August 27, 2014

Balcony experience -- Buenos Aires. Barrio Norte.

We've been spending August here for 6 or 7 years. This city does grow on you.
Back on Billinghurst, it's not Boogie Street.  There isn't a banjo, but there is a traffic jam.
Broken view: Buenos Aires.
Gardens of Billinghurst.

Sharon Frost. Blog: Day Books

Urban Sketching Symposium Paraty 2014 - Preparation and Arrival

Sketchers attending the Symposium in Paraty have been making their plans for months - selecting workshops and activities, making travel plans, anticipating meeting old and new friends - but the shareable images really start with the packing...

Thiago Bueno Salcedo

Our local organizers had a lot of packing to do...

Cretacolor giveaways with USk Paraty 2014 logo

As early as last week sketchers began to arrive in São Paulo and in Rio...

Liz Steel and Marc Holmes - São Paulo

Some were even on the same plane!

Everyone immediately began meeting up to sketch...

Making their way to Paraty was the next step, and got them that much closer to the Symposium, which starts Wednesday afternoon.

Fernanda Vaz de Campos and Eduardo Bajzek, our intrepid local Symposium leaders, roadtripping it to Paraty from São Paulo

Liz Steel, Suhita Shirodkar and Esther Semmens enjoying the cool winter night

Lynne Chapman sketching from the bus to Paraty

Martine Kervagoret sketching Paraty's beautiful light

We'll be bringing you more updates throughout the event here and on the USk Paraty 2014 site. You can also follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - look for #uskparaty2014 - and share your own pictures if you're there!

Every day a sunny one in our memories (except in Bray)

Bray is a Victorian seaside town on the east coast of Ireland. My father was born and brought up there, and his parents ran a pharmacy on the Quinsboro Road just off Main Street. Dad ran his knitwear cooperative in a little building behind his parents' house on the Herbert Road, and I had to walk from the train station to my grandparents' house every day after school, to await my lift home. I hated Bray growing up - there was nothing really wrong with it, but it was the setting for all my teenage grievances, my constant social embarrassments, my failures to impress. Now it is a town full of Euro saver shops and fast-fashion boutiques, and a McDonald's occupies the entire ground floor of the beautiful red-brick Victorian Town Hall.

I grew up about six miles from the town, which means that I'm not from Bray. Nonetheless my husband thinks it is very funny to say "You're such a Bray girl," which he has no right to do because (a) I'm NOT from Bray, and (b) he's English, which automatically disqualifies him from slagging any Irish person's hometown (or not, as in the case in point).

Bray has a very special redeeming feature in the form of a long seafront promenade along the water's edge where the Irish Sea starts. It's always packed with walkers, joggers, dogs and people on varying numbers of wheels. Along its length are ice cream parlours selling anything from your standard Irish '99 (that's a white swirl of soft vanilla ice cream in a cone with a Cadbury's Flake sticking out the top) to much more fancy Celtic Tiger-esque Italian gelato in lots of flavours, with fancy prices to match. It's far from gelato we were reared!

These two ice cream parlours are very much in the former vein. The one on the right is called Maud's, but I suspect Maud may have a hand in both establishments, as the ice cream cones on the overhead signs are obviously designed and produced in the same factory, some of them having been cunningly reversed in Photoshop to give the illusion of a great variety of pictures of ice cream. Happily for Maud, my drawing is so inaccurate that this illusion is even more convincing.

Some people who saw this sketch spoke of how it evoked happy memories of visits to the seaside. That's why I felt I had to give the full picture of my chequered experience of Bray. Thanks be to the heavens, those miserable teenage years are far behind me, and now Bray is a place where the wonderful things in my life are underlined. I'm lucky enough that my family and I often stay with my parents in their lovely home near Bray Head: after a walk along the Seafront, I buy my kids garishly-topped whipped ice creams at Maud's, and we take a meandering walk up the hill to my folks' house, past all the beautiful gardens and lovely Victorian houses.

