Mark your calendar! The 2015 Symposium will be in Singapore, July 22-25. Read more here.

January 27, 2015

Book Review: Gabriel Campanario's People and Motion

Guest post by Tina Koyama

The second book in Gabi Campanario’s Urban Sketching Handbook series has recently been released on Amazon.com: People and Motion: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location (Quarry Books). Identical in format to the first in this series, Architecture and Cityscapes, the latest book is a succinct, compact volume that focuses this time on people in the urban landscape — how to capture their poses and moves accurately and expressively. It’s jam-packed with practical information and inspiring examples for both the beginner and the more seasoned urban sketcher.

Although we could study and practice drawing the human form by attending traditional life-drawing sessions, Gabi sees sketching people in their natural settings as having the additional benefit of teaching us about our community. “People are the life of a city. To draw them is to get to know the place,” he says. While acknowledging that drawing people can be challenging and frustrating, Gabi emphasizes the fun in sketching people around us and encourages interacting with subjects. “Learn their first and last names,” he suggests. “Ask the market vendor where his fruit comes from. Or compliment — and tip — the busker for the song he played while you drew him.” Including people in sketches “can introduce you to some very interesting folks with great stories about themselves.”

The meat of the book examines six keys as they relate to drawing people: proportion, contour, gesture, expression, context, and likeness. While including tips such as classic studio drawing lessons (an adult’s total height is about seven-and-a-half to eight times the head height), Gabi stresses ideas that can be practiced in the real world, such as while using public transportation or in a cafe.

Most interesting and useful to me was the section on capturing gesture. As I’ve seen week after week in the Seattle Sketcher’s column, Gabi is a master of this principle. How does he manage to “freeze the moment” in an often rapidly moving scene and put it on paper? “I like to take as much time as I can just watching until I can spot the move that I want to capture,” Gabi says. Showing an example of basketball players, he explains, “I watched several free throws at my son’s basketball game until I ‘saw’ the pose I wanted to sketch.”



Another useful section is about capturing body and facial expression to indicate a subject’s emotions. “Internalizing the emotions of your subjects will make your sketches of people livelier and full of expression. Is the person you’re drawing alert, relaxed, cheerful, or concentrating?”

Context, another of the book’s keys, is an important element of urban sketching. Three years ago when I first began taking my sketchbook out with me, I used to sketch a lot of people’s faces while riding the bus or in a coffee shop. Although I remembered exactly where I’d been when I made those sketches, the sketches themselves didn’t show any information about that. Where was this floating head sketched? It took me quite a while to understand that if I included a little of the context, the picture would tell more of a story. I could have figured this out much more quickly had I read Gabi’s succinct instruction:

“A hint of the environment is enough to turn an isolated portrait into a true scene that captures a moment of time. Even if you are focusing on the subway commuter sitting across from you or the musician playing on the street, adding elements such as windows, the city skyline, or a lamp post will make the sketch more complete.”


The final section of the book is a gallery of sketches by artists in the worldwide urban sketching community, including many of my favorites. An illuminating aspect of all the sketches featured in the book (as well as in the series’ first book) is that the artists have included the approximate length of time they took to make each sketch. Although I am a relatively fast sketcher myself, I am amazed and inspired by how much story can be told in a mere 10- or 20-minute sketch. If you have an hour or two to spare, it’s wonderful to be able to use that time to flesh out an entire urban scene. But what if you have only the length of a coffee break? You can still tell a story with a sketch – one that only you can tell. That’s what urban sketching is all about.


(Gabriel Campanario is the founder of Urban Sketchers. This review is also published on Amazon.com and on Tina's blog Fueled by Clouds and Coffee.)

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



Hidden depths: Mole Man's house


By James Hobbs, London

It looks at first like any other renovation in rapidly gentrifying Dalston, east London. But this house in Mortimer Road was for more than 40 years the home of William Lyttle, whose nickname of Mole Man came from his habit of digging a network of tunnels beneath it for up to 20 metres in all directions. This didn't go down well with his neighbours, especially when the pavement outside his house fell in, or when he tapped into a 450 volt cable and power was lost. Complaints led to his eviction. Rehoused in a flat, and deprived of his digging, he died with a few years.
Now the crumbling house has been bought at auction for more than £1m by artists Sue Webster and Tim Noble, who have hired the architect David Adjaye – his design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture is currently under construction in the National Mall, Washington, DC. Mole Man's house is, for now, no more than a fine display of corrugated iron and scaffolding.

