USK Workshops coming up! ——> Miami with Norberto Dorantes | Costa Rica with William Cordero | Coventry with Isabel Carmona, Swasky and Simone Ridyard | Lisbon with Marina Grechanick | Orange County with Frank Ching and Gail Wong | Tuscany with Simo Capecchi and Caroline Peyron
USkSingapore2015 ——> Registration update: We sold out of Early Bird Activities Passes. More passes will be available on April 11th, when Standard Registration begins. There are still Early Bird Workshops Passes available.

March 27, 2015

stuffs on my desk

Stuffs on desk would be good subjects to draw though they are not easy to dare at first. I try to begin though I feel reluctant always by their complicated features. But the interesting results compensate enough. When the weather is not good to sketch outside they become good friends for me at home. 

Music at The Bassline

by Cathy Gatland, Johannesburg, South Africa

Our group met in Newtown for our regular First Friday date and decided to walk over to The Bassline, a live music venue which has hosted concerts for almost every major South African musician for the last 15 years. A bronze statue of local music legend Brenda Fassie (or MaBrrr) gazes over the square, with a hospitable chair next to her for anyone who wants to pose for a photo, or in this case, a sketch. Wisdom was a willing volunteer who went and sat for us as soon as he saw what we were doing, and was very insistent that I noted down his name for posterity. 

There was a lot of activity in front of the club - a tall-hatted cleaner and a series of people who gathered and hung around until a shady looking character arrived, did some exchanges with each of them and disappeared until the next lot. I didn't investigate further, and tried not to make any eye contact! 
I started drawing some men sitting on the lawn in the square while the others finished, when the man with the guitar, Paulos, spotted me drawing him (he had also tried to pose on MaBrr's chair earlier, but too late for my sketch). He leapt up and came and stood right in front of me, launching joyfully and without restraint into a loud crackly version of "I wanna know what love is", and then, when I said I hadn't finished him yet, into a sort of rap conversation with Wisdom adding a background chorus "Johannesburg, Johannesburg"... Not sure if we were supposed to reply in kind, but it was very funny, and fun. I hope we lightened his day as much as he did ours!

March 26, 2015

Shot Clock

By Fred Lynch in Boston, Massachusetts




Each week at the same time, I report to my doctor's office and receive three allergy shots (ouch!). It seems I'm allergic to every tree, grass, and mold imaginable. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not by much. For years I'll be getting these treatments with the goal of building up my immunities.

Following every treatment comes a required 20 minute stop back in the waiting room. This is to monitor any possible ill-reaction to the inoculations.

Not long ago, it occurred to me that sketching the fellow patients during that pause would make for an interesting and challenging weekly excercise. If you look closely, you'll notice one character was drawn twice, a couple of monthes apart. Someday, this series will be huge study of how Americans wait.

USk News: Tuscany Workshop: Journey into Matter

26 March 2015

USk is pleased to announce a new workshop coming 24-28 June 2015!

The sixth edition of this Tuscan workshop is dedicated to matter. After so many panoramas, this time with our drawing and painting we are going to take a closer look at the materials themselves. 
The infernal landscape of fumarolesvapors, rocks and hot springs in Sasso Pisano Natural Park making up the landscape of the Cecina valley; the high "Balze" cliffs stamping their character on the rugged landscape to the west of Volterra, explored from below, so as to touch them; the artificial landscape of alabaster quarries, so tied to the city's history. 

For more information about this workshop including schedule and registration information, please visit

March 25, 2015

Demolish Auckland

By Murray Dewhurst in New Zealand.

I'm not in support of destroying (what's left) of Auckland's built heritage at all. As you may know Christchurch got destroyed by an earthquake a few years back while Auckland is the complete opposite, it has been getting destroyed by developers for decades.

Strangely though, I really enjoy a bit of demolition! Contradictory I know, but I really got a kick out of doing these sketches. A bit like watching a car crash, the noise, dust and drama is extremely compelling to watch (and sketch).

Standing just outside the security fence I was able to get close to the action and this in turn encouraged me to attack the page with quick vigorous line work.

Not all my sketches worked out particularly well but I think the ones that did have a more authentic feeling than if I'd slavishly laboured over them.

Added bonus for demolition sketching; you only need
1 colour — Orange!

I could get used to living in Key West

By Marc Taro Holmes in Key West, FL

From my perspective, looking out my window at five foot snowbanks, the town of Key West is a marvel.

An impossibly distant fantasy land of tropical luxury. Probably that's how the people that live there feel as well. Walking around, I couldn't get over how the houses were overwhelmed by lush greenery. Even the smallest home had an amazing garden.

One of my favorite spots was the Audubon House. Like many regional museums named after famous people from history, it's not actually *his* house, and it wasn't even built when he visited Key West. But - it is much like a house where he *might* have stayed, and he did make diary entries about the unusual trees in the same block.

