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

November 27, 2014

What is your Thanksgiving Tradition?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

In the U.S. today, I am sure each family is enjoying a favorite tradition that gets repeated every year during the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Thanksgiving is especially a favorite time for our family. Each year we meet at a friend's home, our family, theirs and other friends. We even have a Canadian contingent that shows up!

This has been a tradition going back 30 years for us. It started when we were in graduate school at University of Washington. A gathering of friends who were away from home with no where to go for the holidays. So we started our own tradition of meeting for thanksgiving.  The first gathering was in our friend's apartment, just a sheet of plywood on cinder block legs for a table and all of us sitting on the floor for a great turkey dinner. Of course we were calling our mothers for tips on how to bake that turkey, make the gravy and bake the pies. There were probably 6 or 8 of us sharing a meal. Now we have at least 17 to 22 people kids and adults that gather for the weekend on Bainbridge Island for dinner, games, walks and talks.

One thing that makes these Thanksgivings special is our dessert. For a gathering of 17, we may have 11-12 pies. Our kids have taken up the challenge to out do their parents in that category. This year our family of 4 alone has made 6 pies to share. And I didn't make a pie! Of course we are not totally decadent. We take a traditional evening walk between dinner and dessert. In the Northwest it is pitch dark at that time and possibly rainy, but we still put on hiking boots and get flashlights and walk to the park and down to the water.

Hopefully I can sketch our pies tonight. I will let you know how many we get.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving today!

Gail Wong from Seattle.

Thanksgiving Pies 2010

Thanksgiving Pies 2011
Thanksgiving Pies 2013

Human Towers: Sketching the Castellers

By Lynne Chapman in Sitges, Spain

It was a Sunday afternoon. Crowds began to gather in the centre of the old town and gradually teams arrived from three local areas. I was about to witness an unusual spectacle: they have a strange competition in the region. 

The idea is to create 'human towers' and compete to see which team can get the highest. 
As far as I could gather, despite the promised acrobatics, they were just ordinary people, and all ages too. 

A base was created by a massive rugby-scrum of people, all pushing in to stabilise the core. Then one at the time, the other team members climbed up over them, balancing on each other's shoulders. A small child was the last to go up, light enough to perch at the top. 

This was the first tower. They 
paraded through the crowds in the square, the scrum shuffling along beneath:

But this was just a warm-up. After that, the competition started in earnest and the teams took it in turns to do much higher towers, first with two people on each layer, then four...

The higher they were, the bigger the bases needed to be to support them. They began forming a second scrum on the shoulders of the first! As they got really high, competing teams would help, adding extra people to each other's scrums, so the towers would be surrounded by a massive crowd of people, all leaning forward on each other's shoulders. 

People at the centre of the second scrum, reached up their arms and supported the bottoms of the people on the next layer up:

The little children at the top were called the 
'monkeys'. That's a monkey in the sketch above, standing on the top scrum in her helmet, about to scramble up over the adults. On the big towers, two or three children would climb up at once. In order to fulfil the competition rules, the monkeys had to not only get to the top, but then circle the pinnacle, clambering over and round the top tier of people, before climbing down again.

Each team did three towers, getting taller and wider each time. 
I was just wondering what would happen if one collapsed, when one began to crumble before my eyes!

It was very shocking to see. One older man in particular was very upset afterwards (I wondered if it was him who had first given way) but, amazing, nobody seem to get harmed. Talking to a local in the crowd, I learnt that they give a signal if collapse is a possibility, to allow them to do it in a controlled manner, bending their knees and crumpling inwards, rather than falling sideways. The scrum braces to take the impact and nobody hits the ground.

At the end of the competition, there was a clear winner. There was a tense hush during the building of their final tower. The other two groups both got involved on the ground level and the team were very excited when they were done, so their tower was obviously pushing the boundaries.

The event finished with the three teams making lots of smaller towers again, all at once:

Then there was a fantastic celebratory dance:

The children rode on the adult's shoulders as they danced around the square while everyone sang and chanted and waved.


November 26, 2014

Doo Dah Parade

by Shiho Nakaza in Pasadena, California, USA

Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena is a less conventional and more home-grown event than the more famous Rose Parade. I enjoyed sketching the people in creative costumes and custom vehicles.

Urban Sketching in Poway

An article that appeared in our city magazine today.

