April 21, 2015


76th USkPortugal meeting was in Silves, ancient capital of Algarve, the southern portuguese province. I made the first sketch of the day near the so called "roman bridge".
In april all the surrounding orange trees are flowering and the town  smells wonderfully.
It was a great day and in the evening we had great f talk around our sketchbooks.

Freedom Cannot Be Imprisoned: Ai Weiwei Exhibition at Alcatraz

 By Jane Wingfield in San Francisco, California

Ai Weiwei wasn't always a dissident, at least not officially. It wasn't until the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, when the Chinese government refused to release the names of over 5000 children who died in the disaster, that Weiwei confronted the government directly. He produced a performance piece that read each child's name continuously and posted it online. Since then the Chinese government has kept him under constant surveillance. Weiwei continues to speak out.

@Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz, a potent and provocative installation at America's most notorious prison-turned-national-park, embodies the idea that freedom of expression cannot be silenced. The seven installations in four separate buildings are integrated into the standard Alcatraz tour. Weiwei's work, however, transforms the crusty prison, confronting visitors with stark contrasts and bringing up questions about freedom and human rights.

Bicycle of Flowers
On April 3rd, 2010, police arrested Weiwei without charge and detained him at an unknown location for 81 days, finally releasing him on June 22nd without explanation - and without his passport. He cannot leave China. A bicycle whose basket of flowers is refreshed daily sits just outside the door of his Beijing studio, beneath several surveillance cameras - a silent statement.

Because he cannot leave China, Weiwei used books, memoirs and photos to study the Alcatraz prison site, mapping its construction and layout while designing the exhibition. Weiwei's staff, park staff and local volunteers assembled the installations.

Weiwei uses the opportunity of the exhibition to speak about what happens when people lose the ability to speak freely, and to bring the conversation to a wider audience. He researched political prisoners throughout the world, and uses this opportunity to bring them, the repression they suffer and their causes to our attention.

The theme of human rights, freedom of expression and the political repression present in many countries - including the United States - runs throughout the exhibition.

THE NEW INDUSTRIES BUILDING is the vast structure where inmates worked doing laundry for military bases and manufacturing goods for government use. The three most visually dramatic installations are in this building.

With Wind
A traditional hand-painted silk Chinese dragon kite seems to burst through the confinement: the head confronts you at the entrance, and the body, consisting of hand-painted discs, winds through tall pillars in contrast to walls with peeling paint and exposed rusty pipes. Some of the silk discs display quotes from political prisoners, including Weiwei.

With Wind

The signature art piece of @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz consists of panels with 176 faces made of millions of Lego blocks, covering the floor in a patchwork of color. Each face is the portrait of a real person who has had some experience of political imprisonment. Some are still imprisoned; some are now free; some are deceased.


Trace (photo)

A massive sculpture sits in the basement of the New Industries Building. It consists of a monstrous wing, the feathers of which are constructed using reflective panels from Tibetan solar ovens, calling to mind Tibet's long struggle with the Chinese government - a wing enclosed, captured even, by the prison walls.



Stay Tuned
Prison cells, empty apart from a stool and headphones, invite viewers to sit inside, getting a sense of imprisonment while listening to the recorded voices of political prisoners - those who have been detained for expressing their beliefs. Isolation and expression.


This installation in the sterile psychiatric observation room resonates with chanting from both Tibetan monks and Native American tribes, drawing a direct correlation between the Chinese and American governments' oppression of native people.

In 1957 Chairman Mao initiated the Hundred Flowers Campaign, inviting the population to free expression of their ideas about the governing of China.

"The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is 
designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science." (Wikipedia)

As criticism of Mao increased, he changed course, with what is known as the Cultural Revolution. Dissidents - now easily identified from their free expression - were publicly humiliated, arrested, tortured, sent to labor camps and even executed. 


Weiwei's family was sent to Xinjiang Province, a remote area of Western China. His father Ai Qing, once a lauded poet and scholar, was forced to work daily cleaning communal toilets; their family ate seeds to survive. Knowing a little of what Ai Weiwei's family experienced gives deeper understanding of his crusade for free expression and human rights. 

Blossom transforms fixtures - toilets, bathtubs and sinks - with the installation of fragile porcelain flowers alluding to the Hundred Flowers Campaign and the possibility of transformation through free expression.

Yours Truly 
Again, a memory of Ai Qing, Weiwei's father, informed the last installation. While the family was still in the labor camps, Weiwei's father received an anonymous postcard announcing the 30 year anniversary of one of his poems. His father was deeply touched to know that he was remembered. 

Yours Truly encourages viewers to participate in a global conversation and to act to let individual prisoners know they haven't been forgotten. You can choose from any number of postcards, each addressed to a specific prisoner, with a symbol of the country where that prisoner is detained. The cards are mailed to the individuals to let them know that they are indeed remembered.

"The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case.
When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill." Ai Weiwei

 @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz will run until April 26th 2015.

