Local artist Shruti Vijay teaches urban sketching, brings together people of all ages


Photo courtesy of Evanston Made

A collage of sketches from local artist Shruti Vijay’s urban sketching classes. Vijay said teaching classes have fostered a vibrant, welcoming remote community.

Nick Francis, Copy Chief

When Shruti Vijay’s husband started studying at Northwestern, she took up urban sketching in Evanston as a hobby.

Now, Vijay’s artwork has become a staple of the community, and she has been teaching urban sketching classes with Evanston Made for many of the five years she’s lived in the city. As a teacher, she has cultivated her skills and built a community following of amateur artists expanding their eye for drawing and watercoloring the area.

“I discovered the Evanston art community years ago,” Vijay said. “The journey began when I was able to meet other artists and that made me think a little more seriously about the art that I was doing.”

An accountant by profession, Vijay said she took a step back to focus on other parts of her life when she had her daughter. Now, she’s gained a zest for finding new sketch-able scenes around town every day.

In sharing her love for sketching within the community through teaching, Vijay has the ability to pass this spark along to those breaking into the art form, too.

“She is very aware of the art-phobias that everybody gets inoculated with,” said Hilda Raisner, a student of Vijay’s. “Her positioning is that everyone is an artist … and (she wants) to remove this layer that everything has to be exactly representational to get in touch with the scene.”

Under Vijay’s instruction, Raisner has virtually sketched places like Tokyo, Umbria and cathedrals of Italy since the pandemic’s onset. Raisner, a retired Evanston Township High School teacher, said she has learned a myriad of techniques, many of which helped demystify, for example, the daunting nature of sketching the human form.

Residents of all ages are welcome to Vijay’s classes, and entire families often attend. Vijay’s approach, Raisner said, provides ample room for seasoned artists to explore technique, while simultaneously removing any barriers newcomers face when trying to brush up their skills.

“What she does in this class,” Raisner said, “is she celebrates the surroundings. She’s encouraging people to see and relish and celebrate the environment by keeping a little book handy at all times and a little water brush.”

Evanston Made’s Founder and Executive Director Lisa Degliantoni said Vijay’s enthusiasm and gratitude for her artists shines through in her style of teaching.

Through that approach, Vijay encourages expansive thinking, Degliantoni said, breaking the norms of what normal art is assumed to be. Her students, then, become more apt for exploration of their own style.

“She’s never like, ‘oh, maybe you should try this different color.’ She’s like, ‘that’s a beautiful interpretation of the use of that color,’” Degliantoni said. “She really finds the silver lining and the positive in what the student is doing.”

Degliantoni said she was apprehensive about taking up art herself but Vijay made it look “so fun and doable.” Degliantoni said she will be attending the next class as a student, not an onlooker.

Vijay’s tendencies to think outside the box and liven up everyday life, though, are not just artifacts of her class — they’re the life she lives each day. During the pandemic, Vijay said the limited opportunities for bouncing around in public spaces didn’t inhibit her growth, but rather fostered a new perspective on what her art can be.

“I realized that even though there are small things that you don’t notice so much in life, I enjoyed sketching them more during the pandemic,” Vijay said, referring to scenes like shopping lines outside grocery stores and items like garbage cans. “If I’m alone, I always have my sketchbook and pen with me. I just sit, and sketch.”

And while many things have been lost during the pandemic, Vijay’s inclination toward sketching is not the only thing that has blossomed — a sense of community has also sprouted.

Her classes have brought a sense of solace, she said, and brought people together, forming relationships during a time when they are physically apart.

“I would have not believed it but now, after doing this for a year, I can see the connection among even my participants,” she said. “We don’t realize how the time flies when we’re sitting, chit-chatting, and sketching and then learning a new skill by having fun.”

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Twitter: @nick24francis

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