There are funny little kiosks all along the Seafront selling all kinds of stuff (including ice creams). I don't know how I didn't notice that they are all painted in different candy-striped colours until earlier this year. I think it may be because they were painted pale gloss blue for ages, but my mother says they've been stripy for years. Maybe I refused to see them, like a prisoner who can't go through the open door when he's been released. The kiosks are actually adorable now, and I very much want to sketch them all. There is a sunshine-yellow striped one: a crushed-berry striped one: this blue one, and just wait until St. Patrick's Day, when I will sketch, and post, the Kelly-green striped one, which is festooned with green, white and orange bunting, and sells green, white and orange balloons. Mmmm. I know all the sketchers are salivating at the thought. Add to this the hordes of people dressed in weird plastic leprachaun suits - just the facade of the leprechaun, mind - like the black guy I saw last year with a fake hairy red beard, fake stovepot hat with big gold buckle and fake pink plastic pot belly, and us sketchers are giddy with excitement. But the kiosk I drew here was a little more low-key.

 Normally passers-by have quite a bit to say when I'm drawing, and I love the interaction, but I was out of luck that day. Bray attracts a demographic who may or may not be avid sketchers, but the lovely thing was that the one or two people who did stop to talk to me became very thoughtful as they reminisced about how they used to love drawing as a kid. I always evangelise them immediately, and urge them to take up urban sketching. Most people were more interested in those huge inflatable balls and the Hello Kitty and Homer Simpson inflatable dolls, and I heard a young lady complaining about one of those games where you have to hit a target for a prize or something.
"Ye have to do it tree or fower times before you even GET de teddy," she said - I hope that's easily translated into whatever English you're more used to.

From my parents' house, there's an amazing vista of the Seafront wrapping its way along the water's edge, with a row of those beautiful Victorian houses lining the road that runs along its length. One side is all buildings and funfairs and stuff, the other is a great sheet of blue sea: I will make a point of drawing it the next time I'm up.

I won't be drawing the Euro shops matter how brightly-coloured.

August 26, 2014

My Summer Location Drawing Class at AAU, San Francisco (Pt 8: the san francisco zoo)

I had never been to the SF Zoo, though I had just been to the Denver zoo a few weeks before with my buddy Adam, who, back in the day, used to visit the zoo in Sacramento with me where we'd see extraordinary things - steam rising off the haunches of mating zebras in winter, gibbons pausing their brachiating, transfixed by floating bubbles, and that one time passing by the tiger enclosure when a tiger spied us from across the yard and came bounding for us, smacking with a mighty leap into the chain link fence (!) mere inches from Adam, giving him a rare view of what few have ever seen and lived to tell. Nothing so colorful happened this time, but a fine day was had. It was San Francisco resident day, so most of the students got in free. I headed for the megafauna, wanting to draw some rhinos. The big greater one-horned here took a few passes as he kept moving around. Someties if there are several animals together, you can draw one and then another as they change positions, and keep several sketches going at the same time. Alternately, if a more solitary animal, you might have to wait until it comes around again to a similar pose. Drawing at the zoo brings out the historical naturalist in me, I try to get both the essence and the details down, as though I am seeing these creatures for the first time and reporting for a wondering audience back home.

We ran into my friend and colleague Mark Simmons who draws at the zoo quite often and who gave us good tips about where to go at what times to see feedings, presentations and petting opportunities, and shared his current zoo sketchbook with us. I spent a while watching the grizzly bears, playful,  majestic, and primal, swimming and cavorting behind thick walls of glass. If I really were a naturalist back in the day, I could never get so close to draw so much. So many more wonders than I got a chance to draw, I'll have to come back. Next: the Cable Car Museum.

Riding the 1920 Carousel in Balboa Park, San Diego

"The 1910 Balboa Park Carousel, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, is a menagerie of animals and all but two pairs are original with hand-carved European craftsmanship. This carousel is one of the few in the world still offering the brass ring game for everyone taking ride."

My friends and I sketched outside the San Diego Zoo before the carousel opened. This was a little secluded spot across from the Otto Center in Balboa Park.

All Sponsors Announced for 2014 Symposium


For Release August 26, 2014

Urban Sketchers Announces All Sponsors for 2014 Urban Sketching Symposium 

This week over 200 urban sketchers from around the globe will converge on Paraty, Brazil, for the 5th Urban Sketching Symposium. The 4-day event is organized by Urban Sketchers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the art of on-location drawing. Beginning on Wednesday afternoon, sketchers will discover Paraty as they explore materials, techniques and concepts of drawing on location from direct observation.