Ilha Grande

By Jenny Adam, in Ilha Grande, Brasil

Before heading to the Symposium in Paraty, i went to Ilha Grande with fellow sketcher Birgit and her husband Eike. We enjoyed some days at the beach, dining out and listening to an impromptu jam of forró musicians. But there is more to this island than beautiful beaches, because the island´s history is very dark.
Ilha Grande went from being a main trade center for displaced slaves in the early 18th century to a quarantine sick bay for european immigrants for fear they would bring cholera to Brazil. Then it became a leper colony before being turned into a prison island.

A fascinating place on the island is Dois Rios, a nowadays mostly deserted village surrounding former prison Colônia Penal Cândido Mendes. Access to the village is not particularly easy, as the only way to get there is to hike 4 hours back and forth. There is a bus from Dois Rios to Vila do Abraão, the island´s main town, but its use is restricted. No toursits allowed. Visitors entering town have to be signed in and out of a list, as noone but local residents are allowed to remain overnight.

The ghost town holds many remains of prison life. Plants were overgrowing this old digger, while its water filled shovel was used as a bird bath. The building in the background was missing most of its roof, but it was still filled with big and small tools, to heavy to move and rusting away, suggesting that heavy labour was prisoner´s everyday life.

Out There with Paul McCartney!

By Eduardo Bajzek in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Last night I went to a Paul McCartney concert in Sao Paulo, Brazil , from his "Out There" tour.
I got a hard time, waiting for almost three hours in a huge line! It was pouring rain all the time!
However, once inside the stadium, I put myself together, grabbed a beer and did this fast, simple sketch before the show to begin.
This is the second time I sketched in a Paul McCartney concert, as you can see in this post, when he came to Brazil 4 years ago.
He still got the same energy!
And still keep making people of all ages singing along and crying together. Unbelievable.

Blowing Their Own Trumpets

By Róisín Curé in Galway, Ireland

There's a new picture house opening up in Galway City. A picture house is an old-ish Irish term for a movie theatre. It will be called the Picture Palace and it will show independent and art house movies, and it will have a bar. I am very excited about it because the only time you get to see any non-mainstream movies in Galway is when there's a film festival on, and while we have a lot of those, I usually don't hear about them until they're over - if at all. 

A neighbour of mine, Lelia Doolin, has been very active in getting the Picture Palace off the ground. Lelia is of my father's generation (he was in university with her brother) and her energy, zest and joie-de-vivre are indescribable. She is also in my art class and that's how I heard about a fundraising event for the new movie theatre that took place last Saturday night. 
"There'll be a brass band playing soundtracks to the movies," she said, " and there'll be a big screen with clips from the films playing above the band."
"I adore brass bands," I said, "I'll be there."
Once I told a friend that if I ever got rich, I would hire a brass band to play for me. I said that in the meantime I might even learn to play the trumpet myself.
"No, you can't do that," she said firmly.
"Why not?" I asked.
"You mustn't blow your own trumpet," she answered.

On Saturday I left the family at home and drove to the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill. Between feeding the troops and looking for parking I was very late, and I didn't start drawing until four songs from the end - but I was grateful for the quick sketch I did get done. The band was Galway's St. Patrick's Brass Band, and they were magnificent - the sound was lively and rich with that deep warmth that only brass can provide. There was a young lad of about ten on cymbals - which he clashed with perfect timing - and during the theme tune of Star Wars he wore a Darth Vader mask, which suited the band's all-black dress code very well. Other numbers included Dances With Wolves, Pirates of the Caribbean and The A-Team, so you can imagine it was a very animated affair. When it was over, the band's PRO, David Kelly, approached me.
"Would you like to come and draw us while we rehearse?" he asked. "We've been going over one hundred years, you know."
I said I'd be delighted.

The movie theme was fun: at the door you were offered popcorn and sweets, and one of the ideas of the evening was to dress up in clothes from one of your favourite movies. A few people had made a big effort, including a group of girls with the words "Pink Ladies" emblazoned across the backs of their pale pink satin bomber jackets. This gorgeous creature (she was a lot more gorgeous than this sketch suggests) had a full black skirt with yellow netting underneath, Lolita sunglasses on her head and I think she even had a lollipop, but I might have imagined that bit. As usual, the sketchers always play second fiddle to the photographer, and I was politely asked to move to make way for a big guy with a camera, who needed to get a certain distance from the I lost my chance to draw my girl properly - unless I wanted to put a big guy in black with a camera in the foreground. Personally, I'd far rather have a cool sketch of myself in my gear than your typical girls-in-a-row posed photo but that's probably just me.

