Sketching Plein Air: Seeing the world one drawing at a time

Marlene Steele

As an artist who loves drawing, one of the best tools I always recommend is keeping a sketchbook. In fact, there is no better way for the artist to build a mental and visual understanding of the world around you than to put a pencil to it in a sketchbook. 

On a continuous adventure for inspiration, Christina Wald, a designer, publisher and illustrator of several children’s books, cultivates a personal obsession for urban sketching. Christina is opening an exhibition of her adventures at the UC Clermont Art Gallery on January 8th, 2024.

Wald launched the USk Cincinnati Urban Sketchers Chapter which became officially recognized in 2017 and she became the social media coordinator for the International group in 2022. The Cincinnati group welcomes participants on all levels, offering coordinated programming, camaraderie and technical sharing and support.

One of the best ways for artists to engage with their travel experiences is to sketch their surroundings and events, capturing the atmosphere, unique colors, patterns and textures in their expressive sketchbook renderings.

Christina was awarded an artist residency at the Chateau d’Orquevaux, France, reputed to be one of the most beautiful sites for this type of program in the world. This lush setting in the French countryside attracts artists of various disciplines who explore and expand their expressive capacities while experiencing the regional cultural elements in the camaraderie of new friendships.

Chateau Gatehouse  Copyright C Wald 2023

Christina’s initial encounter of the Chateau d’Orquevaux is the Gatehouse, a squarish façade supporting a steep Mansard roof and punctuated with round pinnacled turrets on each of the four corners. The façade, a combination of warm brick and alternating stone face, is witnessed in the foreground by an artist companion at an easel, who is depicted in simple linear terms.

Chateau Canal.  Copyright C Wald 2023

Wald’s depiction of the idyllic Chateau canal captures the silvery waters cascading over a small natural rapids. The gentle sounds can be enjoyed from the overhanging portico with wood columns at regular intervals on the adjacent classic rural property. Christina executed the image in marker style with a light descriptive line, documenting the essence of the scene and its defining architectural format.

Notre-Dame of Reims.  Copyright C Wald 2023

The spectacular cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims is a daunting undertaking, challenging the arsenal of any casual sketcher. In Christina’s rendering, its massive façade towers over an adjacent urban building and features a bewildering combination of pointed arches, leaps of flying buttressing, ornate pinnacles with decorative motifs and a variety of rose windows. The natural grey stone elements are delineated with a flourished line drawing and accented with abbreviated sightings of the classic red roof tiling.

Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati.  Copyright C Wald  2023

Contrasting modern architecture is represented by Wald’s rendering of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center. This renowned building is the first American museum designed by  Zaha Hadid. Its towering structure is comprised of a variety of elements that abstract its presence on the corner of 6th and Walnut. 

From Reims Cathedral to the market shops of Auckland to scenes in our own urban backyard, Christina and the Urban sketchers have rallied to the challenge with fresh expressive interpretations for our enjoyment.

A primary tool in the artist’s arsenal is the timeless practice of keeping a sketchbook.
Experience the world one drawing at a time with Christina Wald’s travel sketching adventures.
“My Sketching Obsession” by Christina Wald is on view January 8- March 22, 2024
UC Clermont Art Gallery. Consult website for event details.