People like ants

Winter is a difficult time to draw in Berlin, I have to recognize that I need a little push to go out drawing on Winter. But last week we got the permission to draw in the building of the Akademie der Künste in Pariser Platz. With the glass facade overviewing the square, it was warm and cozy to draw inside one of the most iconic landmarks of Berlin: the Brandenburger Tor!

I did two drawings one with twig, ink and watercolor, big format where I spent around 1 hour and half,

The second in 18 cm x 60 cm paper that took me around 30 min. to draw on site. I use a pen with permanent ink. But I did the coloring with watercolor later at home.
Here are some details to see the people closer.


You don't need much detail for people in this scale. Important is direction and attitude.. I added dots of colors to make them more interesting and give a sense of movement.

January 26, 2015

Tip Top Liquors, Time Delicatessen, Libby's, Western Appliance and the Motel Capri

Businesses don't come with quaint names like that anymore.

Tip Top Liquors, San Jose. A yelp review claims this: "Hidden behind a modest and grimy exterior is a treasure trove for craft beer lovers." Sketched in the evening light, when even the grimiest of storefronts has a golden glow.


The sign for Time Delicatessen, which has been around since 1950 is (what else?) a giant clock with "Time" written over it in a Brush-script style font. I hear they make a mean Tri-Tip sandwich. Next time I am around ( this neighborhood has ton of vintage signs I still need to go sketch) I must make time for a sandwich-break.


Water tower for Libby's, which in 1922 was the world largest cannery. Painted to resemble a giant fruit cocktail can, it now sits in a little patch of manicured lawn surrounded by high tech companies in Sunnyvale, California. A quiet reminder of the days when this land was all orchards.


A gigantic sign for Western Appliance . The top of the sign used to have three flashing lights but they had to be taken down because they confused pilots landing planes at the nearby San Jose airport.


And the forlorn-looking Motel Capri sign on historic El Camino Real.



I'm having way too much fun adding to my vintage sign collection.

You wait for one... then 60 come along at once


Last year as part of the ‘Year of the Bus’ celebrations, Transport for London commissioned some public art in the form of small versions of the New Routemaster, which were decorated by a variety of artists, then placed around different venues in  London to create walking trails for tourists and locals alike.  At the weekend all the bus sculptures were gathered together at the Olympic Park as part of a Family Fun event before being sent to a charity auction. 

Also on display were a full size New Routemaster and the ‘Battle Bus’, one of only 5 remaining from the First World War, taken from the streets of London, stripped of it’s red and cream livery  and used as a troop carrier.  Amazingly it is still in working condition!  
Despite the cold, it was great to sketch in the winter sunshine sitting amongst the great structures built for the Olympic Games, including the stunning Aquatics Centre designed by Dame Zaha Hadid.


Summer in the middle of January

by Marina Grechanik, in Herzliya, Israel

Last weekend we had one of those perfect winter weekends - blue skies with airy clouds and a gentle winter sun, that won't burn you, like in its cruel sister in summer would.
On Saturday I felt that the best place to sense this summer in the middle of the winter was on the beach, so we went there.
We bought ice cream and sat down on the grass, beside the path leading to the beach. People passed up and down, I was trying to capture them, passing in front of me, feeling that I'm looking at a very dynamic play, with extremely talented actors ;)








January 25, 2015

Punctuating my everyday with sketches

Guest post by Nina Khashchina

My story is very similar to many people around me: busy parent, employee, friend, runner... I sketch daily because it gives me a tiny pause in my life. I make sure to keep those sketches in chronological order and use them to savor that pause.



