New #USkWorkshop in San Francisco, Oct. 10:

September 1, 2015

Painting Underwater in Singapore

By Marc Taro Holmes at #USKSingapore2015

[Singapore's Botanical Garden - Chinese Pavilion]

Let me just say - Singapore was nothing like what I expected.

This is entirely because I'm uneducated, and had no idea what to expect.

Other than it being a modern Asian city with a booming economy. And a democratic republic with a pretty decent reputation for transparency. What I was not really aware of (being basically clueless) was how multicultural it would be.

It was inspiring to see temples of three religions side by side on 'harmony streets'. Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu all equally well used by a variety of people. It was equally great to see every hawker center (open air restaurant courts) representing ethnic foods from all these cultures. And then to see, in the faces of the people on the street, all these races intermixed.

I would hope this could just be normal everywhere - but it seemed to me a unique aspect of the city. Good for you Singapore! Thanks for that experience :)

[Singapore's Botanical Garden - Japanese Pavilion]

You might see a kind of wild abandon in the painting style on display here? A little different from my usual work?  I don't want to go on at length here, but if you're curious, you can read more about the theory behind these sketches over on my own blog.

[The Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam]

[Giant Super Tree Sculptures at Gardens by the Bay] ~marc

More from Italy

By Stephanie Bower, Seattle

As I attempt to post the summer's sketches in chronological order, it's great to get to relive my travels. Italy already seems so long ago, with the trip to the symposium in Singapore and visits to Cambodia and Thailand replacing those memories at the top of my memory heap.  And as Seattle is already cool and rainy, it's so nice to remember the Italian summer heat~~

Here is another sketch from started to rain cats and dogs, so there was no other option than to duck under these lovely arches near the Rialto bridge.  Marc was off sketching near the Canal, braving the elements better than I.  

And this one was very late in the day, we were dog tired from the heat and walking, and it shows. Sketching near Marc for several days has me trying to paint more and draw less...and I really try to do everything on site in the moment, as for me, the sketches are all about capturing the experience of the all are drawn and painted on site in one sitting!!

Then it was off to Orvieto for one night where Rich and I met with fellow Urban Sketcher, Anne Percival from Manchester, who sketches beautifully!!  It was fun to sketch together in Orvieto before heading to Civita di Bagnoregio for the annual DRAW CIVITA workshop...

And finally, one of my favorite sketches of the summer, the interior of the Orvieto's Duomo...all the stripes really challenged my perspective sketching abilities!  The super nice ticket sales guy even let me pull over a chair and finish up with a quick layer of paint while inside the cathedral. It's a large sketch, nearly 16" tall...

Next stop, the workshop in the amazing picturesque hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio.

Drawing Attention – September 2015

Urban Sketchers Events and Workshops

Even if you didn't attend the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, you can still share in the learning. These Symposium instructors have generously offered handouts from their workshops for free download!

Richard Alomar
Behzad Bagheri
Shari Blaukopf
Matthew Brehm
Simo Capecchi
Marina Grechanik and Ea Ejersbo
Virginia Hein
Miguel Herranz and Inma Serrano
Marc Holmes
Nina Johansson
Sanjeev Joshi
Ch'ng Kiah Kiean
Jim Richards
Liz Steel
Suhita Shirodkar

Be inspired by these Urban Sketchers workshops scheduled for October:

Suhita Shirodkar is offering Capturing Chaos: Drawing a Crowd, Oct. 10, in San Francisco.

Painting in Ischia Island around Aragonese Castle, Oct. 8 - 11, will be offered in Naples, Italy, by Simo Capecchi, Caroline Peyron and Kelly Medford.

Reportage sketching of the "Farm to Plate" process in Chatham County, North Carolina, is the subject of a workshop with Stacye Leanza Oct. 22 - 25.

More than a hundred sketchers gathered in San Diego for the third annual
West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl. Shown here, Balboa Park was the site of
the all-day Saturday sketch crawl.
The third annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl in San Diego was a huge success, according to Jim Bumgarner. "We had a total of 108 sketchers who enjoyed beautiful skies and perfect temps at all three events: Friday's 'Meet N Greet,' Saturday's all-day sketch crawl in Balboa Park and Sunday's sketching in Old Town," Jim said. "Lydia Velarde and her local team of planners put together a spectacular event."

