HARLINGEN — To become a sketcher all you need are sketchbooks, a visual location, a pen and an imagination.
Mario Leal, 37, and Michelle Calleja, 34, who are engaged, are two Harlingen artists who decided to spread their love for sketching.
Leal has been interested in art since middle school and studied graphic design in college.
Calleja is a digital artist and does art on her own but was introduced to sketching by Leal.
Their process is methodical:
The couple sits at a place of their liking, which usually requires good lighting. From then on, they both look for a piece or a source of inspiration. Whatever catches their eyes gets sketched in that moment.
Leal has drawn all kinds of elements, from his coffee machine to his breakfast at a restaurant. Now, he wants to encourage other people to experience his favorite hobby, too. Leal was looking for workshops to attend to improve his skills and came across Urban Sketchers, a global organization.
Leal is hoping he can create an official Rio Grande Valley chapter by starting his own group called Urban Sketchers RGV. The group is available to anyone from McAllen to South Padre Island. His purpose is to have more artists share their work.
“There are a lot of artists out there, but they do not feel like sharing their artwork. Our goal is to let people know anyone can draw,” Leal said.
“A lot of it is having the courage of picking up a pencil or pen and putting it to the paper. The other goal is to draw from what you see, your surroundings. I love it,” he said.
Calleja and Leal tried something new at the last Harlingen Farmers Market they visited. The couple went up to vendors and people visiting and asked whether they would want to sketch. Leal took with him extra sketchbooks and makeshift clipboards.
“They were all a little reluctant because they would say, ‘I don’t know how to draw’, but I said, ‘Just try it,’” Calleja said.
“They are being brave enough. We want to make it available for everyone. It is not just for artists. We don’t want to limit this feeling of being creative” Leal said.
Leal began a sketchbook for leisure in 2019, where he drew his children or his car sitting on his driveway. It was an activity he started because it helps him destress.
“I kind of zone out, and she says I don’t pay attention to anything else that is going on. It is a moment of clarity for me,” he said.
Calleja said Leal used to do paintings and has always been a really good artist.
Leal likes to visit local businesses and draw them to support the community. His favorite spots are located in Downtown Jackson as well as Van Buren Avenue.
“They are rapid drawings. It is not spending too much time in the details, we are trying to capture the moment,” he said.
For Calleja, being able to see other’s perspective of a moment is what captured her to sketch.
“It can be so much different in the same place. We are both looking at the same thing, but everybody’s artwork is different,” she said.
But what she also enjoys is encouraging others to draw when the thought had never occurred.
“I want to find that diamond in the rough. He sparked that creativity in me, and I want that for somebody, too,” Calleja said.
Currently, she is working on coloring pages and plans to create a coloring book that will feature places in the RGV.
“Being able to show people what Harlingen is, Brownsville and Charro Days is,” she said.
The couple would like to meet with other future sketchers at least once a month in different locations around the Valley.
“It is a collective art group. Hopefully, it will get us toward the goal of being an official chapter. That way there are seminars, symposiums. It is a huge group,” Leal said.
“We are trying to build it up,” he said.
Calleja said what is lovely about sketching with other people is unity.
“It is not just about drawing a simple flower but of bringing more of us together,” she said.