New #USkWorkshop in San Francisco, Oct. 10:

October 8, 2015

Sketching People in Action at the Cortona Flag Tossing Festival

By Marc Taro Holmes in Cortona, Italy

During this summer of 2015 we were in Tuscany on a painting expedition that happened to coincide with the Cortona Flag Tossing Festival. This event is a festival of color, a patriotic display, and athletic competition rolled into one. We were there for a week of plein-air painting, but some of us took the opportunity to take in the action with a small sketchbook.

I had blogged about the event on the day using cellphone photos - but we've finally found some spare moments make real scans, so we're able to bring it to you again with real color and sharper images.

Before the Flag-Tossing Teams marched in to the sound of trumpets and drummers there was kind of a pre-game show. A troupe of medieval minstrels played bagpipes, and a team of falconers showed off their birds. The crowd started to gather - a mix of tourists in stands and the local citizenry coming out in costume to support their teams, but also be part of the show.

The flag event was the culmination of a three day historic festival including a crossbow competition and a recreation of a renaissance wedding – which I think was an important alliance between Cortona and a neighboring town. The cast of the recreation are all locals, drawn from the approximately 800 residents. Amusingly, the groom was played by a tall handsome gentleman who owns one of the local art galleries, and the bride by his beautiful daughter.

Earlier in the week we'd met the Cortona crossbow team. They were out early in the morning taking practice shots at a wooden plank leaned against the doors of the towns basilica. That seemed a little odd to me, but they were having a good time and nobody was stopping them. You wouldn't see that over here in the Americas!

The flag tossing event itself was full of enthusiasm and intense competitive spirit. Each nearby town sent a delegation, their star performers marching in through a phalanx of crossed trumpets – like gladiators into the arena.

The event itself was a mix of tossers juggling flags 30 feet in the air while synchronized sprinters wove silk rivers of color around them. Every so often dueling pairs matched their talents in a kind of Kung Fu dance off. A squadron of drummers provided a dramatic martial soundtrack while flagpoles clacked like quarterstaves, whipped over ducked heads and below leaping feet.

In the final spectacle all the teams ran a tight double spiral, filling the small square with upraised 12 foot flags, then peeling back out a huge iron studded gate.

This night was a terrific unexpected bonus to cap our week of sketching in Cortona!

The Dance of the Cranes – Barangaroo Development, Sydney

Guest post by Chris Haldane in Sydney.

Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve been really interested in documenting the huge 22 hectare Barangaroo development which is changing the face of Sydney's central business district. It is named after an important indigenous woman of colonial New South Wales who was also the wife of Bennelong, after whom the site of the Sydney Opera House is named.

In my first sketch of International Towers Sydney in February 2014, I tried to capture the noise and energy of the site with its Lendlease cranes.


In August last year, Barangaroo South was a hive of activity, yet these massive pieces of machinery seemed so graceful and birdlike, I call my sketches “The Dance of the Cranes”.

In November 2014, from a park in Millers Point - now closed - I had a good view of Central Barangaroo and all the construction paraphernalia. Tower 2 was up to the 42nd floor. 

On Australia Day 2015, I drew from Darling Harbour with the Harbour Ballroom boat in the foreground. I just love the logos stenciled on the towers, which began as a way to track progress but have become a public calendar of significant events. Because Australia Day falls on 26 January, the corresponding floor of Tower 3 was plastered with a giant Australian and Aboriginal flag to celebrate our national day. 

February 2015 - Drawing Tower 1 from Napoleon St while the cranes and machinery hammered out their music around me. The triangular forms of the cranes really appealed to me. Note the Australia Day flags and two stencils painted on the tower to commemorate the 100th centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. Another flag honors Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, who was fatally struck by a ball during a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground last year. The flag reads "63 not out" in reference to his final innings.


Drawn recently from the Maritime Museum. There are so many changes since I first started to draw this site in early 2014, but the cranes continue to intrigue me. It’s interesting to see how the glass reflects the surrounding building colours now that it's in place. As the sun was beginning to set, the red floating lighthouse at the Maritime Museum provided such a lovely contrast in colour.