News from Urban Sketchers Communities

Sketchers of all ages took part in a sketch crawl and workshop with USk Switzerland.
Urban Sketchers Switzerland took part in a sketch crawl and led sketching workshops at Foundation Beyeler in August. Andre Sandmann said that the family-focused event attracted many kids to participate.

Urban Sketchers Texas exhibited their sketchbooks at the Montgomery County Library-South County branch in August. According to Judith Dollar's blog post, the display also included popular books about urban sketching.

Sao Paolo USk is high on sketching -- from the rooftop of the Museum Catavento.
USk São Paulo was invited to sketch from the rooftop of the Museum Catavento in downtown São Paulo, an area normally closed to the public, according to Ronaldo Kurita. Reproductions of the sketches were displayed at the museum in July and August. In addition, Carlos Medeiros and Ronaldo held weekly 30-minute workshops for children to learn about urban sketching last month.

Omar Jaramillo reports that Urban Sketchers Germany will meet for the first time Sept. 4 - 6 in Darmstadt. "This Art Deco city in the center of Germany will host around 60 sketchers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and other neighboring countries," Omar said. An exhibition of sketchbooks will take place after the sketch crawl.

USk Ukraine sketching in Chernihiv
Urban Sketchers Ukraine ventured out for its first sketch outing to another part of the country in August -- to the ancient city of Chernihiv in the north. "Chernihiv is abundant with history, religion, and most hospitable people," said Natalia Litvinenko. "With churches seen everywhere peeping out of the enveloping greenery, it was a pleasure to walk and sketch while still hiding in the shade from the summer heat."

After USk San Diego went on a trolley-sketching tour in April, Plein Air magazine's online edition, Outdoor Painter, asked Lydia Velarde to contribute an article about the group's event. The article talks about how the sketchers faced all the usual on-location challenges of plein air work compounded by a more unusual one: sketching each trolley only while it was stopped at each station for 10 minutes!

Swasky and Rolf Schroeter are offering a free workshop and drawing meeting in Mallorca as part of the Festival Còmic Nostrum Oct. 10 - 11. For details, see the Facebook event.

Beliza Mendes is excited to announce that Urban Sketchers Luxembourg has just started up! The new blog will be up soon. See the group's Flickr pool.

Sketchers in Action

Mark Payton exhibited his sketches from riding the bus in Rochester, NY.
Mark Payton's first solo art exhibition was at the Rochester, NY, Transit Center last month. Called "Snap Shots by Hand," the exhibit consisted of five years' worth of sketches Mark made while riding the bus.

Ken and Roberta Avidor of St. Paul (USA) bicycled a hundred miles from Bemidji to Brainerd and sketched their adventures along the way.

Dan Peterson of Cardiff, Wales, posted his excellent sketch reportage of a rescue mission of more than 900 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Liz Steel of Urban Sketchers Sydney (Australia) is offering a new online sketch course called Edges beginning Sept. 2. The four-week course will explain how to discern different types of edges, to represent them in different media and to incorporate this understanding into our work.

Montreal (Canada) urban sketcher Marc Taro Holmes has a new Craftsy class: "Travel Sketching in Mixed Media." The seven-part video lesson covers drawing in pen and ink and tinting with watercolor as well as sketching directly with watercolor. Urban sketchers visiting Marc's blog will receive a $20 discount. Marc's first Craftsy course, "People in Motion," is currently discounted, too.

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-mail. Happy sketching!

August 31, 2015

The Eggheads

By Pete Scully, in Davis, California
eye on mrak, uc davis
These are two of the 'Egghead' sculptures by Robert Arneson, found dotted around the UC Davis campus. Now you might think that a post by me about the Eggheads would be littered with puns and silly jokes about eggs, it's so easy, and on any other day, you might be right, but I'm trying, Ringo, I'm trying real hard. So, let me tell you about the Eggheads. They are not, in fact, made of egg, but are in fact bronze, painted white. They were created by the late UC Davis Art professor and world-renowned ceramicist Robert Arneson (who died of cancer in 1992), and were among his last works. they are popular spots for snapping a campus photo, and even have their own Egghead music tour. There are five Egghead pieces (two of which have two Eggheads in them, so seven eggs total), and the one above is called "Eye on Mrak", aka "Fatal Laff". The "eye" looking at Mrak Hall, the seat of power at UC Davis, is on the reverse of the egg. 
egghead "bookhead"

