down here and that the Buckingham Branch Railroad uses the space for its trains. There’s a lot going on down there and I’d like to go back to sketch again.
Pavilion: Under the big Pavilion tent with a small group of sketchers. This is a space that challenged my sense of scale and perspective. Photos flatten things out and make it seem easier to perceive a space. But for me, there’s no substitute for spending time on location with a sketchbook to figure out how a space works. The sketch is always better, and you learn to get faster, when you’re in a less-than-ideal circumstance and limited to the tools you have on hand. On this day, I got to know a few new people who came out to sketch with me, which made it even nicer to be under the tent!
Pavilion II: Near the Rotunda, sitting on the steps of Pavilion II. This was a very quick sketch. I like to just establish a few lines and cast the main shadows, then decide if I want to keep adding detail. In this case, it was the right decision to leave it. Lately, I love using Instagram to transmit a sketch right away. On Sundays, a lot of other Urban Sketchers groups are out all over the world, and there’s something delightful about trading these views from our books with people doing the same thing in Jakarta or Barcelona. Some are people I’ve met, and others just feel like members of the global family.
Woolen Mills Chapel: One of the more pleasing buildings in town, to my eye. I made peace with it by squeezing the steeple onto this spread and resolving to move up to the next size sketchbook! At the very least, I’d like to have more white space around the sketch.
Transit Center: Planning sketch outings has been more challenging than usual this winter, so we opted for a backup plan: the Charlottesville Transit Station and Visitors’ Center. This one is not such a stunning or iconic view, but it’s a lovely space and we enjoyed talking to the people who work here. A group of people gathered at this desk to my right to listen to the UVa- Duke basketball game on the radio. The man at the desk later told me “people will come in and say ‘I’ve got one hour in Charlottesville. What should I see?'”
Transit Center #2: Looking out over the staircase at the Transit Center. There’s Scott DuBar, another Charlottesville Urban Sketcher, who happens to be sketching a view that includes me looking across at him. Unfortunately, he came and sat there after I’d set up the sketch, or I wouldn’t have located him at the spine of the book!
Tru Pilates: I asked the owner of Tru Pilates if I could come in early to sketch before my class from time to time. It’s a beautiful studio and I could use some practice on figures in motion. Watching with pencil in hand, I became more aware of things I’ve learned and done myself in these classes.
Amtrak Station: On Superbowl Sunday, we went sketching at the Charlottesville train station. UVA Medical Center is in the distance, with the helicopter ready to go. I’ll often try the same scene two different ways. Sketching is a form of problem solving and sometimes working out two answers makes sense. Just above my sketchbook, you see a very large extractor fan which connects to the kitchen at the Wild Wings. As an architect, I’m always thinking about ventilation and lighting and all the parts that make a building function. On this day, the restaurant was preparing wings for about a zillion football fans. It would be an understatement to say that is the hardest working fan I’ve ever seen!
Jessie Chapman is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. After taking up sketching as a way to improve her design skills , she soon discovered that drawing daily makes for a better outlook on almost everything. She serves on the Executive Board of Urban Sketchers, a global nonprofit devoted to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing. Jessie is a firm believer that drawing every day is good for the mind and doing it in a group is good for your community. Read some of her thoughts on sketching, seeing, and memory in this essay.
These photographs are the property of Jessie Chapman and used here with permission. Photo of Jessie by Marc Taro Holmes. If you are an artist or photographer and would like to contribute to C’ville Images, please contact us.