This event is made possible in part by working with the following sponsors:

Platinum Level
We are pleased to welcome PEN.UP as a Symposium sponsor for the first time this year.
PEN.UP is a creative social network service that allows you to share images and pictures with other users. PEN.UP has also scheduled a meet-up during the Symposium, where they will demonstrate drawing with a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

Gold Level
Cretacolor is sponsoring the Urban Sketcher Symposium this year for the second time. Made by Brevilliers, Cretacolor pencils are part of a 150-year-old tradition in the making of pencils. Cretacolor has prepared a set of six pencils as giveaways for Symposium attendees, packed in a practical metal box with the Paraty Symposium logo.

Moleskine has been our partner for many years as a Symposium sponsor. Moleskine and Urban Sketchers share a love of the analog approach of recording what we see in a notebook, and the digital approach of sharing online. Moleskine has also provided sketchbooks for Symposium attendees.

We are pleased to welcome Strathmore as a Symposium sponsor again this year. Strathmore has been making paper products in the United States since 1892.

Silver Level
We are happy to introduce new sponsor Super5, a fountain pen from the format-creative workshop in Darmstadt, Germany. Attendees will receive their own Super5 pen, and various inks will be available for testing.

Bronze Level
Cretacolor’s sponsorship was made possible with kind support by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

Laloran joins us as a sponsor again this year by providing sketchbooks handmade in Portugal.

Casa do Artista, an art supply store based in São Paulo, has provided sketchbooks and pens for Symposium attendees.

In addition to providing materials for participants, many of these sponsors contribute funds that go toward airfare and lodging for instructors and staff, all of whom volunteer their time to the Symposium.

More than 200 sketching enthusiasts will gather for hands-on sketching workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and sketch crawls in Paraty. Sketchers will gather at host institution Casa da Cultura. The workshops and activities are led by an influential team of local and international artists, listed on the Symposium site,

Urban Sketchers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing; promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Elizabeth Alley, Events Director


Amongst the tombstones

A sketch-crawl through the vast Peidmont Cemetery. From the top there are beautiful vistas across the Bay Area with downtown Oakland, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.  The layout of the cemetery has lovely swooping curves like the shape of an artist's palette. There are some incredible tombs like the pyramid visible on the left of the picture below.

This was my 'warm-up' study. I'd seen George Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' recently and was on the look out for zombies!

Down at the main gate these old Navy veterans were entering the chapel for a memorial service. They each had a rifle which they fired in salute. I couldn't resist trying to capture them in their neat uniforms.

How I spent my summer vacation: Scaling the Alberta Rockies


One of my old art school chums has become a serious rock climber in the years we've been away. On a recent trip back home, she invited us to join her climbing buddies for a day at Grassi Lakes, above Canmore AB.



The ladies were doing rapid scrambles up 35 feet of vertical rock faces, taking only five or six minutes top to bottom, testing themselves against different routes and difficulties. Sometimes ‘hang dogging’ or ‘taking a whipper’ – but mostly making it look easy.

My friend led her first 5.10d pitch on that day, which was cool to be there to see. Much appropriate high-fiving and who-hooing all around.

I think this group of climbing vets wouldn't normally choose this kind of spot. I get the feeling it’s a lot closer to civilization than they prefer. They’d quite generously picked a place I could hike into without raising my heart rate.

We started early, initially having the spot to ourselves, but by mid-day the walls were crawling with climbers.


There are lanes of bolts set in to the walls, every 20 feet or so around the upper lake, making what I can’t help calling a vertical bowling alley out of the box canyon.

Every pitch was in use. There were old pro’s showing new guys the ropes – (hah! Literally!), hard core mountaineers with ratty dreadlocks and well used gear, next to city people in super hero lycra and matching harnesses. At the foot of the wall patient crag dogs waited, people prepped lunch, (we had smoked sausages, that I bet smell *great* to bears), and significant others swam in the lake while their buff-er partners clung to the rocks. Or mostly, swapped stories and waited their turn.

You have to wonder how long the rock faces will stand up to such popular use. But I guess, this is the way of things. I can see the climbers love the mountains, and people try to be responsible. But at the same time, it seems there’s no stopping the growth of sport climbing in the Rockies. Every year it’s just going to get bigger. I suppose it will push the good climbing further out into the parks – and then there will be heli-climbing. You can’t stop people getting at the thing they love. Which I have respect for in its own way, given what I do.


I’m always excited (and a bit nervous) to sketch something like this. Something I haven't seen before. Doubly so, when it’s something that won't hold still for you. You never lose the concern you’ll flounder, be unable to capture what’s happening.

