September 21, 2014

Liège, the last restaurant...

After for sketching days, after the opening of the the exhibition at the "Théâtre de Liège", the last restaurant together. Drawings by Emdé, Tazab, Joel Guevara and Rolf Schroeter.
With Lapin, Simonetta, Rolf Schroeter, Martine Kervagoret, Corinne Raes, Emdé, Joël, Rene Fijten, Fabien Denoël, Miguel Herranz, Roberta... and some others...

The Boats of Paraty, Rio de janeiro, Brazil

Historic Paraty  is a town of whitewashed homes and churches. Only the bright doors and windows and the terracotta roofs add spots of color. But the boats of Paraty are a different story. They are unabashedly colorful with equally colorful names. Painting those boats made me wish I had pepto bismol pink and bright baby blue in my palette. No amount of undiluted pigment could capture those colors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try. Here are a few bright boats from my collection:

And some 'quieter' ones:

More from amazing Paraty, Brazil, coming soon. Or, all my sketches from my trip ( as I post them) here on flickr.

My Summer Location Drawing Class at AAU, San Francisco (Pt 9: the cable car museum)

Class starts at 8:30 and the museum doesn't open until ten, so we sketched the Nob Hill neighborhood outside for a while, and I set up across the street to draw this view of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum itself. Every so often, an actual cable car would come by and pause there for a few minutes before moving on, so what you see drawn here is actually a composite of three or four cars, taking details from each one as they went by. You can see some of my students in the view, also sketching. Ink and brushpen drawn onsite with digital color added later.

Cable Cars are an iconic feature of San Francisco, often packed with tourists hanging out the sides as they go up and down the hilly streets. Of twenty-three cable lines established between 1873 and 1890, three remain today. The Cable Car Museum has historical exhibits and even whole cable cars on display, but its main feature and heart is the working floor of the Power House where these mighty spinning wheels drive the haulage cables that the cars grip as they wind their way through town. The names of the lines are written on the beams overhead: Hyde, California, and Mason. You can hear the cables rattle and hum with this energy as you cross the San Francisco streets all along these routes. Next: the Presidio.

D.C.'s Capitol Mall: The Ultimate Melting Pot

I was fortunate to be able to return to Washington D.C. this weekend for a brief but productive meeting at national headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  I timed my flight arrival to give me an hour or two of late afternoon sketching time before business began.  I was in awe of the number of people promenading on The Mall, where one could hear several languages at once as strollers passed my park bench.  Even with music from an antique carousel in front of the Smithsonian "Castle" filling the air, the majestic setting and the throngs of pilgrims to the site are awe-inspiring.

September 20, 2014

Old Cars and Surf Music at the Beach

The Wavecrest Woodie Fest was held at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas today. These are old cars from the 40s, 50's and on up. The cars are called Woodies because they have wood on the sides of them Many of the woodies were used to haul surfboards to the beach. This was the location of the San Diego Urban Sketchers Meetup and my sketching today.

We drew the cars while listening to surf tunes and oldies coming from the stage area.

Last ride in Buenos Aires and then, September: back to Brooklyn.

The 37 bus to Avellaneda, to go to the Cantina de Norbert
Flight 592, LANchile, Santiago to JFK.  Listening to Bill Evans, selecting movies.

My studio in Brooklyn: Through the windows: the end of summer. It's still September 11.

Sharon Frost. Blog: DayBooks

September 19, 2014

USK Flickr Digest 9/13- 9/19/2014

There is currently an unbridled intensity on USK Flickr that really requires attention. With a surge of impressive quality postings to the Flickr group, I would like to feature some of each weeks submissions. One of the interesting things about Flickr is the ability to scroll through the postings while comparing and contrasting hundreds of sketches all at once. The works can become great reminders of the potential for new formal explorations or technical ideas not being fully utilized. This week I was struck by the use of pattern in the images submitted, in particular the potential for patterns to activate the page and enhance the power of the image. Here are three of the many that stood out for their use of pattern.

Matt Wooding, Part of my commute, England  

Juan Maria, Vuelta al cole en Madrid, Spain

Take a few minutes and to look for that element or principle of art that can open new doors for your own work by checking in to USk Flickr here

Working with a Limited Color Palette at the 2014 Urban Sketchers Brazil Workshop

We are just back from the 2014 Urban Sketchers symposium in Paraty Brazil. I can’t begin to explain how great it was without waxing philosophical.

