Mark your calendar! The 2015 Symposium will be in Singapore, July 22-25. Read more here, and see the Call for Programming here.

December 21, 2014

Cuba on our mind: A peek at the sketchbooks of travelling urban sketchers

Have you ever sketched in Cuba? We posed the question on our Facebook page and urban sketchers from all over the world have started sharing links to colorful impressions of the long-isolated country. With the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba announced this week, more people will be able to travel to the Caribbean's largest island, a place that has inspired artists for generations, including the sketchers who shared their work for this group post.

"First day in Havana, fascinated by the atmosphere... The travel is geographic, but also historical. I feel like in a spatio-temporal flow: without any mark. Besides, Cubans seem very talkative, I feel quickly at ease... even too talkative: there is always someone to ask me something! But most of the times, it's funny. Two guys next to me are joking: "Why are you drawing this old rotten car...?!" "
By Laura Ruccolo (France), May 2011

"I tried to draw this view of the José Martí Memorial in Plaza de la Revolución while sitting on one of the grass yards around the square, but the guard did not let me, so I had to do it standing up. The square was known as "Plaza Cívica" before the Communist Revolution of 1959. "
By Gustavo Racca (Brasil), Feb. 2012

"Whilst sketching in Havana, I walked around the back of the Capitolio Nacional and spotted these buildings. I had just sat down to pull out my sketchbook when I was approached by a policeman who told me I couldn’t sit there. Luckily, when I explained in my bad Spanish that I was an artist and just wanted half an hour to draw the buildings, he let me stay. I’d have loved to stay longer to add colour, but I didn’t want to push my luck. Next to Fabrica de Tabacos, Pen & Ink in A4 Daler sketchbook."
—By Sue Pownall (UK), Sept. 2011

"Marea del Portillo. By the swimming pool at our hotel. There is a bar under the palm shade. And the stage on the right. But it's early morning time so we are just enjoying the cool pool water and palm trees swaying.
By Eugene Zhilinsky (Canada), Dec. 2012

"Though it may not appear in the travel guides, "Callejón de Hamel" is the epicenter of the afrocuban culture in Havana. A colorful mix of religion, sculpture, painting, music, poetry... blends along this little alleyway no longer than 200 meters. Sundays are the best days to visit. People dance "rumbas" and play afrocuban music until three in the afternoon. African rhythms with a Spanish accent."
—By Félix Tamayo (Spain), July 2014

City hall and some winter sun

by Nina Johansson, Stockholm, Sweden

Today was a smashing winter´s day in Stockholm, with bright sunshine and just below 0°C. No snow yet, but we´ll get there. Four of the Stockholm sketchers gathered and spent a few lovely hours drawing near City hall, then headed for the compulsory coffee in a warm café, to defrost our fingers.

Somehow, I managed to NOT fit in the three golden crowns on top of the tower here. That is in a way an epic compositional fail, since the three crowns are such a classic, strong symbol of Stockholm, but sometimes that´s just how it goes. I try not to worry too much about it when drawings don´t end up the way I thought they would - if nothing else, it´s a good reason to come back and try again. :)

December 20, 2014

Spiritual Journey to India - 2014

It has been plan about a year ago that I would like to join the journey of Islamic mission to India. I had visited India twice before. The first one was in 1994 and the second one was in 2002 . Those were the journey of man. We called it 'Rijal jemaat'. This recent journey has been very special because I brought my wife as other four couples. Because we brings ladies so we call it 'Masturot Jemaat'.Masturot means the woman with the veil. It is islamic mission to encourage  brotherhood all over the globe. India is the place where our mursid ( teachers) started the effort and the place for our training before going to any other further country. It is base in Nizamuddin, New Delhi. We reached Bangla Wali masjid New Delhi at 3 am dated 5 November 2014. As soon as we reached the masjid men and women are splited in different section. 4 days we stayed there and could not to see my wife. They were busy in the women program. Finally we are five couples from indonesia decided to be sent to Anantapur, Andra Pradesh India. The place was so far away down to the south of India near Bengalore. We went by train with sleeper class and took about 33 hours. We spent 2 night on the train. Anyway it is very enjoyable journey. It is a spiritual journey and the rules was advised not to use mobile and internet . So for about 40 days my smartphone off. However I always try to capture the interesting spot using my pen and pencil on a small sketchbook.