Jane Wingfield is a Correspondent from Seattle. This article was originally posted in Seattle Urban Sketchers.

April 20, 2015

Greenwood Memorial Park and Cemetery, San Diego

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego
The thing I like about The Greenwood Cemetery are the large statues and tombstones. I especially like the angels.

Good Days in Galway

By Róisín Curé in Galway, Ireland

Ah yes...my small part of Galway has once again cast off its cloak of misery and gloom, winter has fled to the north somewhere and we're all basking in sunshine. I was doing stupid stuff in front of a screen and then I had to get out so I stuffed my sketch kit and folding stool into a rucksack, hopped on my bike and sped off, my head at a funny angle because the stool was digging into my neck. The hedgerows smelled marvellous - is that what fresh new nettles smell like? - dandelions of the most intense yellow had just made their late-spring arrival and the sun cast neon blue shadows of leafless trees onto the twisting country roads. I considered stopping and drawing them, but I had a destination, so I pressed on. Then I remembered that if the sun went in, sketching the trees' shadows would come to an abrupt end anyway.

I stopped at Killeenaran Quay and whipped out the sketching stuff. The tide was very low: it's a spring tide, one of the few times you can reach Island Eddy on foot.

I was determined to capture those rivulets of water in the mud. The sunshine made it all a lot easier - there's nothing like strong shadows to give you a short cut to a successful sketch, because it's so much easier to see edges of things, and of course the contrasts are much better defined.

I sat in perfect happiness for a long time - in fact I was late for my next appointment - but it's days like this that you remember why you're so grateful to have the means to make sketches. 

Yesterday I sketched as my kids launched their Optimists down the slip at Galway Bay Sailing Club:

I had to be extremely fast because the little lads and lassies were so eager to get into the water. Sure, the bay looked heavenly in the sunshine, but the kids are always eager to launch, whatever the weather. This isn't my normal way to sketch (I'm usually much more tight and careful) but needs must, and within a few minutes all the boats were gone. I didn't really mind being forced to stop as my fingers were numb anyway from the previous sketch I'd done, of the boats still in dry dock in the sailing club. I had started it a few weeks earlier, but gave it up yesterday as a bad job soon after I started, because stuff had moved since my last visit to the site three weeks earlier. This is only part of it - it's about three times the size, so you can't see the lovely blue sky above the clouds.

I wasn't sorry to go indoors and chat with some of the other parents who had brought their kids to Sunday sailing. "What I like about sailing," said one other mother, "is that you can actually get involved. With Irish dancing all you do is ferry the kids around - you can't do anything but sit on a chair for two hours." The mum in question is amazing - she helps her son rig and de-rig his boat. My husband helps our kids too (and berates them loudly for not doing it themselves, since they're supposed to be learning to do it all alone), but all I do is sit around and sketch. I should maybe have felt guilty for doing nothing to help, but I didn't. Instead I looked around the clubhouse and saw some lovely flags, and thus spent the rest of the time sketching while the kids larked about on the beautiful blue playground that is Galway Bay.

The flags were an urban sketcher's idea of heaven, incorporating interesting shapes, bright and varied colours - and they didn't move, or not more than the gentle breeze from the open door could manage.

Sitting in my kids' sailing club while they have a good time. A sunny Sunday afternoon, left in peace to sketch. Irish flags everywhere. These are definitely the good days.

More of my work here.

The streetlamp reminds me of the workshop I took in the former symposium in Paraty

By Kumi Matsukawa in Kanagawa, Japan

The other day I walked around by the stream and found this view point. I was able to see the looking down view of the city , the stream, the slope and streetlamp. This lamp reminded me of Norberto Dorantes's workshop (Line Flow:Live Spot). During his workshop, I drew two similarly composited drawings. I enjoyed drawing objects with unbroken-line which gave me new insight and new look on my drawings. This time I used watercolor but I basically practiced what I have learnt at that time.

Workshop I (Line Flow:Live Spot)-2

Workshop I (Line Flow:Live Spot)-3
These are done during Norberto Dorantes's workshop I Line Flow/Live Spot (5th international Urban Sketching Symposium ) pen / Paraty, Brazil

Traveling downunder to Sydney & Melbourne

By Paul Wang, Singapore

Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, SydneyTaylor Square, Oxford Street, Sydney Bourke Street, Sydney
I just returned from a wonderful month long yoga teacher training and vacation in Sydney and Melbourne. Other than spending lots of time doing yoga (6 days a week for 1 month), I also had the privilege of meeting and sketching with local aussie sketchers from USk-Sydney and USk Melbourne. They were all very hospitable and lots of wonderful time sketching together. I must not forget my dear friend Liz Steel who came to hangout with me in Sydney. Countless cafe hopping sessions, lots of coffee drinking and of course busy sketching when we are not eating or chatting. It was in Australia that I had my 1st CRONUT (Croissant + Donut) and CRUFFIN (Croissant + Muffin) too.