Last weekend I went back to where I drew from last November, to see the changes to Central Barangaroo. The gardens on Barangaroo Point are well established now and in the foreground there is row on row of individually crafted sandstone blocks, 10,000 in all, and all quarried onsite! Nawi Cove has also been created between Barangaroo Point Reserve and Central Barangaroo. The waterfront promenade has just been named Wulugul Walk. Wulugul is Aboriginal for kingfish, which have a golden band along their blue-green skin, similar to the foreshore walk’s golden sandstone lining the blue of the harbour.

It’s exciting watching the energy and scope of this development and it will certainly be high on the list of places to see for visitors to Sydney in the future! I look forward to documenting more of the site as various sections are opened to the public.

Chris Haldane is an avid member of USK Sydney. Some of her happiest sketching times are when she is surrounded by cranes overhead, on busy construction sites, or by the rusty wear and tear of industrial areas with stories to tell of the past. You can see more of her work on her Flickr site.

October 7, 2015

Ireland comes to Wembley

By James Hobbs in London
With the arrival of the Rugby World Cup in England, younger daughter and I headed recently to Wembley in north London to see Ireland play Romania. Wembley is traditionally a football venue, but its annexing for rugby purposes made sense because of the huge attendance, more than 89,000, a record for World Cup rugby, of which approximately 88,000 were good-natured and sporting Irish supporters. We had a summer holiday in Ireland this year, and as the sounds of The Fields of Athenry echoed around the stadium, and Ireland won 44-10, we thought of all the places we had visited and imagined the Irish sitting around their TVs cheering as their team ran in six tries.
England, as polite hosts, have already been eliminated from the competition. The final – teams still to be decided – will be at Twickenham on 31 October. Go on, Ireland.

October 6, 2015

Sketching on Bus!

It's easier sketching people while they are occupied in chatting on mobile phone, playing with the tablet, or simply if they're sleeping :)

October 5, 2015

Wedding Music

by Suhita Shirodkar in Chennai, India

Traditional music at a South Indian wedding is led by an instrument called a nadaswaram accompanied by thavil drums. You can listen to it here. It plays almost continuously at a South Indian wedding. To a trained ear, I’m sure it means more than the earworm it is to me. But I do enjoy watching the musicians play it.

It’s easier to see how large those nadaswarams when the musicians are standing up.

Other music at the wedding? There was Bombay Jayashri, a famous Carnatic vocalist, best known outside South India for a song she wrote and performed for ‘Life of Pi’. She sang at the wedding reception as thousands of people streamed by to wish the bride and groom. Accompanying her are two women playing the veena, a stringed instrument. On the left is a drum player, on the right is a violinist. Indian violinists traditionally sit cross-legged on the floor like the rest of these musicians.

My favorite musician to sketch, though, was the violinist Karthick Iyer who plays fusion on the Indian violin. I love that he jumps around and bends and sways to the music: he literally becomes his violin and the music it plays.


A pleasant afternoon at the Parque da Luz with pencil.

October 4, 2015

flute players practicing in open space

by Byung Hwa Yoo, Seongnam Art Center, Seongnam city, Korea

pencil and watercolor, A 4

Last month, Sep. 7, I visited Seongnam Art Center located nearby Seoul. It is a complex cultural building where galleries, theater, rooms for educational purposes are there. After visiting galleries and looking around the building and going upstairs I heard some music sound. I found the origin of it. Several flute players were practicing a piece repeatedly in the open space with good scenery. It was a picture. Hearing the nice music I appreciated for a while and hesitated for minutes whether I should begin sketching or not because I couldn't know when they would stop and leave. But I began regardless of the result as always. They seemed to hear one play and point the wrong parts and kept practicing. At first they sat on chairs when I began to draw. But they stood up and kept playing in the mean time till I finished the sketch. I asked one player whom I met in rest room about the group. She said that they were an amateur group and were practicing for a performance. Beautiful scenery in background of green colors with trees made the atmosphere perfect. I enjoyed music and sketching in a quiet space spreading painting gear on a table very comfortably. 

Keeping the Sea out of Seattle

Guest Post by David Hingtgen

The Sea Wall replacement project in Seattle began in 2013 amid concerns that the old wall constructed between 1916 and 1936 would fail in an earthquake. It was constructed of wood pilings and was being eaten away by gribbles which are a type of worm. There is also a tunnel being constructed just feet away so keeping Puget Sound out of downtown Seattle was the objective. The Sea Wall project is scheduled to be completed in 2017 and once complete it should last another 75 years.

