December 1, 2015

Drawing Attention – December 2015

Urban Sketchers Events and Workshops

Manchester Symposium Update: We have the location (Manchester, England) and the dates (July 27 - 30, 2016), and now we need programming! Please see the Call for Programming for more information. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 21.

News from Urban Sketchers Communities

Welcome, Urban Sketchers Charleston! 
Urban Sketchers Charleston (USA) is excited to announce its recent acceptance as part of the Urban Sketchers community. "We had a recent sketch outing on a brisk and breezy Sunday," said Anne Weld. "Eight folks took a break from Thanksgiving prep and braved the chilly wind to sketch the downtown streets." The group has a blog and is on Facebook.

USk Munich (Germany) was featured on German television in November in a five-minute video program. The Bavarian channel BR came along with sketchers to their November meetup for the coverage.

Sergio Garzon sketches a glass art studio with USk Oahu.
At the invitation of Glass Arts Association of Hawai'i, Urban Sketchers O'ahu (USA) attended the glass artists' open house. "Sketchers captured live glass shaping and blowing while keeping a safe distance from the blazing furnaces and red-hot globs of glass," said Sebastian Sievert.

The October edition of Lisboa magazine featured an article about Urban Sketchers, including a cover sketch by Pedro Alves.

USk Chile held its second annual Urban Sketchers Chile meeting at Casa de la ciudadanía Montecarmelo. Three workshops were offered by Sergio Barquin, Ricardo Martinez and Rosario Muñoz. The event concluded with an exhibition at the cultural center, Rosario said. "Also we uploaded some sketches (those about the neighborhood) to our Facebook page. The one that got the most likes won a bag with art materials, courtesy of our sponsor Color Animal." Drawings of the cultural center's building remained on exhibit for several days.

Urban Sketchers Chile at its second annual meeting.

Urban Sketchers Toronto (Canada) will have its first show in collaboration with Areej Art Gallery Dec. 5 - 19. An opening reception is planned for Dec. 5.

Urban Sketchers London has a show by more than 20 artists in the newly opened Timberyard Soho cafe through April 2016. During the cafe's launch month, USk London is also organizing a sketchcrawl and book event. A drawing by James Hobbs is featured on 50,000 of the cafe's coffee cups.

Sketchers in Action

Mario Linhares (Portugal) has an exhibition of 50 sketches of Lisbon made for a new book by Fernando Pessoa. In a Google translation of Mario's announcement, he said, "It took me a year to do all the drawings; I have many curious stories to tell about them." A show opening was held Nov. 27.

Cathy McAuliffe's sketch of a Veteran's Day parade
Cathy McAuliffe of the San Francisco Bay Area (USA) sketched at an annual parade honoring veterans Nov. 11 in Petaluma. The parade includes "veterans both young and old, high school marching band, horses, vintage vehicles, fly overs and lots of community support," Cathy said. "It all takes place under beautiful fall trees lining the streets."

Fort Worth (USA) professor, designer and urban sketcher James Richards’ new Craftsy class, “Essential Techniques for Sketching the Energy of Places,” has been released.  The two-hour online course delves into Jim’s techniques for capturing the buzz of lively streets and plazas on-location.  “We cover techniques for quickly capturing people, buildings and street life in ways that go beyond rendering to capture the spirit of the place.” Urban sketchers will receive a $10 discount by registering through Jim’s website.

Jim Richards leads a sketch outing and workshop in Nairobi.
In other news, Jim recently gave a keynote address and drawing workshop and led an on-location urban sketching outing in Nairobi, Kenya, at a conference of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. The events were attended by design students and faculty from Jomo Kenyetta University, as well as conference attendees from across Africa, most of whom had never experienced group sketching on-location before. Busy Jim also recently gave workshops at Mississippi State University and Kansas State University, and a “Sketch Chicago” outing and exhibition at the national conference of the American Society of Landscape Architects in Chicago, which he led with longtime collaborator and urban sketcher Richard Alomar.