When you’re traveling, every view is fresh. The excitement of exploration gets into your sketches. Your work is tuned up by the heightened perception and the opportunity to sketch without interruption, working one day into the next, without life to get in the way.

Add to this, a group of like-minded artists, who are equally driven to be up early and out late, always on the move, sketching constantly. There's nothing more motivating, more fun, or more useful for an artist.


At the same time, the big challenge with travel sketching, is that it can't last. You're only there for a short time.  Every decision to stop and draw something is of course preventing you from seeing another view. You can only be in one place at a time. Eventually you’ve made all the choices time allowed, and in doing that given up infinite other possibilities.

This can drive you crazy if you let it. Can lead to a mentality of rushing around with your hair on fire, sketching madly. Trust me, this is only made worse if your wife is a great photographer. You see so many amazing things you wished you’d noticed at the time.

I did this running-around-like-mad thing last year in Barcelona, and came home with 200 pages of pencil drawings, but not a single painting to show for it. I had plans for what I’d do with all those drawings once I got home - but life being the way it is, I haven’t really gone back to revisit them.

My strategy this year was to pack light and work smaller than usual, so I’d be as flexible as possible - but to paint in color the whole time, even for the quickest of sketches.


The first few days in Sao Paulo were a high speed tour with correspondent Liz Steel of Australia and her friend Claudia, who is a Paulista currently living in Sydney. We took advantage of Claudia, having her drive us all over the city, from sketching spot to spot.

I’ve toured with Liz before, and I’m well aware that she’s much faster than I am. When you’re working with someone else, I find you naturally gravitate to a similar pace. Nobody wants to be holding up the others, or wandering around subtly pressuring them to wrap it up. So your either led by the fastest or the slowest person, depending on who’s more accommodating that day :)


I’d planned ahead, bringing a new watercolor travel set with a limited palette selected for Sao Paulo.

My colors consisted of a set of warm grayed darks (all from Daniel Smith) for the urban tropical setting (bloodstone genuine, piemonite genuine and hematite burnt scarlet).

These were tied into a powerful yellow orange pigment (quinacridone deep gold) that represented the sandstone color of the local architecture, and a minty blue-green (fuchsite genuine) the exact color of copper roofs.

Besides this, a cool-yet-strong sky blue (mayan blue) which I hardly used at all due to overcast winter skies, and my new favorite cold-green dark (perylene green) for the palms and tropical trees.


This very minimal set of 7 pigments, were all brand new to me (excepting the perylene green). I pulled them off the rack in a last minute impulse buy a few days before leaving. Colors turned out to be bang-on (to my eye). It was a bit of a gamble, might have ended up on the street with entirely the wrong shades, but my instincts turned out fine.


There’s one case where this palette let me down, this mission style church was in fact a coral pink.Well, to be less flattering I’d have to say pepto-bismol is what came to mind. Having only the limited palette actually improved things in this case.


The result of my experiment is this small sketchbook of Sao Paulo, with a consistent matching mood from page to page. It’s another example of less is more. Having fewer pigments to mix made for faster sketching, and the overall color scheme sets a shared tone for the sketchbook that I quite enjoy looking back on.

If you like, you can head on over to my personal blog for a photo set of Sao Paulo,

A Day in Paraty: Building up to the Symposium

Before the symposium, I had a full day to get my bearings in Paraty, so I decided to use one of the concertina sketchbooks I made recently to record my day and what I could see as I walked around.

I started with the Santa Rita (nicknamed 'Liz's Church', after Liz Steel of course, because it was her workshop spot). I was drawing alongside many fellow sketchers and one of them crept into shot - that's Flavio Ricardo, looking like an ant:

Then I went off to explore on my own. Round the corner was my own workshop spot, which included the fish market. Round the back was a view of the sea, but the tide was out and instead I watched these turkey vultures digging fish scraps from the mud:

At lunchtime, Murilo Romiero introduced a group of us to a brilliant little self-service place, where you paid by the weight of food eaten - a rather novel and very handy idea. We ate lunch there almost every day from then on, with more and more sketchers joining us each time until, on the last day, you couldn't move for urban sketchers and Murilo got his meal for free!

