April 25, 2015

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 15 and 16thth 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

April 23, 2015

Hotel with Yoga Mat!

In Phoenix Arizona by Mike Daikubara

I was on a business trip to Phoenix and stayed at Kimpton Hotels for the first time.
Nice location, clean room but the best thing about it - Yoga mat in the room!
They even offered free classes every night at a gym across the street which I ended up going every night.

More sketches during this trip to follow soon :)

Spring sun draws me outdoors

By Barry Jackson in London

Clissold Park - charcoal and inks 42 x 29 cm

A few days of warm spring sun. Blossom on the fruit trees, and in London parks horse chestnut leaves are just opening to their full, while other trees are still budding.

It's actually too hot today to sit in the sun, so I sit in the shade, my back to a tree.

It's only at the end of the morning I realise that my subject has not been trees or parkscape, it's been shadow.

Clissold Park - charcoal 42 x 29cm

restaurant sketch at Jongno, Seoul

By Byung Hwa Yoo at the restaurant Donna Rita, Jongno, Seoul, Korea

pencil (6B), A 4

Today I passed the Jongno police station at Gyeongun-dong, Jongno. Next to the police station I saw a black restaurant building which I didn't see before. I entered the garden where I found a swinging bench in the corner. I appreciated the building enjoying fine weather swinging on the bench. I couldn't sketch often during months for the bronchial trouble. It gets well as the spring comes. So I dared to sketch one outdoor. There was a small fountain. The twinkling drops caught my eye for they looked like diamonds with black wall behind. I began and kept drawing with pencil. The sign board words on wall looked good to me. They were simple and familiar not peculiar. After I finished the drawing I tried to take a picture but found the fountain stopped. I asked a young staff to turn on for a minute. He did it gladly saying he didn't notice that I was sketching. And he let me know the restaurant opened last November. Lots of people come and go passing it because it locates near Insa-dong where many tourists visit and galleries locate at. Next time I hope to sketch inside of the restaurant having tea or pasta with friends.

From Blackfriars Bridge, London

By James Hobbs in London

My cycling commute homeward takes me north over Blackfriars Bridge, close to Tate Modern. Looking east, Blackfriars railway station has recently been extended to stretch from bank to bank; its sloping solar roof provides half of the station's energy. What I have always enjoyed about this view, from the safely of the cycle lane or during windswept interludes halfway across, is the way a handful of London's most recognisable buildings poke up from behind the station. From the left come the Barbican towers, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower 42 (the old NatWest tower), the Cheesegrater with the Gherkin almost hidden behind…

…then the curvy lines of the new Walkie Talkie, before a gap for the river Thames beneath us (and the spine of the book), and then the pointy Shard, the brick tower of Tate Modern and finally its ziggurat-esque extension, due to open next year.

Looking west, this bridge is one of the best places in London to view sunsets (weather permitting, terms and conditions apply) – but somehow I like these views to the east just as much.

London's Urban Sketchers are meeting to draw from St Paul's to the Thames on Saturday 25 April, rearranged from Sunday 26 to avoid the London marathon congestion. Everyone is welcome, of course: details are here.

April 22, 2015

A Vintage Airstream. A Hidden Arch. A Back-alley Jumble.

By Marcia Milner-Brage in Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA

Here are three vignettes about my neighborhood in Cedar Falls, Iowa

A Vintage Airstream

I coveted this diminutive trailer from the moment I walked by it, parked in a driveway on a back- alley. There it was: tended and loved, an artifact from a bygone era, waiting for its next journey, beckoning to embrace the open road. It’s shiny oval shape backdropped by dark tree trunks instantly compelled me to draw. The only realistic way for me to have this cutie was to draw it. 

Then and there, I stood and sketched in my pocket-size Moleskine. I had to be quick; it was barely warm enough to stand out-of-doors. A woman emerged from her backdoor, and from a distance called out worriedly, “Are you OK?”. Sketchers in back-alleys are not common in my town. “Oh, I’m just drawing.” I waved my sketchbook in her direction, an invitation to come and look. Instead, she nodded, a perturbed look on her face, went back inside, not bothering to turn in the direction that I was looking.

I came back the next day with my easel to do a more developed color drawing--the composition brushed in first with water soluble graphite stick, followed by wax pastel. It was warm, a glorious Spring day! New green and rose-colored buds in the tree canopy were starting to soften the winter drabness of the city. Two preteen girls walked down the alley, taking a quick peek over my shoulder. “We like the way you draw!, they giggled. A guy with impressive white muttonchops drove up in a huge, shiny red pickup, leaned out his cab window and yelled over the rumbling of his vehicle, “What ya doing?”

“I’m drawing that trailer over there.”

“Oh, yeah?,” he leaned out a little further, looked down at my drawing, looked over at the trailer, and then back again to the page. “Oh, yeah. That’s it, all right.”

A Hidden Arch

I don’t walk along First Street often. There’s just too much traffic. I’m not sure what prompted my husband and I to cross First at the McDonald's on our way to the cemetery that looks out over the Cedar River. On our daily walks, we tend to ramble. A railroad track intersects First Street there, taking coal cars to the power station. On the other side of First from the Golden Arches, there’s a scrappy woods and a small ravine. Exposed roots and felled trees hold up the crumbling embankment. A drain sewer goes under the street. A creek curves in to join the brackish water. The water shimmers with an oily scum. Chunks of concrete have been thrown in. Maybe it was because the trees hadn’t leafed out yet and the brush hadn’t gotten too thick, but we saw it for the first time: this hidden stone arch that until then we didn’t know existed. It channeled the water under the railroad track. Like so many stone railroad bridges found in Iowa, it was probably built in the mid-1800s from Anamosa Limestone. I knew then that I would come back on the next non-rainy, non-chilly day and draw it. I was thrilled to find this wild, hidden place in the city.

I had biked there  with my gear. My pant legs got covered with burs as I set up. Traffic whizzed behind me. I could hear orders being placed at the McDonald’s drive-up window. “Will that be jumbo fries with your Big Whopper?”

A Back-alley Jumble

A neighbor, one block over, is a hoarder. He has multiple garages and sheds crammed behind his house. He fills them with scavenged stuff—scraps of building materials, broken toilets, extracted radiators, oozing drums of used oil—who knows what! This does not go over well with adjoining homeowners. The City Code Enforcement Officer is called. Warrants are issued. Time passes. A new shed is added and filled. Nothing is cleaned up. Stuff spills out around the garages and sheds. Finally, the City sends out the Refuse Department with forklifts, flatbeds, and backhoes. They spend a morning hauling away the most offensive, reining in the mess for awhile.

I drew this a few days ago, after the last purge. I looked down the alley from the sidewalk along my yard towards this jumble of backyard structures. I guess I find a kind of beauty in it. The forms of all those buildings excites me. As did the tree trunk shadows -- unmistakable Spring shadows, before the leaves come out.

This same neighbor owns a vacant lot on this alley. There used to be a house on the lot. The City had to tear it down it got so derelict, so mold and vermin infested. The hoarder deposited old trucks, buses, cars and boats there. He filled the junked cars and trucks with junk. Feral cats and raccoons lived underneath. Periodically, the City is prompted to tow some of it away, thinning out the collection. I drew this from my bedroom window several winters ago. 

The bus and the truck are long gone. The above was drawn several autumns ago. All that’s there now is the boat.