Eventually people started to register that there was a woman with a paintbox and a sketchbook at one of the tables. That's when the band leader approached me, and the ladies in the sketch below asked me to draw them. Well, Lelia did. That's her on the right. She looked splendid in a red Chinese silk kimono with white chrysanthemums on it. When I put this sketch on Facebook, I got lots of laughing comments (literally "Hahahaha") - but I didn't mean it to be funny. That's just how I draw. I think the ladies were a little nonplussed too. But then the big photographer started taking pictures of me drawing, and of my sketch. I asked him if he wouldn't mind sending me a lo-res copy of one of the photos, and I gave him my card, but it occurred to me (not for the first time) that he may have been affronted at being asked for a photo for free - whereas no one bats an eyelid asking for a scan of a sketch for free (which I am always very happy to do, but I'm thinking of revising that slightly). So far, the photographer hasn't sent me anything.

Then I stared sketching the dancers in a desultory way. I knew I'd be driving home before too long and so I wasn't drinking, and you know how it's a bit different if everyone on the dancefloor evidently has enjoyed a glass. But the 70s disco music was terrific and soon I was jigging about, making my sketchbook bounce a bit. I admired one or two dancers - particularly the lady in black on the right, who had a very fashionable super-chopped fringe and a beautiful figure. She was evidently in the "cinema" community and smiled a lot. Then there was a tall red-headed guy in nerdy glasses dancing some great moves. That's him on the bottom. He's doing a kind of elephant-trunk dance there, or maybe an Egyptian type of thing. Teapot. I don't know. But he was very inspiring and the tunes were great - Boogie Wonderland nearly had me up on the floor - and then the DJ put on Mory Kanté's Yeke yeke, and I'm a pure divil for African / electronic dance music, so up I got and joined the redhead on the floor. So then there were two redheads in nerdy glasses giving it socks on the dancefloor. The other ladies stared a bit but I never mind that. The song, an extended dance remix, ended and was followed by a boring one, so I sat down, but I am a lot less fit than I thought and I worried for my health: I went home shortly afterwards and I kept the phone on my lap in case I had to phone a cardiac ambulance in a hurry. Melodramatic? Possibly, but I felt most over-exerted. I'll have to up my fitness regime a bit (from nothing at all to something).

There'll be another night like this one - it was a roaring success - and I can't wait to draw the band rehearse. 

Trumpets, music, paints and my kind of showtime.

November 25, 2014

I See London, I See France….

By Melanie Reim in London, UK and Paris, France

Back in September, I posted about my whirlwind trip to Oxford. Following the conference, I spent a day in London and then, off I went to spend a few days in France. Oh, it was amazing and heavenly, and full of cafés and museums and shopping and wine and I wish that I were back there right now. But, I am thankful that I had the rare opportunity to go, to speak about work that I love, and was able to document some of it. Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends.

When I arrived to my hotel, my room was not yet ready. Where to go? As I set out, headed for nowhere in particular, I looked back and realized that my best drawing opportunity 
was right in front of me. My London hotel.
Now, I was inspired to try to capture even more detail, in my jumbled, pile on way of doing things. 
St. Paul's Cathedral called.

Onto Paris, where I met my drawing buddy Jean Christophe for the first time, 
and draw the afternoon away, we did. And then, I kept going. 

 Have to end with my post-it peeps. Paris style.

November 24, 2014

Lights in Provence

In southern France, the light is an inexhaustible source of sketches ...
When I chose a composition before I sketch, I know I can not illuminating every thing I see. I have a choice of : light the main scene, the main characters or secondary plan ... I have to choose what I want to illuminate.
The light will then show up and lead the eye. It shapes the body, highlights the objects, it reveals the shapes and volumes...
Provence light is a real "composition tool"  : We can choose aswell the light or the sketch.  ... Drawing during the morning or during the afternoon  has a different meaning ... Conversely it is the subject that influences the choice of light ...
Autumn light in Dieulefit

Summer light in Lourmarin

Summer morning light in Montélimar

Bonnieux autumn sunset in Luberon
The light is involved in unconscious emotion generated by the subject. When it reproduces single reality, when it is not realistic everything is wrong ...

Telling a story through his sketch is to paint and sculpt the subject "with its light ..."

November 23, 2014

Sketches at Sky Park (Haneul Park)

By Byung Hwa Yoo in Seoul, Korea

Digital Media City
32 x 24 cm

Worldcup stadium (2002)

On Sept. 15 this year I went to Sky Park(Haneul Park), Mapo-gu, Seoul. Originally the area was used for burying the wastes from Seoul citizens during 15 years (1978 - 1993). The dumped wastes made two big mountains and broad flat landfill. Seoul city tried to change the area into ecological, environmental parks. Sky park is one of them. On top of the park I sketched two pieces. People enjoyed picnic or walking with their friends or families. It was my first visit. I thanked for the efforts of all which could change the waste landfill into such beautiful breathing places. 