Hugo Costa (Spain) will be teaching at the Parsons New School in New York City (USA) as a researcher and visiting scholar, lecturing on urban sketching and architectural representation. "Although I teach in Spain," Hugo said, "I earned a four-month grant for researching on graphic expression/urban sketching and also will be producing a graphic diary of NYC's urban atmosphere."

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!

Japan, this time with sketchbook

By Tina Koyama, from Japan
east bank of Kamo river and Shichijo bridge, Kyoto.jpg
East bank of Kamo river and Shichijo bridge, Kyoto

Although my husband Greg and I have visited Japan four times, everything about the trip we just returned from felt new to me: It was the first time I took a sketchbook. It all seemed a little familiar, and yet somehow fresh.

The first half of our trip was spent in Tokyo, Japan’s largest city and the place most first-time visitors see. Ironically, despite our multiple visits, we’d hardly spent any time in Tokyo previously, so this was our first opportunity to become better acquainted with this world-class city.

The highlight of our Tokyo stay was meeting up with Urban Sketchers Japan for an afternoon of sketching in the Yanaka neighborhood and its historic cemetery. We followed up with more sketching over ice cream and tea, and eventually made an evening visit to Tokyo Tower and then an izakaya (pub style) dinner – all while sketching, of course! One of the very best things about being part of Urban Sketchers is being able to connect easily with other sketchers anywhere on the globe! My thanks to Kumi Matsukawa for organizing a fun day of sketching and eating, and to all the Tokyo sketchers for their warm welcome and USk camaraderie.

Yanaka cemetery, Tokyo.jpg
Yanaka cemetery, Tokyo
Yanaka neighborhood in Tokyo.jpg
Yanaka neighborhood street, Tokyo

Tokyo Tower.jpg
Tokyo Tower at night
Tokyo sketchers.jpg
Tina (left) sketching with Maki, Junel, Atsuko, Kumi and Chris

Tokyo sketchers at Yanaka cemetery.jpg
Tokyo sketchers at Yanaka cemetery
Tokyo urban sketchers at tea cafe.jpg
Tokyo urban sketchers

Ueno Park was a favorite Tokyo spot for both Greg (a photographer) and me. One reason is that the spacious park gave everyone plenty of space to play. Although we weren’t feeling particularly oppressed by Tokyo’s crowds, I imagine that the city’s residents use Ueno Park as a much-needed respite from the daily crush of people. Another reason is that I found buskers! While I didn’t generally see musicians or other performers on Tokyo’s sidewalks as I often do in Seattle, Ueno Park is obviously a popular place for them.

Ueno Park, Tokyo.jpg
Accordion player performs at Ueno Park, Tokyo

Sky Tree Tower behind statue at Sensoji Temple, Tokyo.jpg
Tokyo Sky Tree Tower behind statue at Sensoji Temple
A castle on our must-see list was Himeji. On one gorgeous day that looked and felt like spring (the temperature in the afternoon got up to 70 F!), we made a day trip to Himeji-jo, which had been unveiled only recently after five years of restoration. In fact, on our last Japan visit, we had made a stop at Himeji only to discover it covered in tarps and scaffolding. It was fully worth the return trip to see the 800-year-old castle in all its splendor. Although I sketched it twice (the first time with a fine-point fountain pen), I prefer the second sketch shown here made with a brush pen that wouldn’t allow me to get into all the details. I think it conveys more of the joy and awe we felt that day viewing Himeji-jo’s beauty.