This next one is called "Bookhead" and is fairly self-explanatory. It's right outside the Shields Library, and I really wish I had something more interesting to say about it but I do not. Oh, ok, there is a boring tradition that says UC Davis students touch it for good luck before exams. There, it is impossible to talk about this sculpture without mentioning that frankly silly legend. It is written into the UC Davis charter that you have to mention it when talking about it, even if it isn't really true. If you mention it then people will believe it and they will in turn do it because it is 'tradition' but it's only 'tradition' because someone says it is 'tradition'. Even those who do touch it for good luck have absolutely no evidence of any particular upturn in their academic fortunes, in fact I'll bet there's more truth in the tradition that people who believe touching a large ceramic egg will make up for not studying a bit harder do worse in their exams.
I've drawn these and the other Eggheads several times over the years at UC Davis, and you can learn more about the sculptures and their beloved, cheeky sculptor at I hope you enjoy their eggsplanations (dammit!).

More Sketches from Singapore

by Shiho Nakaza in Singapore

While I really enjoyed attending Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, I had very little time outside of the workshops to sketch on my own, so I woke up early before the first workshops to sketch the nearby scenes. Singapore has a fascinating mix of modern and old buildings and multi-ethnic history, and I wanted to capture as much of it as I could. All the watercolors were done directly in my sketchbook without any preliminary pencil or pen lines - a lot of times that's the fastest way to jot down an impression!

On the very first day, my flight was delayed so it was around 7am by the time I arrived at the hotel. I dropped my bags and headed off to Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam section of the city.

This mosque is at the end of Arab Street, which is lined with shophouses with various stores and restaurants below. From this view I could see the tip of the minaret of the mosque.

I joined a group sketchwalk in the afternoon at Purvis Street. I like the contrast of gray modern highrise in the background and colorful shophouses in the foreground.

On next day I went inside the courtyard of Raffles Hotel, which is a white colonial-style building. This sketch came out too busy with lots of elements, but it still reminds me of the peacefulness of that morning.

I went to Waterloo Street on following day on recommendations from several sketchers. It was fascinating to see a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple near each other on the same street. This one is a very quick impression of Sri Krishnan Temple from afar.

I had more time to sketch this Kuan Im Temple the next day, which happens to be right next to Sri Krishnan Temple (coincidentally represented by a stamp from the Symposium on the left - big thanks to the organizers for providing a fun souvenir!)

Another must-have element in Singapore is food. Everything I ate tasted great, and there are a wide array of cuisines that blend Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan influences. I usually don't sketch food because I'd rather be eating though it helped to get some pointers from food sketching activity led by Anita Ryanto: use warm colors, and you can add texture to watercolor washes by sprinkling some salt (which would be pretty easy to find if you are dining!) The dish below is Nasi Lamak sketched during the activity.

I do take my trusty Uniball Signo gel pen out to do small, quick "reference notes for later" type of sketches. This is a collage of odd and ends relating to food. The empty brown eggshell and teh (tea with condensed milk) on bottom right are remnants of kaya toast breakfast - the toast is not in the sketch because I ate it before I remembered to draw it :-)

I also made sure I didn't miss Gardens by the Bay. One of the attractions there are 16-story structures covered with a vertical garden called Supertrees. They are similar scale and shape to naturally tall trees, and they are lit up at night. The sketch below doesn't do justice, even after I added blue wash for night sky at home (It's a struggle to do watercolor painting in the dark), but it was a magical sight.

I also visited Cloud Forest at the Gardens, which is a plant conservatory with tallest indoor waterfall in the world. Interior is kept misted and cool while glass windows let in the sunlight. Backlighting on the plants as I peered and painted through the grotto added to the their beauty. Here are a few photos and some small sketches. The purple background on the second sketch was painted at home - I'm still learning to get dark colors really quickly on location.

People take elevators up to start their visit at the the top, and walk down spiral walkway. Fortunately I am not afraid of heights, but I made sure I held onto my pen and sketchbook while I was sketching so I don't drop them! The space was tight and I tried to squeeze against the railing to let a continuous stream of visitors pass through, so I did the linework on location, and painted this sketch at home.

Looking back at the sketches brings back fond memories of exploring and sketching the city with fellow urban sketchers, even if I'm not happy with the drawings I made and even when it took me a while to scan and process them. The very act of making a mark really cements my experience - here's to more sketching!