In a multicultural assembly there was an outstanding head.
I think I love living somewhere where you are free to be different.

Back to my old stomping grounds in SoCal

By Gabi Campanario in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

A recent family vacation in Southern California included a day hike in Joshua Tree National Park and an evening dinner at a nearby In-N-Out, a very popular burger chain that you can only find in California and a few other Western states.

Southern California, or SoCal, as people call it sometimes, is very familiar to me and my wife, Michelle. We met in Palm Springs, not far from Joshua Tree, in the late 90s, and lived there for almost five years.

This time we made new memories with our kids and I recorded some in my sketchbook. At the park, our daughter threw sand all over my drawing so it would have "the DNA of the place," as I like to say when rainfall accidentally dampens my work in Seattle. At the restaurant, however, I didn't think to add a little ketchup to my pages. Perhaps I should have!

November 22, 2014

Boomshop of Comics, San Diego

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego
Boomshop of Comics is the only comic shop in San Diego. There is a coffee bar inside so it was easy to sit down to sketch. This is done in pen and watercolor.

Flickr Digest November 22,2014

November 4th 2014, marked the 7th anniversary of USK Flickr. It has been an exciting year with a huge burst in new participation. The Group has gathered 176,000 sketches from around the globe. The other day, I dug really deep and explored the foundations of the group, going all the way back to day 1. It is amazing to see the initial growth, member by member, and it is also really fun to see the technical growth of some of the founding members. Within the group pages you can find strong visual proof of the benefits of sketching every day. Here are some interesting early sketches by Gabi, Flaf, and Jason.
The anniversary and exploration of the groups development has led me to think a lot about the founding ideas of the organization. In my own sketches I have been making and effort to establish a greater sense of immediacy, I have heard it said "to seek verbs as opposed to nouns". So, I have been particularly in tune to those sketches submitted that have a  stronger sense of a specific moment, action, or general quality of time.
I have always thought immediacy meant a specific kind of line quality, though the USK Flickr submissions have made me aware that it is really something else.
This weeks weekly theme "sketch bomb" a play on photo bombing has really nicely reflected the idea. The submissions are all sketches that have been transformed by the changing environment they were sketched in.
Here are three, that stood out from the general roll.

Urban Sketching in Venice

I’ve not posted for a while but I wanted to share some of my sketches from Venice. I’ve just returned from a study trip to the Architecture Biennale with 50 students. Whilst they were off touring the exhibitions and exploring (or probably shopping and drinking!), I took every opportunity to sketch. I know Venice quite well but it always takes my  breath away. We had lovely weather for mid November, last time we were there 2 years ago - we had lots of freezing fog. This time it was bright and sunny…perfect sketching weather.

This was drawn in St Marks Square, students were looking at the Carlo Scarpa designed Olivetti showroom - a must for architecture fans and good to see something contemporary, well circa 1950-’s Mad Men era. We split them into 3 groups as 50 (students) is quite an unwieldy number. I spent time with the first group before sloping off to sketch. What an inspiring view!

This was drawn in the Giardini at the Biennale where there are a collection of National Pavilions each representing different countries. The Biennale alternates between art and architecture each year. Each country has to be invited to build a pavilion. The new Australia Pavilion is under construction and will be open 2015. Britain’s pavilion was built in 1909. The gardens are such an interesting place to wander round, they’re very shady with tall trees and provide such a contrast to the glittering light of the waters of the lagoon.

We were staying out on Guidecca, our students were staying in a fab hostel called the Generator (highly recommended to anyone travelling to Venice on a budget)! And here’s San Giorgio Maggiore. I've been writing about using a viewfinder for my book on architectural sketching (to be published by Rotovision / North Light Summer 2015) and here's me putting one into practice!

Here’s my final sketch of the trip, this is looking towards St Mark’s Square, the light was starting to fade behind St. Maria Salute. I spent quite a lot of time trying to capture the architectural detail. I was outside the 5* Hotel Danieli Gondala Station and a couple of gondoliers were most complimentary about my drawing - if I didnt have a plane to catch (and as tour leader...50 students to check in at the airport), I’d have tried to negotiate a trip in exchange for a drawing!

Great view!