Himeji Castle.jpg
Himeji Castle

A major goal for this trip was to see (and, for me, to sketch) Mt. Fuji. We spent one night at Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Fuji-san, hoping to see its elusive peak. It appeared only for a few minutes before ducking behind clouds again. Greg managed to photograph it a few times, but alas, I didn’t sketch it. (We were both soaking in a mineral bath at the time of its sighting!) I did, however, try to capture some of the hillside color.

hillside surrounding Lake Kawaguchi.jpg
Hillside surrounding Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Mt. Fuji
The second leg of our trip was spent in Kyoto. Cosmopolitan while also retaining old-world charm, the former capital of Japan is one of few places in the country where you can still occasionally see women dressed in traditional kimono (either because that’s the way they dress or because they’ve rented an outfit for the day to enhance their selfie-snapping as they shop). In Kyoto, I had fun making my share of sketches of pagodas, shrines, temples and statues of the Buddha as I had expected to. But sometimes I need a reminder that while I’m always tempted to experience the “big” things when I travel, the smallest moments often turn out to be the most enjoyable.
Shinbashi-dori, Gion.jpg
Shinbashi-dori, Gion neighborhood
Yasaka Shrine entrance, Kyoto.jpg
Entrance to Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

statue of Buddha at National Museum of Kyoto.jpg
Statue of the Buddha at Kyoto National Museum

pagoda at Sanjusangen-do, Kyoto.jpg
Pagoda at Sanjusangen-do, Kyoto
Walking to the Kamo river a short distance from our rented townhouse, we discovered an oasis of solitude. Even on a warm weekend afternoon, the riverbank was nearly deserted – only a few strollers, bike riders and one or two residents reading or picnicking. The busiest residents were the many egrets and herons fishing in the shallow water. Filling several sketchbook pages with those birds, I decided that day on the river was my favorite in Kyoto.
egret and heron on the Kamo river, Kyoto.jpg
Egret and heron fishing on the Kamo river.

Another example was when we had taken Kyoto’s well-known Philosopher’s Walk. A tree-lined footpath that takes about a half-hour to finish at a leisurely pace, it’s most popular in spring when all the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but November was also beautiful on the sunny afternoon that we were there. The icing on the cake was unexpectedly finding a busker on the path playing an unusual lute-like instrument. After several days of day-tripping and rushing through crowds, plunking myself down on a bench to sketch that busker seemed like the ideal, relaxing treat.

busker on the Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto.jpg
Busker on the Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto
sketching a busker on the Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto.jpg

Our fourth visit since 2001, this trip brought different experiences than the first three, but it ended the same way: Whenever I leave Japan, it’s with a certain bittersweetness that I am leaving some part of myself behind. It’s not that I feel I belong there; as a Japanese American, the U.S. will always be my home. It’s not that the people there are “my tribe”; I actually have very little in common with Japanese culture and habits. It must be that my genes stir from recognition of all those people who vaguely resemble me. My roots don’t necessarily take hold in that foreign soil, yet they sense the ancestral familiarity that my consciousness can’t quite grasp.

As always, I left without understanding those feelings, but two things were clear: One is that I know I will continue to visit Japan, again and again, to reconnect with whatever part of myself I leave behind there. The other is that preserving Japan in my sketchbook enables me to stay in touch with that part long after I’m back in Seattle. Page after page, I still feel it – the home of my ancestors.

Tina is a Regional Correspondent from Seattle. To read her full travelogue and view more sketches, please visit her personal blog or  Flickr album.

Traveler in Tindouf. Picnic in the desert

By Javier de Blas in Tindouf, Algeria
Between February and March 2015 I spent a month living with a Sahrawi family in their "haima" in the refugee camps of Tindouf. Every Tuesday, I'm posting here the notes and sketches I made about daily life in the camps.
If there is any local word you don´t understand, please check in Local terminology post.

I accompany Shabu to collect her diploma for the Celiac Disease course which she completed in Rabouni hospital. After the event, the participants in the course organize a meal in the Sabti area, to which I am invited. It is my first experience in the desert. The first thing you learn is that there are areas with trees in it. It's just that I had never thought about it before.