Last May I had an opportunity to go on the other side of the fence and sketch a couple of scenes. I found it fascinating. At that time much more was exposed. A large trench with utility lines exposed and large tracked machines below drilling away in the mud. I was impressed by the magnitude of the project and I wanted to revisit the site before Phase 1 of the project concluded. As luck would have it I was able to get behind the fence again.

Here are some sketches from my visit.

Open trench with corrugated steel seawall at left and also exposed water and sewer lines. 

Drilling for core samples

The present view of site with the open trench closed up

Jet grouter being cleaned at the end of the day

Coring rig taking soil samples at various depths 

Jet grouter that can drill into soil and inject cement forming columns in order to stabilize the soil

David Hingtgen is a Sign Designer in Seattle, Washington as well as an Urban Sketcher. His sketches can be seen here on his flickr page.

USk Meeting in Darmstadt

By Jenny Adam in Darmstadt/Germany

This year i had to cancel my participation to the Symposium in Singapore due to work commitments. I had Simo`s Ischia Workshop to look forward to, but that´s in autumn, and a summer without some sort of big Sketching event taking place-impossible! So Birgit and me got together and started planning our own event.

A month ago, the first big meeting of Urban Sketchers in Germany took place in Darmstadt, a town just 30 min from Frankfurt/Main. Sixty sketchers came together to draw in the  beautiful art déco quarter of Mathildenhöhe, and some of them traveled quite far- from northern Germany, the Netherlands and even Paris- to be with us.
The program included workshops by Urban Sketching veterans such as Omar Jaramillo, Arno Hartmann, Birgit Dreesen and me. We also hat demos by Daniel Nies and Catalina Somolinos and activities like a Portrait Party (inspired by Paraty). Also Drink&Draw in the evenings just like at the Symposium and lots of sketchbook browsing! After a beautiful and intense weekend, we had a little exhibition of sketchbooks.

 As i was busy organizing, i didn´t sketch much, but here are some quick portraits and some pictures.

 Sketching the wedding tower, Arno Hartmann´s architecture workshop & Omar´s sketch of the russian orthodox church

Sketchbook exhibition on sunday and the USk Team of instructors and volunteers

Busy sketching!

To organize this event was a lot of work that was totally worth it. The atmosphere and the people were just great and the response of the participants was overwhelming. As you can see, I´m happy to report that the Urban Sketching in these parts is happily growing!

We were also lucky to have local art store Format sponsor and help us in every possible way, store owner ( and inventor of the Super5 pen!) Robert gave us lots of supplies and they even packed the goodie bags for us! Longtime Urban Sketchers Sponsors Cretacolor and Hahnemühle also donated great pens and sketchbooks for us to try out over the weekend. Due to the support of our sponsors, we realised a profit and will be able to donate to Urban Sketchers.

Rumour has it that next year the Urban Sketcher Germany Meeting is likely to take place in southern Germany..would you like to come?

October 3, 2015

Ten Hours in Korea

by Shiho Nakaza in Inchon, Korea

On the way home from Urban Sketching Symposium in Singapore, I had a 10-hour layover in Inchon, Korea. I did some research beforehand and found that the airport offers free city tours specifically catering to people who are on long layovers!

After my arrival, I signed up for a Heungryunsa Temple tour of Inchon. The stop itself was very brief - maybe 15-20 minutes at the most - so I made the best of it by sketching as fast as I can. I ran out of time for painting, so this was colored at home.

For the rest of the tour time, I scribbled what I saw out of the bus window. The town on Inchon looked clean and quiet. I hardly saw anyone walking (this was on a Thursday afternoon) - maybe it was due to the humid summer heat.

I passed through modern highways, spanning bridges, leafy trees, and a glimpse of the Yellow Sea. It made me contemplate that a city like this on the peninsula has a different landscape from an island (like my childhood in Japan), or an edge of a continent (like my current home in Los Angeles).