USK Flickr Exceeds 200,000 Sketches

Today the Urban Sketchers Flickr Group will exceed 200,000 image mark, with sketches from around the world.The group was created in November of 2007 by Gabi Campanario and set the foundation for the Urban Sketchers blog (Nov. 2008) and a non profit organization dedicated to fostering the art of on-location drawing (Dec. 2009).
Over the past 8 years we have amassed over 8,555 members from every continent  and as of today we have 199,900 sketches. With daily sketching submission of about 30-50 we should hit this new plateau by the end of the day or early tomorrow!
USK Flickr is both and entry way for new members as well as an image base for visual storytelling from around the world.
Lets give a little thanks to the volunteers that have helped Over the Past few years to keep things going!

Here are
some gems from deep in the archives of USK Flickr! It's a Fun place to dig around!

Sharon Frost, Brooklyn NY

    Dhanan Sekhar Edathara, Giv' Atam, Isreal

August 30, 2015

iPad sketches from Southwestern Spain

By Gabi Campanario in Montemolín, Spain

A recent post of beautiful iPad sketches of Turkey by Leslie Akchurin's inspired me to share some of my own digital artwork here. I made these sketches just a couple of weeks ago while visiting family in Spain. They show the 900-year-old ruins of a castle in Montemolin, a tiny village in Extremadura where my parents were born and returned to after decades living in Barcelona. I used the Procreate app and a Wacom Intuos Stylus on an iPad mini.

Since meeting iPad sketcher extraordinaire Rob Sketcherman in Singapore, my interest in digital urban sketching has raised a notch. I always like trying new things, so why not? I'm also intrigued by the possibilities of creating drawings on the go and sharing them right away from the tablet, without the limitations of having to take a photo.

Product Review: Field Easel Art Bag

by Róisín Curé in Galway

I've made lots of sketching bags at home, with varying amounts of denim and gingham: the former because it's tough and looks snazzy, the latter because it helps me sew straight lines. But there's been something wrong with all of them. When I stumbled across Darsie Beck's Field Easel Art Bag, I came over all covetous. Once shipping to Ireland was included, it was a little pricey, but I wanted it very much, the more so every time I looked at Darsie's explanatory video. In the end I couldn't fight temptation and I gave in.

Here it is:

I am so glad I did. I bring it everywhere I go. It's big enough to hold my wallet as well as my sketching kit so it's all I need. The whole point of this bag, artistically speaking, is that you can make a sketch without needing to find somewhere to sit down. The front flap (see above) lifts up into a horizontal position, and a plastic piece with Velcro on either end holds it up. The resulting "table" is big enough to support an A5 sketchbook and even an A4. Darsie talks about drawing on the spot using the bag and then painting later but I don't like to do anything after I've left the scene, so I try to paint as well using the Field Easel Art Bag, and it works okay.
The following sketch was done from start to finish standing up. It was tricky enough to stop everything falling but I managed. It's a Connemara boat being rigged by some macho types during Cruinniú na mBád, a traditional boat festival in Kinvara, Co. Galway.
The bag comes with a sort of wallet for your pens and brushes, which you can take out and stick to the shoulder strap with Velcro too. I found that if I put all the drawing stuff away when it came time to paint I could just about manage to hold the paintbox in my left hand and paint with my right. There is a vertical compartment on the right of the outer side of the bag so that's your water bottle taken care of.

I do have three small criticisms.

1. The raw edges of the fabric are left unfinished where the zip is sewn on. This means that the fabric frays a lot, and the loose threads stick to the Velcro tabs when the small plastic support is taken out of its pocket, meaning you are forever picking bits of thread off the Velcro. I think it should be turned in and stitched to avoid this.

2. The bag is a small bit floppy when the "easel" is in use, and I think I need to add another piece of Perspex the same size and shape as the one that you lean on, to give the bag more rigidity. I will simply cut one and add it to the front pocket, whose only use is to hold the slim plastic support when the "easel" is not in use.

3. The shoulder strap is designed for people taller than me (most of the world, no doubt). I am 5'4" and when I attach the wallet to the Velcro tab on the strap, it's too high. The tab needs to be a bit longer to accommodate more adjustment in the length of the strap.

I love the bag and if it ever wears out - which doesn't look likely, except that I literally take it everywhere - I will be buying a new one.

This is an unbiased, unsponsored review.

You can read all about the boat festival on my website here.

Opinions expressed by our correspondents and guest contributors don't necessarily represent an official view of

Sketches from Urban Sketching Workshops in Singapore

by Shiho Nakaza in Singapore

I really enjoyed attending the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore - the energy of people gathering to draw on location is contagious! I appreciate the hospitality shown by local sketchers, and it was fun to meet new sketching friends in addition to meeting familiar sketching friends I met over the last few symposiums.

