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Urban sketching group in Billings brings downtown to life



Billings, Montana – Urban sketching has been practiced for a while, but these locals are giving downtown Billings a whole new perspective.

There’s no need to be alarmed if you ever encounter a group of folks seated on chairs by the side of the road in downtown Billings. It’s not a demonstration. Only the Billings Urban Sketchers are present, diligently honing their skill.

“Art, when I am doing, it kind of just makes me feel like I have put my mark on something and have recorded that moment in time for either myself or someone else to look at,” said Billings Urban Sketchers member Lynnsey Slanina.

On Wednesday afternoon, Slanina wasn’t by herself. There were about 20 sketchers there, and the majority of them drew the Babcock Theatre.

The ensemble was created by local artist John Kennedy roughly two years ago.

“It really started off pretty small. The first time I went out, it was just me and two other people,” said Kennedy. “Over the course of the last couple years, we have probably gotten 35-40 people, maybe more than that on my email list.”

Every week or two, the group gathers in a different part of the city, equipped with chairs and sketchbooks. It is exactly as Kennedy had envisioned.

“I just thought I wanted to be outside in the summertime. I love buildings. I love old buildings. People walk around downtown, and they look at some of these buildings and say, oh, building. Or that is a crummy-looking alley. And we go downtown, and we see an alley full of telephone poles and dumpsters and say, that’s beautiful, I want to sketch that,” said Kennedy.

That sentiment is shared by many people besides Kennedy. Another participant, Vince Long, summarizes the opinions of the group.

“You spend lots of time with your subject matter. You can’t draw something till you’ve really looked at it. You really get into the intimate details of things, and you see things you really would never have noticed before,” said Long.

Although many people consider downtown Billings to be run-down, these sketchers see the underlying beauty in it all.

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