It is impossible to carry with me all the drawing materials I like to use and try. I LOVE good paper and quality watercolors and can tell you a lot about my love for gouache or color pencils but I rarely have the time for all of that. So I made a deal with myself: I put something to draw on and something to draw with in every single bag, backpack and waist pouch I carry. There is even a tiny "set" in my wallet (folded paper and pocket pen) and in my car. And I did the same around the house - every place where I might find myself - checking homework or watching a movie or waiting for someone to put shoes on. And then I draw with the first thing that I pull out of the bag. I draw anything that's in front of me.





I end up with a whole stack of sketches. Not all of them work. And it's a whole stack of the same things drawn ad nauseam: same homework, same karate class, same school pickup, same pool practice, library kids, running shoes, same rooftops, same dental chair, same parents at the same city park, same kids party etc. There is only one rule: I do my best to date things.



At the end of every day (sometimes at the end of the week) I go through all these sketches and pick those that I can say something about, those that I remember. I cut them out (of larger paper or out of the tiny sketchbook I made with folded piece of paper or just use whole card - this is my new tool - a stack of nice thick index cards in every pocket). Then I write a few additional notes if I remember more. Sometimes I might use a different color pen to add another line or correct a pose. Then I glue or tape all these in my normal sketchbook, the normal sketchbook being the one organized chronologically - the one I love and draw in when I have a bit of more "real sketching time".





This sketchbook is bulging and untidy and has many wavy pages - I can flip a few pages and travel in time. It's a bit repetitive as many things appear over and over - but I like to see these as a way to track my progress, a way to come back to working on the same thing many times. Catching poses quickly. Finding a way to draw a recognizable face with three lines. Finding new wrinkles on my hand or my shoe. I also get to try different materials (sooner or later I will be at the karate class with highlighters or at the airport with the water soluble graphite stick and will get to play with it).





Nina Khashchina is a Palo Alto, California based graphic designer. You can follow her daily adventures in sketching here on flickr

Amici Park, Little Italy, San Diego

By Lydia Velarde

Amici Park is located in Little Italy, it features Bocci ball courts, a small amphitheater and a large green playing field. My sketch subject was one of the nice little houses surrounding the park.

old staircase in Berlin



Old staircase, Berlin

Old staircase of the exhibition park ULAP, heavily overgrown, goes down from Alt-Moabit straße, right at the central railway station in Berlin (Hauptbahnhof).

by Olga Prudnikova

January 24, 2015

The sacred city

By Jenny Adam in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka



I am in Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks, escaping the german winter and filling my sketchbooks.
One of my first stops was Anuradhapura, an ancient town in central Sri Lanka. It is famous for its many places of worship and ruins of buddhist monasteries, many of them around 2000 years old.



Abhayagiri is on the northern edge of the city, furthest from the center. It is my favourite part of the sacred city, with the jungle overgrowing the ruins and a quiet, melancholy atmosphere. 1500 years ago, it was a huge monastery housing 5000 monks, though only the sheer size of the area suggests that now.


Sri Maha Bodi is another sacred place, but a rather different place of pilgrimage. According to popular belief, this Bo Tree was grown from a cutting of the original indian Bo Tree, under which Buddha attained enlightenment. It is the oldest living human planted tree in the world, dating from 288 BC. Around the terrace on which it grows, many other saplings have been planted, so it feels more like garden than a temple.

I´m further south now, in the beautiful town of Galle, which reminds me a little of Paraty. I´ll be showing more sketches soon.

January 23, 2015

Waimate

 This is believed to be New Zealand's first indoor shopping mall, built between 1905 and 1907 in Waimate.  The original owner was William Quinn, Makikihi landowner and businessman, came from Northern Ireland,  it was converted to Arcadia Theatre between 1918 to 1920. It is an amazing building and I wish I could have seen it on the inside.

Kitchens and Cats

Guest post by Karin Schliehe Mark, from Reutlingen, Germany and Rivert, Spain

I am a children's book illustrator. I love this profession because it gives me the possibility to tell stories with pictures. I like the details in a picture because they are the important parts, the parts that can surprise you. I also love to make sketches everywhere I am. Cats and people are one of my main themes. I want my sketches to tell daily stories. I want the viewer to go into the picture.



My friend Silvia has a wonderful and colourful kitchen in Reutlingen/ Gmindersdorf. She is living there in an old workers' settlement.