I had a pleasant experience back at the airport. I browsed some pottery and scrolls and got some stamps for my sketchbook at Korean cultural museum. I also visited a Korean spa with showers, communal bath, and a lounge to relax. After a good meal, I found the indoor observation deck area upstairs with Korean-style structure and benches for people to sit and watch the planes.

This was the most enjoyable layover I had. It made me want to visit Korea for a longer stay: it is another item on my growing list of places to visit!

Tin can camper & vintage Pontiac

By Marcia Milner-Brage, Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA

I saw this old faded red camper for the first time parked on the street, hitched to a pickup. It was in front of the owner’s house, down the street from me. Taking a break from painting his house, he told me it was a '65 Santa Fe. He was going to fix it up, bring it back to its former glory. His face washed with a faraway look, I could see him envisioning the freedom of hitting the road and heading west in his spiffed up “tin can”. It would be like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the 1953 film classic The Long, Long Trailer. Oh, the romance of it! Meanwhile, he got back on the ladder to scrap and prime the trim on his house.

A few weeks later, I returned, looking to draw the trailer. But it wasn’t in the front anymore. It was in the back, along the alley, crammed behind a big white car and a stand of scrappy trees. Like the camper it was from another era. It was a boat of a car, with a formidable front hood and grillwork, darkened windows, large wheel wells with extra large, white trimmed tires. A 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. It also had lots of rust, a peeling vinyl roof, and a strange, blotchy pinkish tinge to its now chalky finish.

Another keeper. Another project. Something else to dream on and bring back to its former glory.

Seems like there are quite a few others in my town who have love affairs with vintage trailers. Other's that I've drawn:  a tricolor parked in vacant lot near the power plant. And a ’57 Lil’ Abe, stowed for many a season behind someone’s house.

October 1, 2015

Drawing Attention – October 2015

Urban Sketchers Events and Workshops

Urban Sketchers founder Gabi Campanario has made the following announcement:
Gabi sketching last year in Paraty, Brazil, at the USk Symposium.

Dear fellow urban sketchers,

Since setting up the Urban Sketchers nonprofit in 2009, I've been quite involved with most operational aspects of the organization, from filing government forms and dealing with bank accounts to setting up blogs, organizing events and recruiting volunteers.

As Urban Sketchers has grown and thrived, many others have contributed their time and efforts, and we've built a solid and sustainable nonprofit. That level of shared commitment and belief in our mission is why I feel comfortable that we've reached the point in our natural evolution for the founder to take the back seat. After my term expires in December, I'll no longer be part of the Executive Board.

But I'm not wandering off too far. I have offered to serve on the Advisory Board and plan to continue contributing as a blog editor and correspondent.

I'm very proud of the work we do as a nonprofit, organizing an exhilarating international Symposium every year, promoting workshops and publishing blogs.

It makes a difference in the way people see the world and connect with each other.

I hear it all the time: "Urban Sketchers has changed my life!" people tell me. And I reply the same way: "It has changed mine, too!"

Gratefully and respectfully yours,


Thank you, Gabi, for everything you've done for sketchers around the globe!

YOUR sketch could appear here!
Want to see your sketch on the global Urban Sketchers blog flag? You can! All urban sketchers and correspondents (on either the global blog or regional blogs) may submit a sketch for consideration by sending the following to Shiho Nakaza at with the subject line: "Flag Material from (your name)":

  • A high-resolution photo of you sketching, or a photo of a sketchbook page shown next to the background where you're sketching (photos from smartphones are OK as long as they are at least 960 pixels wide)
  • A high-resolution scan of the sketch
  • Location of the sketch/photo (city, country)
  • Your website/blog/Flickr site with your location sketches

The dates for the Seventh International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester have been set for July 27-30, 2016! To receive updates about the 2016 Symposium, subscribe to the Urban Sketchers Symposium mailing list.

Urban Sketchers is seeking a volunteer Fundraising Director. The Fundraising Director creates and implements a plan to solicit donors and identify funding sources, based on preliminary work already completed by the Executive Board. The Fundraising Director will be a part of the Executive Board, which is composed of officers and directors and oversees the day-to-day management of the non-profit organization, and will work closely with the Sponsorship Coordinator (Omar Jaramillo), who is already in place, to develop sponsorship opportunities. Please send a letter of interest and description of qualifications to Elizabeth Alley at

Three Urban Sketchers workshops are available in San Francisco (USA), Naples (Italy) and Chatham County (USA) this month!

