April 26, 2015

Seattle Sketchers visit Seattle Chinese Garden

In 2011,  I visited the Seattle Chinese Garden with my family.  At that time, the “Knowing the Spring Courtyard” had just been completed.  Four years later, just last Sunday the Seattle Urban Sketchers went there for our monthly sketch outing.  The garden is still not complete.  In fact, most of the change I saw was in the additional planting areas.  Funding has slowed the progress of completing additional pavilions and buildings as well as other infrastructure.  Buildings and Pavilions are fabricated in China and artisans are brought over to work with local contractors for the installation of the work.  There is a lot more to be done.    It is planned to ultimately have a total of 12 buildings, including an education center and a banquet hall.  When completed, the gardens and buildings will cover  4.6 acres on the north side of South Seattle Community College.

The project is a collaboration between architects and artisans from Seattle and its sister  city of Chongqing.  The Garden when completed will represent the traditional Sichuan style Chinese garden.

Seattle Urban Sketchers -It looks like we were in China!
Admiring the work done during the day.
My sketch and the Pine and Plum Pavilion
The Pine and Plum Pavilion
Rear entrance of the Knowing the Spring Courtyard
Walkways that surround the Knowing the Spring Courtyard.

London Urban Sketchers draw St Paul's Cathedral and the Thames

Yesterday, London Urban Sketchers held their monthly sketchcrawl - this month it was "Let's Draw St Paul's to the Thames" Here's a couple of photographs of our ever increasing band of happy sketchers - and their sketches.

....at lunchtime, here we all are on the roof terrace of One New Change, nearly level with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral

in the afternoon - sketching the skyline across the City of London and the South Bank of the Thames from One New Change

and at the end of the day, in Paternoster Square in front of the Stock Exchange building

and here are the sketches - from lunchtime

and some of the sketches at the end of the day - there were lots of "up close with the dome" sketches from those on the roof of One New Change!

People will be posting their sketches today and next week on

For anybody who would like to join us, next month's outing will be to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew on Saturday 16th May. The notice of the outing will be placed in the very near future on our blog. 

April 25, 2015

Old cottages of Akaroa

Here are some old cottage sketches from our Akaroa trip over Easter - if it's one thing Akaroa does well it's old houses. Akaroa was settled in 1840 by French settlers which gives it a point of difference amongst local destinations. As the English already had a large presence in the North Island it had been hoped that they could take the South Island in the name of France. By the time they arrived it was too late as the English had moved quickly to secure the south. Despite that they bought land from local Maori and set about building Akaroa.

This first house below – the Langlois-Eteveneux cottage is one of the original French cottages and was pre-fabricated in France then shipped out. It certainly does have a slightly different look and construction to most of the other cottages in town. Street names are a legacy of the early French settlement with this house on the corner of Rue Lavaud and Rue Balguerie.

This cottage below got the better of my landscape sketchbook - I had to crop the roof off so it could fit. This one is on Rue Jolie...

Obviously the building below isn't a cottage at all but I've included it anyway. It's the Old Shipping Office and like a lot of early NZ commercial buildings it is constructed of timber to look like stone – even down to the turned balustrades and wooden keystone at the top.

This one at the top of Rue Jolie has flowering Nikau palms and awesome harbour views...

Akaroa harbour is a partly submerged volcanic cone or caldera on the Banks Peninsular east of Christchurch so the terrain rises very steeply guaranteeing dramatic views of rugged peaks over water. I've tried to compress the scenery into most of the sketches somewhere. This one is on the not so French sounding William Street...

Our accommodation in Akaroa for the week was this original 1850's cottage complete with old coal range. Fortunately it wasn't quite cold enough to light it...

Riding the Green Line in San Diego

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego
"Trixxies's Trolley Trek" started at the Santee Trolley Station. The San Diego Urban Sketchers hopped on the trolley for a short ride to the next stop where we got off, sketched for 15 minutes then jumped back on the trolley to the next station. We sketched at 4 different stops before returning to Santee. All of the sketches were done quickly, after the 2nd stop i realized I left my bag on the trolley, while it was on the way to downtown San Diego, I continued to sketch but with pen only. Thanks to a trolley flagger who radio'd the trolley I was lucky get my bag back with all my valuables still in it.

SANTA BARBARA, Ancient Colonial Slave Quarters

It's been a long time Urban Sketchers! But I'm happy to return and share this drawing with y'all.  I had attempted to draw this very scene a few years ago but was overwhelmed by the amount of visual information and gave up.  I returned about a month ago and still found it daunting at first but I managed to stick with it.

This looks upon Santa Barbara, a beautiful but impoverished neighbourhood in Santo Domingo's colonial zone.  Back in the 15th and 16th century, when Spaniards conquered the island, it served as the slave quarters, since it was conveniently close to the river Ozama, which flows to the right of the drawing.  Today, tourists and locals walk freely about, many unaware of this place's historical importance.  Since this was drawn in March, a windy month here, you can see some kites flown by local kids.  Slavery and flight, drawn together.