Nizamuddin Bazar (market) just infront of Banglawali Masjid. The first destination in India.

The backdrop is the hill of stone. Urovakonda (sleeping snake). We stayed four days in this vilage.

Breakfast in Bilal masjid with local people.

 This view was captured from the roof of Bilal Masjid.

Another view from Bilal masjid showing the house where our ladies stayed. While we are men stayed in the Masjid.

Pamidi was about 2 hours by car from Urovakonda. very cheap garment  produced in this village.

December 19, 2014

Lots of questions about what I was up to...

I've gotten used to people looking over my shoulder, or standing by and watching me sketch. And I get questions-about sketching and painting, about whether this is a hobby or whether I'm a student working on an assignment.
But last week was a rare day, when I got two people checking in within minutes of each other on what I was upto. I saw this very long gas tanker as I passed my local gas station and I HAD to pull up: how could I pass a chance to draw it?

The gas station attendant approaches me almost as soon as I start drawing. He wants to know what I’m doing and insists I’ve been taking photographs. I haven’t this time, but he's really suspicious.

A minute later, the driver approaches me and asks if I’m an observer with KAG, the tanker company he works for. I tell him I’m surprised everyone has questions today. He tells me something I don’t quite understand about Homeland Security and him having to patrol around his tanker whenever it is parked. He says it’s sad, how suspicious we’ve all been taught to be (since 9/11, I’m guessing).

There IS something sad about always having to be vigilant. Necessary perhaps? I don't know. But sad, yes.

Sydney's Floral Tribute in Martin Place

By Liz Steel, Sydney Australia

All of Australia has been greatly shocked this week by a siege in a cafe at the very heart of Sydney and we all mourn the tragic loss of two young lives. There are other great tragic loss of life this week in other parts of the world, but this is what has been close, very close to us. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

Ten days ago I was in Martin Place sketching the big Christmas tree but today I returned to try to record the huge floral tribute that is taking over the plaza (you can see the tree in the background).

It was a very hard subject to capture - there is an emotional response to the event, the feeling of silence and shock all around you and the sheer volume of flowers, mostly hidden by the shimmering wrappers that were blowing in the wind this morning.

So here is my humble attempt to record something that can't be described in words. Somehow it is easier with paint and lines.

December 18, 2014

¡viva cuba libre!

the 18th of december 2013, the official cuban newspaper grandma announce that the importation and exportation of cars will be allowed after more than 50 years of embargo: a sign of the changes of the politic of the island.
that's why I decided to travel to cuba in march and april this year to sketch and tell about the mood on the island in my book: “Cuba, an 56 de la Révolution. carnet de voyage sous embargo.” published by la boîte à bulles.
I spent 3 weeks in la havana and trinidad, sketching like crazy: 200 pages of portraits, meetings, architecture art déco or socialist, music… and of course old cars!

cuba, an 56 de la révolution 
for the first time, I was not only sketching everything, but I started to tell my meetings and feelings aside the drawings.