News from Urban Sketchers Communities

Urban Sketchers Israel at Loveat coffee shop for Illustration Week in Tel Aviv.
Urban Sketchers Israel took part in Illustration Week Tel Aviv with a group exhibition. Called Sketch It @ Loveat, the expo told the story of the coffee shop Loveat through sketches made on location, according to Marina Grechanik. The expo took place in a central branch of the coffee shop, "so both the sketching team and customers could recognize themselves in the sketches," she said. The group also held three sketchcrawls during the event. At the opening event, visitors were invited to make spontaneous on-location sketches and to take part in the expo on a "live" wall.

Urban Sketchers North Portugal was featured in the newspaper when the group sketched in Gondifelos.

Don Gore, moderator of the #urbansketchers hashtag on Instagram, is pleased that the group has more than 20,000 followers! Meanwhile, back on Aug. 31, moderator Kip Bradley announced that the Urban Sketchers Flickr group has collected more than 200,000 images since November 2007 from more than 8,555 members on all continents. Thanks for sharing, sketchers, and keep on posting!

USk O'ahu at Winward Community College
USk O‘ahu (USA), a growing group, recently held an event at Windward Community College that exemplifies the group's attempts to sketch both urban environments and Hawaii's scenic backdrops. "We hope that more people will find us as we add special events to our schedule, such as the departure of Solar Impulse 2 from Hawaii next spring," said Sebastian Sievert.

Outdoor Painter, the online edition of Plein Air Magazine, has featured three US Urban Sketchers groups recently: O‘ahu, Texas and New York City.

Sketchers in Action

Ami Plasse has an exhibit of his "migratory path" from Brooklyn to Austin.

In his exhibition "Drawing TX: The First Four Years," urban sketcher Ami Plasse (USA) chronicles the people, places and events he has experienced since following the well-traversed migratory path from Brooklyn to Austin in 2011. The body of work, consisting of drawings, animations, paintings and prints, aims to document both the rapidly changing character of his new home and his own personal trials and tribulations over four transformative years. The exhibition at Wonderwall Studio runs through Oct. 4.

Kate Buike with one of 25 astronaut sculptures she sketched last summer.
Urban sketcher Kate Buike is a volunteer for the Museum of Flight in Seattle (USA). To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the museum installed 25 artist-embellished, life-size astronaut statues in local businesses this summer. Kate made it a personal project to sketch all 25 Astronauts on the Town in their locations. At its culminating celebration party Sept. 19, the museum used Kate's sketches on promotional posters

Mike Daikubara chronicles his trip to Machu Picchu
Boston (USA) sketcher Mike Daikubara has just published his fifth book of sketches, this time covering his adventures in Machu Picchu earlier this year. The 74-page book "captures the exact route we took, what transportation methods we used, what hotels we stayed in, what altitudes were in each location and how we avoided getting altitude sickness," Mike said. "All this information along with all the on-location sketches I did (along with some photos) are bundled into this one book." 

Three sketches of the Banks Peninsula area by Aukland (New Zealand) sketcher Murray Dewhurst have been published in the Indonesian travel magazine DestinAsian. "Sketching these in Akaroa and Okains Bay, I would never had expected they would end up with such an international audience!" Murray said.

Juliana Russo's new book
São Paulo (Brazil) sketcher Juliana Russo has published a new book of urban sketches. Called São Paulo Infinita, the 104-page publication was edited by G GILI of Barcelona.

Stephanie Bower, Seattle architect and urban sketcher, will have a class on Craftsy called “Perspective for Sketchers” beginning Oct. 12. Visit Stephanie’s website for a link when the class goes live. See the next Drawing Attention for a discount coupon code for Urban Sketchers!

Shout it Out in Drawing Attention

Not seeing anything about you or your Urban Sketchers group in Drawing Attention? Then we want to hear from you! Please send your urban sketching news items with links and images to: Or tag me, Tina Koyama, on news you post on the Urban Sketchers Facebook page. Subscribe by e-mailHappy sketching!