In the afternoon, I sat on a doorstep to draw this wonderful church across the Praca da Matriz, half-obscured by trees dripping with vines and covered in epiphytes. Unfortunately for me, the woman in the house behind me was doing her cleaning... 

I was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of dust and muck that she swept through a gap under her front door. Bits in my eyes, bits in my mouth... it also filled my paint palette. And then, just a few minutes later, I was sprayed with water from a passing van's windscreen washer. A rather eventful half hour! 

There were quite a few work-horses in Paraty. Some were pulling carts, but this one was for tourists, with a trap: 

In the evening we did our 'drink and draw' sessions, first in a little bar and then at a restaurant. I ended up doing more chatting than drawing, but managed these:

September 18, 2014

Soar Alba

Stall for Yes Scotland

It's been exciting times here, with the votes for Scotland's independence happening today and soon to close as I type this in the next hour or so. Recently our city, towns and villages have been busy with volunteers campaigning in an effort to sway people's opinions, apparantly 93% of the Scottish electorate have registered to vote so everyone is involved in this huge decision for the future.

Poll Station - Scotland's referendum

Here's a view of my local polling station in Gourock. The atmosphere was surprisingly quiet and respectful at the entrance - a few No Campaigners on the left and Yes on the right. As I was sitting there drawing, people would give a little nod to either side before going their way.

Feels great to contribute.

"Whatever the outcome of this exciting day,
we need to make this collection of islands a better one.

Peace & love to all the ayes & naws!"

- quote by illustrator Jen Collins

Johor Bahru Coffeeshops (Kopitiams)

Restoran Hua Mui is an iconic landmark in Johor Bahru, Malaysia; it has been in operation since 1946, when the Chiang family first opened it at this same street corner in the old heritage section. On weekends, Hua Mui becomes crowded, as people even come over from Singapore to have breakfast or lunch here - it’s a nice reminder of a simpler time. Unique characteristics are: the Deco-style grillwork on the second floor dining room windows, and the old-fashioned hand-operated ‘dumb waiter’ that still hauls the dishes from the ground floor kitchen to the second floor dining area.

Nearby is the Red House probably Johor’s best renovated mansion; it’s over 100 years old, and located in the Johor Heritage section. In recent years, it has periodically been used for special cultural events and a few art exhibitions, but in June, a local kopitiam (coffeeshop) opened in its’ premises. In my sketch, I purposely left the customers as black & white line drawings, as they seemed a good contrast to the over-abundance of red color on the Red House. 

Bakchang is a local dumpling in sticky rice, with added items like salted pork, egg, mushrooms, prawn, fish, etc, and wrapped in a leaf. This motor cart sits in front of the Kafe Red House several times a week, before making its rounds to other Johor eating areas.

September 16, 2014

Charming Sweden - part 02

I'm continuing my previous post about our trip to Sweden where I promised to post sketches from our trips to Stockholm. Stockholm is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful cities in the world: located on the Archipelago, with numerous bridges connecting different parts of the city, drowning in green and, of course, with its beautiful streets - products of Sweden's famous architecture and design! By the way, the influence of Swedish design, with its simplicity, minimalism and functionality, strong colors, and combination of preserving the past while using revolutionary new ideas,  was felt everywhere, in every tiny peripheral village.
As our cottage was half an hour drive from Stockholm, we could combine our explorations of nature with urban trips. 
Royal Guard changing near the Palace
Sketching together with Ru - sketcher from Malaysia travelling in Europe, at Gamla Stan
Stockholm has great coffee shops!
at Skansen museum - traveling to the past
at Trivoli Grona Lund - even an amusements park is charming in Stockholm!
trying out my new markers

Fashion Night at the streets - lot of young people gathering together
waiting for our bout tour to start
having lunch at Friday's at Kungstradgarden

What can I say to sum up? I'm totally in love with Sweden and I hope it wasn't my last trip there. 

You can find my entire Swedish sketchbook on Flickr.

The Singapore Botanic Garden

Took a short break back to Singapore to attend a wedding. The next day , we went down to visit The Singapore Botanic Garden and the Swan Lake. There is a nice cafe at the tourist center called Casa Verde serving nice local food.
Swan Lake is an artificial lake located at the Tyersall Avenue entrance to the gardens within the Tanglin Core, and is one of the most well-known locations in the garden's grounds. As the name suggests, the lake's name was inspired by swans   populating it. The pair of mute swans was imported from Amsterdam.