As you sit in the overgrown gardens, enjoying orchids and bromeliads hanging from swaying palms, you can imagine him passing through on his quest for the wildest, strangest Birds of America. This was probably the best day of the trip for me. Such a great place to spend the afternoon. Painting this amazing garden, and taking breaks to go look at the gallery of birds. Makes you think you could get used to the Key West Life.

Though, reading a bit about it, it sounds like Audubon himself did not have it easy. His life included: fleeing conscription under a false passport, surviving yellow fever, dodging privateers, managing the family mine (his father figured everyone needed lead for bullets), getting through the civil war intact, ending up in debtor's prison, sketching death-bed portraits for quick cash, fighting the scientific establishment to see his work published, travelling the world hand-selling subscriptions to his prints - actually selling animal pelts he shot himself to raise funds for printing. Whew. that's just the first half of his life.

The house features a small gallery with some excellent reproductions of Audubon's prints, and of course the usual drink coasters and puzzles made from his art. I had to be impressed thinking about his body of work from 1838 still steadily selling. Never mind his great achievement in naturalist art, that right there is impressive to a working artist such as myself.

I have to wonder what the year round experiences are in this town. It does seem precariously perched on a very low lying island, very far out in the ocean. Maybe living on a boat would be the answer? So you could be ready to bug out in hurricane season. I'd prefer to live on a pirate ship like the Jolly Rover. But, there also seems to be a fascinating niche culture of house boating. I am imagining scenes of fleets of these boxy floating homes desperately puttering ahead of an oncoming hurricane. Probably an overactive imagination there. But we'll see what climate change brings. Maybe these people are right!

I hope to get back to Key West again. We had a great time, and I'd love to make it an alternative to Montreal's winter.


March 24, 2015


 by Ekaterina khozatskaya in Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Tipplers bar jjj
Steampunk-style bar - Tipplers. That flamingo sweatshirt catched my eye.

City Grill Expres на Восстания 
City Express - fastfood with burgers.

 Cafe Maestro
 Maestro cafe in the neighborhood. Love those huge windows.

Открытая Библиотека
Went to the open dialogues in our library, the theme was "Particular way of Russia": an author of the TV documentary of the same title, made after 18th century novel by A.Radishchev "Journey From Petersburg to Moscow"showing not much has changed since those times, was talking to the radical journalist.

О, спорт!
 Went to the our sports bar. Sprat sandwitches and vodka.

Emit Remmus
Attended the music rehearsal for the first time. It was so loud! But cool.

Пирс 8/4 Went to the tiki-cocktail bar and had something hot with gin.

Булочная Ф.Вольчека на Суворовском
And some lemon buns and coffee at our local bakery.

USk News: Volunteers Needed

24 March 15

Urban Sketchers is a volunteer-run non-profit organization with thousands of members all over the world.  We couldn't do what we do without hundreds of fabulous volunteers! 

At this time, we're recruiting volunteers with specific skill sets. We're looking for a volunteer Secretary to join the Board, a team of translators, and a Washington State Nonprofit Liaison.

If you're interested in these positions, please go to this link for more information.

March 23, 2015

Parque dos Poetas

For the International Poetry Day (2015-03-22) some of the  USkPortugal sketchers met in PARQUE DOS POETAS, in Oeiras.

Spring is the very beginning and lots of trees still have no leaves and also it was not really warm but we had lots of fun and very good drawings.

USk News: Early Bird Registration for the Singapore Symposium is now open!

23 March 2015

USk is pleased to announce that early bird registration for the Singapore Symposium is now open! 

To register, please visit the registration site:

Classical Dance from Bangalore, India

Disha Sahu, interviewed by Marcia Milner-Brage

To paraphrase from Disha Sahu's blog Inking Nostalgia:

The dialog between drawing and dance can be antagonistic. One tries to freeze a perfect moment, the other glorifies in continual movement. The two art forms are at opposite poles. Not to say that dance doesn't express stillness. Or that drawing can't capture motion. But each has its own inherent qualities. I count myself lucky to have the chance to engage with both art forms.

Tell us about the dance that you have drawn.

Kathak is one of the seven Indian classical dance forms. It predominately comes from northern India. Its name Kathak emanates from a Hindi word, "Katha", meaning story. Thus, Kathak dancers are storytellers. Its form has developed over the last 1500 years. There are varied schools of learning within the discipline, namely Lucknow Gharana, Jaipur Gharana and Banaras Gharana. (Gharana in Hindi means school of thought/learning). The above mentioned Gharanas are named after three Indian cities where these styles developed. As a form, it's known for its rhythm, synchronised footwork, expressiveness, speed and agility.

Bharatanatyam is another form of Indian Dance. Its tradition comes from the temples of southern India. 

Tell us more about your involvement with classical Indian dance. 