But I think the very new-ness of the thing, the fact you've never drawn it before, makes you hyper focused. Plus the pressure to live up to the occasion. The drawings might not be as polished as with more familiar, or more standing-still subjects, but they’re always a living record of a new experience.





Trees under threat

Málaga, Alameda Principal

A city is always in the need of new underground structures or equipment: pipelines, parkings, tunnels... and here they are, just in the way. Trees.

A brand new subway has recently been opened in Málaga. A new line is being planned under the Alameda, a wide avenue shaded by a group of 150-year-old ficus trees. Experts from the engineering office responsible for the design guarantee the trees will not suffer any harm at all; some groups of citizens disagree and fear for the future of this old beauties that give such a strong personality to this place and provide an effective shelter in hot summer afternoons.

Not far from there, the Paseo de España was involved not long ago in a major city plan that would build a trench to lower the lanes and hide them from the surface. Of course this would imply that the double plane tree row would be gone; in that case plans were finally descarded.

Issues like this one arise from time to time and everywhere... the balance between progress and heritage becomes often difficult. 

Málaga, Paseo de los Curas

August 25, 2014

State Housings

It wasn't a specific urban sketching trip. A friend texted me for lunch and I obliged since I wasn't doing anything important. We were to meet in Clementi, a satellite town in the west part of the Singapore island, and about 15 minutes drive on the highway, about 10km from where I was. We picked a coffeeshop aka kopitiam at random and just sat and draw.

I told him I haven't been to Clementi so much in my life since I moved out about 12 years ago. And the reason is simple. A mega art supplier has recently moved and set its shop here, and therefore a very good excuse to come pick up something together and then have coffee. There is no short of coffeeshops (the typical Singapore type - the type where you can both eat and drink) here in Clementi Town which is also easily accessible by the MRT.

Hero fountain pen on Monologue sketchbook
This is a typical scene of the urban lifestyle in Singapore. The rows of state subsidised housings in the background and people everywhere, much like what you would see in Hong Kong or Taiwan or Korea. Best way to get to know Singapore is to be in the heartlands.

Coffeeshops are places where you would find many retirees chilling with coffee and a puff; where they meet up with their own friends living in the neighbourhood nearby. I feel like a retiree myself since I am spending lots of time in coffeeshops too, especially during downtime when I am not loaded with too much work to do.

That's when I would usually spend my time looking at people and sketching them.

The sketch of the state housing above was done with a Hero pen M86 on a Monologue sketch book A4 cost about USD19; quite good quality paper, takes both ink and wash very well and quite heavy duty.

I like its soft cover, which is still strong enough to hold the book flat when opened.

Subsidised state housings policy in Singapore ensure that 99% of the people own a home.

Beach in Algarve

The weather is in everibody's talk.
Not so hot, cold water and lots of cloudy days.
But ... beaches are still crouded like here in Armação de Pera.

Bonjour La Bretagne!

                                           Motorway travel, views from a jam

This year's Urban Sketchers symposium is as I write taking place in Paraty- a Portuguese colonial seaside town in Brazil prone to flooding. But while the participants were packing flip-flops for this annual gathering, I was heading with Mr. Price for the tranquil shores of Brittany.
From the north of England, with the motorways jammed with traffic, it's a slow journey down to the south coast and the ferries.

The boat's jam-packed, too! We have no overnight cabin and as I lie bruising myself on the floor under a table I'm close to weeping (or homicide) at one-o-clock in the morning, as I listen to a selfish mother nearby, raucously singing 'Row, row, row your boat” with her child. Well, thank you! Charming and touching though the scene might be in daylight hours, I don't think it's really on when everyone's trying to get some rest ...

                                                  The little barn, washing and roof-mending

Our house has survived since Spring, although the familiar dead-mouse-under-the-floorboards smell greets us and stays around for a few days. Over the years we've learned you just have to sit it out, helped along by incense and air-fresheners.
A box of clothes has been nibbled by the wee pests, too. I buy horrid mouse-traps, but Mr.Price 'forgets' to ever set them while we're over.


The garden's run rampage as well, with little plum trees everywhere. There's a wren's nest built in a hank of rope on the back wall of the lean-to. The little bird has flown, but inside are empty eggshells and just one lonely infertile egg, tiny and white, translucent and almost weightless in the hand. We need the rope for cutting down a big branch, though, so I carefully remove the small dwelling to keep in a box, perhaps to draw at a later date.