The mahal (local tree) which they chose gives magnificent shade. Creating a lovely latticework, combining deliciously with the breeze and sunshine. The girls have start to make the meal meanwhile the car that brought us has leaves again full of young men. There are some that go for a walk on the sandy plains to another mahal, I guess, enjoying the freedom of the desert. They advise me not stray away alone so I observe the group under the tree. By means of my drawing I then approached some of the boys. The Sahrawi are very friendly, but usually maintain a point of distance. They like my drawings and make jokes. Then we eat rice with camel meat (their favorite meat).

The girls take a walk to the next shady spot while some of the boys clean up and others take a nap.
Then comes the tea. Amrabih aerates the coals, while the water heats on other embers. 
The last visual gift is the petrol station in Rabouni, where we refuel on the way back from the picnic.

November 30, 2015

Visit with Couscous, Carrefour and Michelin

By Javier de Blas in Tindouf, Algeria
Between February and March 2015 I spent a month living with a Sahrawi family in their "haima" in the refugee camps of Tindouf. Every Tuesday, I'm posting here the notes and sketches I made about daily life in the camps.
If there is any local word you don´t understand, please check in Local terminology post.

Salma invites us for lunch. She is Shabu's friend the girl that I drew in Smara, her wilaya. A girl with good sense of humor. I have the opportunity of being at the preparation of the couscous. Her mother, friends and family sing while working. They explain some of the things to me. The winnowing and other things that I see slip by, their voices are distant as I am concentrating more on the scene than on them. To me it's just beautiful. Right there, in a corridor which has become a chapel of culinary art. Traditional yet incomparable.

I do not eat because gluten disagrees with me. But I just love the process.
The nap is digital. While Salma pampers her brother, the girls are sending WhatsApps and after jotting down the moment I also go to work on the digital part of this project.
I also portrayed Faiti in Smara. She has just arrived at Salma's house and tells me, and she is quite right, that she does not recognized herself in the portrait. So we try again, with tranquillity. I take a photo of her after, just to show her that this time, yes, but I'm not going to show it to you since I do not want anyone to "revalidate" the drawing from photo and it makes me feel as if I am lowering the category.
We take a walk for a while coming across a couple of interesting shops. The Carrefour supermarket and Michelin store in Smara.

November 29, 2015

Trackside Changes

By Pete Scully in Davis, California

trackside center, davis

This is Trackside Center, on 3rd Street, Davis. Or the "under-threat" Trackside Center, as I must call it, for the developers are moving in. I'm not sure of the latest, but what is proposed is to demolish the existing building and build a large six-story complex with apartments and businesses, as well as basement parking, which is part of a plan to re-invigorate 3rd Street as a corridor to campus. I sketched the above on the day before Thanksgiving, to capture the colours of autumn in their full glory - it really is spectacularly bright here in northern California right now.

trackside center, davis CA

The sketch above shows more of the building. I used to cycle past here so often on the way back home when I lived in south Davis. The building is covered in paintings of leafy landscapes, but it's otherwise nothing special. It is home to several good local businesses, such as the Candy House of Davis, an amazing local chocolate shop. I always bring boxes of their hand-made choccies home to England with me. If this all gets redeveloped, what will happen to them? It is the residents of historic Old East Davis who have most to complain about. We don't have a lot of tall buildings in Davis, and if built, this new six-story structure would block the afternoon sunlight for a good deal of the surrounding residents. As I stood to sketch this, still largely unaware of the details of the project other than what was posted onto a telegraph pole across the street, a man eyed me warily, asking me if I was of the project. "Nah, I'm just a sketcher." I showed him my book and talked a bit about Davis's history. He told me a bit more about the proposal, saying it was very controversial and that the residents nearby are not happy. Here is an article in the Davis Enterprise about the fight to save the Old East Davis area from over-development: I'll sketch this building a bit more as its fate is determined.