and what was my surprise to read yesterday, 17th of december 2014, that barack obama and raul castro have proclaimed a new air in the relation betweens the US and cuba, that will achieved the american embargo in the coming years.
I will have to go back there and sketch this transition…

blogged by lapin 

Old Havana

by Melanie Reim, Habana, Cuba

My story goes back about 10 years ago, but my memories are still very fresh. I was invited to draw a fashion show during a conference in Old Havana. I was very official, applying for, and getting granted a license to travel. I proudly got my passport stamped and arrived to travel experience unlike any that I had to that point, nor have had since. The air was hot, as it was summer, but the heat and humidity transcended the temperature. The people that I met, beautiful, soulful, smart, and sweet, moved about as if in a haze, under the gloom of poverty, restrictions, and the lack of freedom that I so casually enjoyed. Instead of money, they begged for soap, for hair bands, for toothpaste- all of which I had been advised to bring with me, and I did. I passed it out to Cubans of all ages and had my hand kissed.
It was all at once sobering and endearing. The heat and glow of the sun, kissing those antique cars and cobbled streets gave way to sheer exhilaration, for as the sun started to go down, the music, that Cuban music that acts as a constant, pulsing but quiet beat during the day, simply explodes as the light of the day changes. 

December 17, 2014

A New Day in Cuba

by James Richards, Fort Worth U.S.A. (sketch on location in Havana)

In light of my recent visit to Cuba, I hope that today's news of the beginning of normalizing relations between the U.S. and that country are the beginnings of a better quality of life for the people there. I look forward to returning this summer to host a "Sketch Cuba" trip, and seeing firsthand the beginnings of change and the reactions of the people we'll encounter.

The sketch below is the view to the Havana harbor from the rooftop bar at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway kept a room for seven years and wrote articles, short stories and parts of novels.  He wrote to a friend, "At this Hotel Ambos Mundos you can get a good clean room with bath right overlooking the harbor and the cathedral--see all the neck of of the harbor and the sea for $2.00."  The view hints at the striking character of Old Havana, which many more Americans may experience in the coming months and years.

Santa is in town!

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego

While waiting for a store to open, I got to watch Santa from the second floor, using my "backup" sketchbook.

December 16, 2014


By Eduardo Salavisa in Oporto, Portugal

I coordinated another book with several authors. It’s called “Travel Sketchbooks 2. Sketchers-travellers”. You can see here the cover. It has a lovely drawing by Inma Serrano. I invited 30 authors to tell me a journey with 10 drawings made in sketchbooks and a text with a max of 1000 words. I’m also in it with a journey to Patagonia and a text about the characteristics of travel drawings. The authors are Portuguese and Spanish (the book is bilingual) that I know personally and like. Two of them I did not know and to me there are the best in this type of drawing: the Portuguese architect, Pritzker Prize (the Nobel of Architecture), Álvaro Siza Vieira, and the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.

Siza Vieira lives in Oporto. I went there last week to give him some books. The drawings below were done there.

Christ Church in Malacca

I had a short trip to Malacca a few days ago and here are some sketches.

This was drawn in the morning around 730am before the tourists arrive. Right at the back is the Christ Church that was built in 1753.

It's a black and white sketch so you can't see that the buildings are actually red. I told myself I had to go back again to sketch again and add in the colours.

So this is the sketch I drew the next day in the late afternoon, just as the building on the right was casting shadow on the church. It was a crowded and busy Sunday.

The white cross was actually added in Photoshop. I had forgotten all about the cross and painted the whole building red and only realised it back at home after scanning.

Here's the video of my sketch trip with several friends.

- Parka

December 15, 2014

Sketching and Fish in Macclesfield

Guest post by Rosemary Bradshaw, Macclesfield, Cheshire, United Kingdom

We call ourselves Maccsketchers—a group just starting out, brought together by the love of sketching in the tradition of Urban Sketchers. We aim to show the charm of this ancient silk mill town in North West England. We meet every Tuesday at 10:00 AM at an art cafe called Jack Sevens in the centre of town. After coffee, we set off to draw for a couple of hours, meeting back at the cafe for a “show and tell”.

Together with another keen, local sketch artist, Sally Henman, we spent a morning in November at Cheshire Fish, a shop with an award-winning reputation. The fish–fresh and smoked–comes daily from Britain and further afield. The staff was very friendly, interested and tolerant of us while they were hard at work. I drew Blake preparing fish.