Sketching Boston Death Penalty Trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

(Ed note: In the following, Richard provides USK his perspective as a sketcher - describing what it's like to be a journalist who draws the news. His first person narratives on the Washington Post blog bring greater depth to the story of the ongoing trial in Boston).

In Boston MA, by Richard Johnson

I have spent six days up in Boston urban sketching the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber, on assignment for the Washington Post. This, as I am sure you can imagine, comes with numerous challenges.

BACKGROUNDING: The first thing I did was visit and sketch the locations of both bombings to get a real world feel for the terrain. There really was not much to see at either location.

GETTING IN: My success so far comes from arriving stupidly early and then being neck-achingly obsequious to all the lovely (in case they are reading) federal employees. I am generally one of the last to get in the court IF I am getting in at all.

GETTING A SEAT: I generally end up in one back corner squeezing in beside a bunch of folks who were definitely NOT expecting any more visitors. I usually drop all of my pens, sketchpad, googly opera glasses, and binoculars in the gap between us.

THE VIEW: My best seat so far has been about forty feet from the witness box and Tsarnaev himself, sixty from the judge. And between us are a sea of heads all wagging left and right trying to see past one another. It is like a game of whack-a-sketch.

BINOCULARS: Yes indeed. I recommend this as a drawing exercise of utter misery when you are feeling overly happy. It is difficult, migraine inducing work, but it is generally the only choice I have. When a witness is on the stand forty feet away I lift the binoculars, memorize an eye shape, or a hair curl, or a nostril shape, then drop the binoculars and draw a line – and then repeat until hopefully a face appears.

CRYING: Tears and binoculars are not a great combination. As I draw I am listening to the testimony of the witnesses. Partly because it is impossible not to, but also because I am waiting on those insightful, powerful quotes so I can add in as part of the sketch. The horrifying testimony also has an emotional effect so at any second I can find myself writing or drawing through tears.

SKETCHING: I usually have three or four sketches on the go at any one time. One of the room in general, one of the witness stand, one of anything else going on, and one of Tsarnaev himself. Tsarnaev generally keeps facing forward offering only a very slight oblique profile. But he will intermittently lean his head to the left to speak a few words to his lawyer. I keep one eye on this at all times ready to swing the binoculars in his direction in order to catch him.

FILING: The court is a no photography zone with no internet. At lunch break I run out into the street, find a place to lay the art out on the ground and photograph it. Then I run the half block to Starbucks and snag a table. If I am feeling good I’ll buy a coffee rather than just pilfering their interweb. I upload and file the morning’s work leaving me just enough time to throw out my half drunk coffee and go right back into court again. I then repeat basically the same process for the afternoon session.

THE AMBIANCE: Finally whenever I get a little down time I like to catch some of those strange little indoor and outdoor courtroom details, the protesters, the lawyers, the police or the media. I feel this gives the reader a little more feel for the oppressive nature of the whole thing. Rinse and repeat. 

Gallery here http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/tsarnaev-trial/ 
Full blog here http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/drawing-dc-together/ 

WWOOFing in Tuscany

Hi everyone! In this period I'm travelling in Italy like a volunteer in organic farms.
Now I'm in Tuscany and I found this place really fantastic! Great people to talking about biodynamic agricolture and steinerian studies, great work in the orchard where I'm preparing the soil and plant the summer culture.

The house is also a fantastic meeting between organic architecture and the art of reuse.

Spring is coming, the sun is shining and the Nature sing all over!

(sorry for the bad quality of the photo, but I don't have the right instrument to post!)

April 24, 2015

Richmond VA: Workshop Report

We are just back from the USK workshop in Richmond VA, held in conjunction with the exhibition on Urban Sketching at the Virginia Center for Architecture. Thanks to Jessie Chapman and Marshall Dreiling for organizing the weekend.

This was a fundraising event, with a portion of the proceeds split between VCA and USK. While I was there, I took an extra day to do a solo sketchcrawl, and I've donated a few small watercolors to an auction that will happen around the end of the exhibit - which is up until July 5th. If you're in the area, the exhibition is well worth a quick visit - and the Branch House (above) is a great sketching subject.


If anyone is interested in the drawing exercises we did at the workshop, I've posted the full text of the workshop handouts on my blog.

Demo_Cinq-a-SeptDemo_Tone Shapes

We had a great group from a variety of sketching backgrounds. It was the kind of team I love drawing with. Everyone was fully engaged - putting a lot of effort into the exercises, working to improve their sketching, but enjoying themselves at the same time.

Thanks to everyone who came out!

In transit and in place in Brooklyn. Drawings by Sharon Frost.

On the F train, above ground at Smith & 9th, the highest point in New York City's subway system. The semi-industrial view and light make a dramatic shift.
Lost in thought at the Brooklyn Commune, one of our favorite café spaces in our part of Brooklyn (Windsor Terrace).
A new entry in the Reading Man series.  Stephen with his coffee and the New York Times.

Blog: DayBooks