I pursue Kathak as a hobby. I was introduced to this classical dance form by my mother some fifteen years ago. She saw a creative bent in me and thought it could best manifest through Kathak, so she got me to join the classes. It took me five years to pursue it seriously. And so for the last ten years, I have been practicing it.

How did these drawings come about?

I go to my dance studio to just practice Kathak and relax. I attend a bi-weekly class. These were done in my dance studio, where I observed my co-dancers and did the sketches.

Tell us about how Kathak and Bharatanatyam are performed.

The original Kathak dance was performed by solo individuals. In contemporary context, it's common to do duet and group performances. Kathak is a dance form which evolved from the royal courts of northern India. Bharatanatyam, which originated in southern India, began as dance as a form of worship. But today, both are more often found in auditoriums, classical dance festivals and art institutions. They are not done in streets or markets. They are not a folk art but a classical art form.

Disha Sahu is an architect based in Bangalore and Delhi, India. In her leisure time, besides dancing Kathak, she likes to sketch, read, travel, do photography, try various cuisines, and indulge in soulful music. She thinks of herself as a traveler with a sketchpad. Follow her BLOG or on Facebook.

Saint Patrick Preserve Us!

By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, QC, CA

This past Sunday was Montreal’s St. Patrick’s day parade. Unfortunately for us, it was an inhospitable -8 C / 18 F. I heard someone say the wind chill rating was -17 /1. Not a great day for a parade.

But, somehow, St. Pat brings out the Fighting Irish in all of Montreal.

[I liked the Hat Sellers working the crowds]

Thousands of parade watchers were somehow willing to gather, muffled to the eyes in many cases, to tough out the cold in the pre-parade street party. I was surprised how early the crowds gathered, and what a great time everyone seemed to be having.

The parade marchers were even more heroic – the girls in Irish dancing costumes had to face the weather in skirts and tights. The marching bands had to be in uniform, no scarves for them. I imagine the people in giant padded mascot suits were the only ones warm enough that day.

These sketches are a testimony to the power of Urban Sketchers as a drawing club - as in, the great value it has for your own motivation. If I had not set a time to meet the other sketchers on the street I’d probably have given up. But I had made plans to get these drawings, so freezing wind be damned, I was going to draw.

It’s also evidence of another theory of mine – that the hardships of drawing on location actually make the drawings better. It was necessary to work at great speed. Not just because the marchers were moving at a clip, or that your portrait subjects were constantly vanishing in the crowd – but because as soon as you open your pen, a countdown begins.

[Red Hats invade the Green Hats!]

In moments, the ink begins to stiffen up, and your fingers begin to hurt. Soon the pains are sharp enough you can’t ignore. You have to tough it out to the end of the drawing, and then get your hands back into your coat. Great motivation to make the fastest drawing possible! (I was not wearing adequate gloves. I had read online to try latex gloves as liners for knitted mitts. Don't try this. It does not work in the slightest).

But either way, difficult conditions really help you make decisive drawings! You’ll find yourself making the swiftest observations. It’s amazing how it changes your work – towards the more aggressive, more spontaneous line.

Just look at this sketch of the fellow wrapped in the Irish flag – I think it’s one of my best drawings ever. You can’t make this kind of drawing at leisure. At home, in the studio, you just aren’t stressed enough to kick into ‘survival sketching mode’.

For people taking my Sketching People in Motion online class - these are done directly with the pen. No time for the pencil scribbles underneath that I demo in class. Not to say what I teach in the video is invalid, just that the Pencil > Pen > Brush method is a good way to learn, and when you're ready, you can go 'all in'. The color, by the way, was done afterwards in the cafe. You can't watercolor in a sketchbook in the cold. The paint simply won't dry, and you can't turn the page to carry on.

You might notice a bit of extra excitement in the line work – even beyond what came from the harsh drawing situation. This was my first test run with a Noodler's Creaper. Their so-called ‘Flex Nib’.

I have to say it’s not as flexible as a dip nib – but it’s closer than I’ve had in a conventional Lamy or Platinum pen.

I have one minor complaint about The Creaper – the built-in ink filling system. It’s an old fashioned design where you stick the whole pen nose down into the ink bottle and twist the back end to vacuum up ink.

It’s mechanically sound – fills just fine – but there is a flaw.

If you stick the cap on the back of the pen while drawing – trying to fidget it off later causes you to turn the filling mechanism and squirt ink out of the pen. I was lucky to avoid ruining a drawing. The other downside is, you can’t fill this pen if the ink level is your bottle is lower than the full length of the nib and feed. Whereas a cartridge-style ink filling gadget can get suction on the ink, even with only a few mils left in the bottle. Minor complaints – but there you go.

So far, the drawing feel of this pen is quite good, so I’m going to keep it for a while and report more as I go.