I then turned my attention to the smoked fish display. The one on the right is a Manx Kipper which is cured on the Isle of Man. It is currently in my freezer, waiting for a special breakfast—kipper traditionally served with scrambled eggs and brown bread!

Sally drew the colourful and fascinating fresh fish. On the right, the long Wincle Trout comes from a local village by the same name, where people go to fish for their dinner from a trout river farm. In the middle: a John Dory. On the left: a Gurnard.

Aaron worked on a large white fish while I drew. We had a wonderful morning there and the staff really appreciated what we did.

We hope that Maccsketchers will gradually expand but are happy for it to be not too organised! We have lots to draw: Macclesfield is a picturesque, Cheshire town of cobbled streets, landmark churches, varied shops and an imposing Georgian town hall. Since I like to draw people, I’m interested in sketching at a music cafe near my house. When weather is nice, we sketch outdoors. Of course people stop from time to time to chat. We hope to produce a calendar.

Rosemary Bradshaw is an artist, printmaker and retired art tutor who moved to Macclesfield in July 2014 from St. Albans, UK where she drew regularly with Cafe Sketchers in London. Her work can be seen HERE.

Sally Henman is a painter from Macclesfield.

Curated and edited by Marcia Milner-Brage

readers in library, subway, bus....

By Byung Hwa Yoo, Seoul, Korea

A girl student was reading a book in subway no. 3. She left at the station Catholic University of Korea station. pen on packing paper, 15 x 21 cm

An old man holding a pencil was reading a book in subway. White mask and pages of the book were distinguished from his all black figure. pencil, 18.5 x 25 cm

She was reading her face on mirror. :)

She was reading her smart phone. 

A young man was using his phone in a bus.
pen, 15 x 21 cm

She was reading a book at the food court, Melodies, Kyobo book center. 
pen, 13 x 18.5 cm

At the same food court dad and his son were reading books bought in the Kyobo book center, one of the biggest bookstores in Korea. 
pen, 13 x 18.5 cm

readers in steps of the Seoul Metropolitan Library

Days ago I visited the former Seoul city hall which was remodeled as a library two years ago(Oct. 2012). The authoritative appearance of the previous building seemed familiar by books and reading people. I would like to visit there often for sketching or reading too. It's a great pleasure for citizen to have such a nice space for free.

pen, 19.5 x 22 cm

December 14, 2014

Ng Fook Thong Temple, George Town, Penang

Urban Skerchers Penang is an active Sketchers group, we will meet for Sketchwalk almost every Sunday and public holidays.

Ng Fook Thong Temple located in Chulia Street, George Town, Penang is one of the oldest private school in Penang. Built in 1898, this traditional Cantonese style Chinese architecture still well preserve.

Looking forward to 2015! Happy holidays!

Dec. 14, 2014

Dear all,

2014 has been a great year for USk!

Because of your support, USk provided scholarships to 11 local sketchers who attended the Paraty Symposium at no charge. Paraty was the 5th International Urban Sketching Symposium we organized in just four years, following previous editions in PortlandLisbonSanto Domingo and 
BarcelonaOur workshops program continues to grow with workshops held in Oxford, England;  Savannah (GA), Seattle (WA) and Tacoma (WA) in the USA, Cockatoo Island in Australia, and several cities in Italy.

As a new year begins, our all-volunteer organization is excited to expand our workshop program and to increase the number of scholarships we offer if possible, but we need your help!

If you believe in what USk stands for and support our mission, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today. We suggest a $20 donation, but pledge as much or as little as you'd like. Every little bit helps!

Let's work together to continue "Showing the World, One Drawing at a Time!"

You can donate via PayPal using the sidebar button at

Or make your check payable to "Urban Sketchers" and mail it to:

Urban Sketchers
P.O. Box 12624
Mill Creek, WA 98082
United States

Very best wishes for a happy New Year!

USk Executive Board,
Elizabeth, Gabi, Omar, Jessie, Mario and Brenda