The Liège USK book: presentation days

Last thursday the Liège Urban Sketchers book was launched, by a well orginazed press conference.
the book was an initiative by Gèrard Michel and the "Emulation" (they organize cultural and architectural events in Liège).
The book recounts the drawings of our group of 13 sketchers, that we made last year in september. We did 4 days of sketching on a 5 meter long strip of paper each. Imagine: 65 meters of sketches!

And the book is fantastic! With drawings of Florian Afflerbach, Simo Capecchi, Fabien Denoël, Rolf Schroeter, Miguel Herranz, Lapin Barcelona, David Emdé Magli, Antoine Michel, Gérard Michel, Corinne Raes, Luis Ruiz Padrón and Inma Serrano. And myself, Rene Fijten.

(for those interested, the book can be ordered through the following Liège bookshops):; ; ;
Of course, for the occasion we took the opportunity to roam the city and make some new sketches.

Here are some of my drawings: Gerard Michel, Florian Afflerback and I thought it was a good idea to sit on the roof of a 6 storey apartment building overlooking the river Meuse/Maas. Lapin was too much used to Spanish temperatures and decided to draw downstairs.

Liège rooftops 

You have to imagine that it is winter in these part: cold, barely above freezing point, and windy. Only if you sat behind one of the chimneys, protected against the wind, the sun was okay.

Liège vue vers Bueren
The top drawing shows the view over the city centre, the other drawing the view to the hills, towards the Montagne de Buren. It's a long staircase against the hill, counting 373 steps, with houses on both sides.

Just to show that I am not exaggerating about the rooftop: Florian and Gèrard Michel in action.

The things we do for art.

SG HEART MAP & Urban Sketchers Singapore

Yesterday's sketchwalk in Singapore was at Marina Bay.

Over the last few months, Urban Sketchers Singapore has worked with SG HEART MAP to organise several sketchwalks around Singapore. Finally, all the sketches from the public are displayed at the exhibition yesterday at the exhibition on The Float. I'm surprised by the quality of work and also the many names that I do not recognise.

I would consider the exhibition very successful because this is probably the first time our work is seen on a larger scale by the public.

Here's the video of the exhibition and part of the sketchwalk.

You can also check out more urban sketching videos on my Youtube page.

I only managed two sketches.

This is the ArtScience Museum. The design I heard is inspired by a lotus flower. It's quite impressive when view from bottom up.

Then it started to drizzle and I went into the Marina Bay Sands shopping mall to sketch the interior. Christmas is coming and they had a Christmas tree at the basement where the skating rink is.

- Parka

November 28, 2015

We’ll always have Paris

Story of my life – the only travel sketches done lately are the ones done from the hotel window or during a lunch.

But I'm glad I finally did some my very own Paris sketches!

 Vive la France!

November 27, 2015

Sunlight and shadow across adobe

Guest post by Dennis Pendleton in Taos, New Mexico

These three sketches are from Taos, New Mexico. This was painted on LeDoux Street which is a little one-way street with excellent examples of old adobe architecture. The blue door opens onto a private garden and a traditional adobe home. It was a beautiful sunny day and the cast shadows were full of color. Taos has been an art colony for over 100 years and some of the first artists in residence built their homes and studios on LeDoux Street.

I did this sketch in an older Taos neighborhood and the setting is typical of the town with the adobe wall and building, coyote fence, and cottonwood trees. This traditional architecture has a charm all its own with its warm colors and gently curving lines. The sunlight in Taos is legendary and it is one of the things that attracted the first artists to the area. 

In the same neighborhood, about 10 steps from the previous sketch, is this charming old home. It is behind an old mission where the local people still worship on Sunday. Just up the dirt road are some newer buildings, but old adobes still dominate. This kind of traditional architecture requires annual maintenance and it is common to see homeowners plastering away on warm summer afternoons.

Dennis Pendleton is an artist and art teacher who lives in Denver, Colorado. These sketches were painted during a workshop he teaches in Taos. See more of his work on his website.