My cat Tommi is very dominant. He always does what he wants. For example, here you can see him sitting on the countertop before he jumps onto the fridge.



I spend a lot of the year in Rivert, a beautiful and historical place in the Spanish Pyrenees.

A friend of mine has an old farmhouse. Cats, dogs and people can live there much more freely than in the cities of Germany.



Mio is a good natured cat and my friend Silvia makes him do his gymnastic exercises. I like to colour my quick sketches with aquarell, so I can give some parts of the picture more dominance.



For me a kitchen is the most friendly and busy room of a house. With a cat or a dog, the atmosphere is perfect. Here is a sketch of the kitchen of Casa Mestre. The cat, who normally lives at a neighbor's house, is now sitting on our table.

Karin Schliehe Mark is a children's book illustrator and lives in Reutlingen, Germany. You can see more of her work here on flickr.

Sketching in suburbia (Didsbury, Manchester)


I’ve not been out drawing much at all over the last few weeks due to deadlines on a book I’m writing about architectural sketching. I didn’t really know what I signed up to last year when I agreed to write the loose sequel to James Hobbs’ wonderful book ‘Sketch Your World’ (which was an extremely hard act to follow!) as well as balancing my full-time job. Anyway it’s very nearly complete and published July 28th by North Light in the US. It’s listed on Amazon too albeit under James’ name!



So last weekend I braved the Manchester weather with the threat of imminent snow in suburban
Didsbury where I live. I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me to draw from the comfort of a cafe or bar so spent a chilly hour outside The Crown pub, drawing very quickly. Two views, one towards the petrol station and one looking into the village - both reflective of the miserable, grey and cold weather. Not much colour, I just picked up on red shop signage and traffic light to contrast with all the drab greyness, oh and the 'Shell' garage yellow. I was so glad to get home and warm up. I'm sketching tomorrow with a 'Saturday Club' school group, but thankfully indoors!




What's in a drawing? The strength of a sketch

Guest post by Liz Ackerley

I have been starting to consider what it means to me to sketch. I believe that sketching has a huge amount to offer and really does change my perception and understanding of what’s around me. Here, in a nutshell, are some of the things I see as benefits:

The process of sketching helps calm my mind and focus my attention: I often have difficulty focussing on one thing. But through sketching, I am able to just focus on the drawing, nothing else. It calms my mind and enables me to relax. I become completely absorbed in the drawing and the process, giving me valuable ‘time out’.



It enables development of a better awareness of the world around me and a deeper understanding of the places I live in and visit: Since becoming a member of the Manchester Urban Sketchers, I have developed a greater awareness and interest in the city I live in. The same applies when I visit other places. Through drawing, I am able to unpeel some of the physical layers and develop a better understanding of the place.



It provides me with a record and therefore a clearer memory of an experience: Recording visits and trips as sketches provides sketchbooks to revisit and remember. To draw, I have to study the place/the person/the location so much more than I would usually do. My notes accompanying a sketch provide valuable clues and dimension. Here are a couple of sketches from last year’s trip to Wales. I remember it all the better for the sketches!





It enables me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary: Even the most simplistic of everyday scenes have a depth, substance and interest when looked at carefully.

Sketching enables connection with like-minded people: This Cooperative building in Pendleton, Manchester is a good example. The Manchester Tour Guides posted a picture on social media and it prompted dialogue about the building, its history and encouraged me to go out and draw it!



Sketching gives me a voice and allows me to express my views of the world through a visual diary: There are lots of ways of expressing yourself, but I find drawing to be a great way of self-expression. Through the recording in sketchbooks, adding notes and other memorabilia I have a record of that time and place and of my ‘take’ on the scene.

Through regular practice, sketching enables me to develop my drawing skills and improve my artwork: It is a slow and continuous process but also one where progress is clearly noticeable as time passes-a better sense of perspective, more astute textural detail, a greater awareness of colour and shadow etc. Over time, my ability to see, and to tap into ‘The Right side of the brain’, continues to improve!

Liz Ackerley is a landscape architect and Urban Sketcher based on Manchester UK. She blogs about her sketching adventures here.