I've taken some workshops at the Symposium to concentrate on learning to paint as opposed to "drawing with color". In the meantime, I also took workshop taught by Lapin on 180 Degree Sketching to capture the scene as if with a fisheye lens - and it was a lot of fun to think of perspective in an organic way.

Workshop taught by Nina Johansson was about observing and expressing how the light tend to fade from the sky to the ground. This Selegie Arts Centre was part of many shophouses on Prinsep Street. The wedge shape and different colors on the building made it challenging and fun to paint at the same time.

Workshop taught by Shari Blaukopf was about using a big brush to paint in broad strokes. This helps to cover the paper with paint quickly to better capture the moment. This is a view of the National Museum, which is at the same place where Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place. Painting in hot, humid conditions meant that my washes (and paints in my palette) almost never dries completely, so it was hard to add darker colors without it running. I finished adding some dark values at home for this piece.

Workshop taught by Matthew Brehm was about learning to study the color values and making clean watercolor washes. I did many thumbnail sketches at Singapore Management University - this is one of them. Singapore has a bright light that is ideal for seeing the contrast on the buildings very clearly.

While sketches I do at workshops are typically not my personal best, I know what I learned at the workshops will sink in and help me advance my sketching skills - so I did as much sketches as I could in the short amount of free time I had in Singapore. I will post more sketches from Singapore in a separate post.

En Oviedo, Asturias, España. Las ventanas de nuestra apartamento tenían una vista del mercado. (The windows of our apartment had a view of the market.) Drawings by Sharon Frost.

Un mes maravilloso en Oviedo. Un lugar favorito neuvo para nosotros. Regresaremos el año que viene. (We had a wonderful month in Oviedo this summer: a new favorite place for us. We're returning next year.)
Encontramos un bar argentino para mirar Argentina (cayó en los penales) en La Copa América.  (We found an Argentine bar to watch the Copa América. Argentina lost in penalties.)

Qué fabulosa la vista del mercado: un centro de la vida en la Ciudad Vieja. (How great is the view of the market: a center of life in the Old City.)
Una mañana lluviosa trae una urgencia para los vendedores de paraquas fente el mercado. A rainy morning brings a sense of urgency to the umbrella sellers in front of the market.
Mi ordenador portátil, Lester, se murió.  Pero después de mucho esfuerzo vovió a la vida.  (My laptop, Lester, died in Oviedo.  But I was able to bring him back to life.)
Blog: Day Books

Singapore USk Symposium - part 2

by Marina Grechanik in Singapore

I'm continuing my first post about the amazing experience of Singapore USk Symposium. Teaching our workshop "Face the City!" together with my friend from Denmark Ea Ejersbo was, of course, the main reason for coming there. Ea spent the last winter in Israel, near me, and then born our idea of leading a workshop together again. As our mutual favorite sketching subject is people, the starting point was easy to choose. We even did a rehearsal of our workshop in Jaffa for the local Urban Sketchers group. But, of course, doing it in Singapore, for the international audience, as part of the USk symposium, was a different experience!
Certainly, it's impossible to learn sketching people in three and a half hours, and even in there and a half days. Nothing can't exchange her majesty practice, but still, it's possible to transfer our approach to sketching people, and even maybe to the urban sketching in general. I don't fancy perfect step-by-step recipes of a perfect sketch. For me the way is not less important than the result. Lets's say, the way is what really matters, the final sketch is a nice by-product result. In our workshop the main emphasis was on trying to look better, observing, searching for the stories to tell. First of - what you want to tell, and only after - how. To make it easier, we broke our workshop into three exercises. In first one, called "Capture Emotions", we asked the participants to look around for people with recognizable facial expressions and try to capture them.

In second one, "Capture Action" - to pay attention to the body language, which can tell us a lot without words.
In the final exercise we asked to put our "heroes" in their surrounding and tell us a story, using our ability to capture emotions and feeling through facial expressions and body language.
The results were really wonderful, but most important, we saw the participants overcoming invisible barrier, making step out of their safe zone and really enjoying the process!

I enjoyed it very much! Here are some sketches done on the workshop's spot, checking it before and while doing the demonstration.
I'm grateful for the opportunity of being a part of so great team of Symposium's instructors, also because teaching is the best way to learn!
Here is the link where you can download our workshops' flyer.