Some of the family are with us, and the younger grandson is quite eager to help us, and his Mum and Dad, to clear the garden. The other, older and aware that his hairstyle and cool need preserving, is less naively enthusiastic and chooses to wander around foppishly, documenting the work of others on his camera.

They're at the beach most days, however- and we, too, manage to escape the relentless gardening for an afternoon swim at the lovely Pen-guen beach. The seawater stings my bramble-scratched arms and that cliff-path gets steeper every year, but it's a good pain!

The house is up for sale, so every visit might be almost the last, who knows?                                               

And in an act of blatant self-publicity (contact me, though), here's a link:

Caroline Johnson, Manchester and Rennes

And said Goodbye to the Circus

Piccadilly Circus
London, UK: Whenever I fly back to England, I spend the first few mornings waking up at ridiculously early hours with an urge to go out and sketch everything. One of my least favourite sketching spots in London is Piccadilly Circus, the traffic and tourist filled junction at the bottom end of Regent Street, our very own Times Square if you will. We only call it that because of the neon-lit advert hoardings, there are tourists and traffic jams everywhere in central London. Piccadilly Circus is a headache. So naturally on this early-to-rise morning I headed there first, so I could sketch it in its calmer, emptier state. I stood outside Lillywhites, the big sports megastore full of lovely new football shirts (I'm quite a football shirt geek), waiting for it to open, and sketched the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, also known as the Angel of Christian Charity, more commonly known to Londoners as 'Eros'. After a while, some police officers showed up, dressed in bright yellow overcoats. They were just hanging around, and then more came. Some photographers also started gathering, and then more police, and then two officers mounted on horseback, all in a jovial mood, all happy to pose with tourists. There must have been over forty police officers there, and they all stood together and said “cheese, guv” and had their photo taken in front of the statue (“Ello, ello, ello, what’s goin’ on Eros then?” I chuckled to myself). I had already drawn most of it by then but I did add a couple of coppers for good measure. A young woman from Germany, holidaying in London, stopped and watched me sketch for a while, even sitting down when I crouched over to add the paint, and we talked about the benefits of urban sketching every day. I was in a good mood for my first out-and-about sketch in London, and when I was done I said goodbye to the circus, popped into Lillywhites to see the glossy new Tottenham shirt, and set off to sketch the narrow dusty streets of Soho.
by Pete Scully

Selected sketches from my 2014 Bali trip

I just came back recently from a sketching trip in Bali. I spent two weeks there, sketching around the places I visited. Below are selected sketches (you can click to view them larger) out of the 50+ pages I've completed.

This is Museum Bali located in the Denpasar, the city centre of Bali. The museum features mainly sculpture art. The architecture of the museum is beautiful and intricate. This sort of architecture is common in Bali and you can see them almost anywhere, such as in schools, people's home, hotels, restaurants, and even at the Ngurah Rai Airport.

There are many beautiful temples in Bali. This is Pura Tirtha Empul, a temple that has running spring water that's supposed to be holy. The locals and tourists can dip into the pool to be cleansed by the holy spring water. The water is so clear that you can see big fishes swimming around at the bottom. This particular sketch was sketched with the holy water.

I was drawing this early in the morning before the crowd came. This is the ferry terminal at Padang Bai where the trips are made to the nearby Gili Islands and Lombok. While I was drawing, several boatmen came over to see what I was doing, several of them urging me to write the name of their boats on my sketch.

I gave myself a quota of 4 A4 pages to sketch a day and I was starting to run out of the usual colours I have been using. I switched to Daniel Smith Lemon Yellow, Phthalo Blue and Transparent Pyrrole Orange for the spread above. Phthalo Blue and Pyrrole Orange can mix together to form a nice gray that go quite dark. Pyrrole Orange and Lemon Yellow gives a nice orange.

Here, I tried a much looser style because the sky was getting dark at Legian Beach. Bali is a popular surfing spot. At the airport, you can see many tourists with lugging their surfboards around as luggage. On the beach, you can rent surfboards if you don't have one. If you don't know how to surf, you can get one of the "Kuta cowboys" who've set up shop there to give you a quick surfing coarse. The tides there are quite strong and high.

To see all the sketches, visit my Google+ ablum page. I'll also be writing more about the Bali trip on my blog in the next few days or weeks.

- Parka