The highlight of my trip was USk-Melbourne's invitation to give a talk about my Urbansketching journey over the last 5 years. This is the first time that I actually documented my own journey which started in 2010 and super amazed to see the different phases I went through. My thinking and sketching was very different then. I can now see where and when I shifted. I think I progressively became more and more wild and crazy too. The morning of the event we had an overwhelming crowd of 60 who turned up to listen and sketch with me. Lots of first timer eager to find out more about Urbansketchers too.

Sketching at Centre Place with 4 awesome ladies.Wonderful day sketching & hanging out with the Melbourne Sketchers @ Errol street, North Melbourne.

You can view more of my sketches and photographs here or here.

Also check out Liz Steel's blog post about our outing with the Melbourne sketchers here.

April 19, 2015

Vietnam - Street Scenes and Landscapes

Guest Post by Peter Andrews, Terrigal, Australia

Vietnam is a place of contrasts between the energy and chaos of the cities and the serenity of the charming rural landscapes, coastline and World Heritage Sites. I have tried to capture this contrast in the sketches I made during a recent visit with my partner over 2014/2015 Christmas New Year Period. I hope you enjoy them.

Street Scenes
Life is lived on the streets. Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City are noisy, bustling with activity and strange smells.

Hanoi still retains some of its fine colonial French architecture but this tends to be subsumed in the mass of wiring, signs, makeshift shades and awnings, add-on structures, aerials, merchandise, temporary kitchens scattered amongst an endless sea of parked motorbikes and push-bikes.  

Ho Chi Min City is home to around 12 million people and it seems they all own a motorbike.

Ho Chi Min City - The Ben Thanh Market is an amazing place to spend a few hours.

Landscapes, Coastlines and World Heritage Sites
The day trip to Ha Long was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it turned out to be a fantastic day. I was working between an A5 and A6 Moleskine. Because the boat was moving, the view was constantly changing. I had to work very fast to get the scenes onto paper. Lunch gave me an opportunity to add some wash. 

Ha My Beach is home to a number of small fishing villages.

Ha My Beach Restaurant

Ha My Beach - the round, shell-like boats are made from waterproofed canvas stretched over a frame, and simply left on the beach. This sketch was an exception to my normal technique.
This is drawn on a 20x40cm 300gsm watercolour paper. It is much larger than I would normally use – reflected in the finer line work and detail. It took a little longer because I was working at a bigger scale.

My Son Sanctuary 

Hue – Imperial Palace

 Hoi An, Lunar Festival

I like to work fast, try not to over think what I am doing and let the sketch emerge. I usually draw standing up. I don’t use set-up lines, and leave the pen on the paper most of the time – not continuous line drawing but tending towards it. Increasingly I am sketching over two pages – I like the exaggerated horizontal format without the need to carry a large sketchpad. The join in the centre of the two pages influences the composition; I don't want it to occur on a complex part of the scene – sometimes I use it to divide the composition into two parts.

I enjoy the immediacy of black and white and it allows me to carry the minimum amount of material and equipment. Usually I fit everything in my pocket (no backpack to weigh me down).
Landscape format A5 or A6 size watercolour Moleskine that will fit in my pocket.
Felt pen or rollerball pen (sometimes I just carry the refill because it is smaller and you don’t really need the rest of the pen). I have tested different pens and refills because I like to use water-soluble ink. Although the pens I use are black, when the line work is washed it will change colour, sometimes sepia, sometimes blue and sometimes a purple tinge, depending on the paper type or pen I am using. When I don’t want the line work to dissolve, I use a colourfast non-soluble ink pen like Rotring Tikky or Micron.

I have started to carry a water brush pen – in the past I would simply apply a wash with my finger and whatever medium I could find – water, coffee, coke or wine – coffee and red wine add an interesting colour to the wash.

Much of the work is deliberately small so that when it is enlarged it becomes grainy and starts to fracture. It becomes more like graffiti, particularly when it is blown up on a large format plotter to A2 or A1 size.

Peter Andrews is an Architect and Urban Designer from Terrigal, Australia. You can see more images of Peter's Vietnam trip and other works on his Flickr site Panda1Grafix.

Finding Shangrila in Cairns Australia.

by Thomas Thorspecken

The Shangrila is a five star hotel right on the water in Cairns (Pier Point Road, Cairns QLD 4870, Australia). The room was spacious and well appointed with large photos of reef Corals decorating the walls. Terry went for a walk after we checked in, so I did a sketch from our balcony. As you can see, our view was of the expansive parking lot. I kept the sketch loose by putting watercolor washes down first and only adding line work where it was needed. I should work this way more often. In the distance I could see crowds of tourists walking the main street shopping and looking for restaurants.

After the sketch was done, I flicked on the TV and found a fascinating program that showcases artists who explain their painting process. It was a fabulous show and I got to watch a painting develop from start to finish. I don't know why there isn't a show like this in the states. I guess the audience might be consider a bit limited but I thought it was an awesome show. Another program featured four portrait artists who were all assigned a commission to paint a military veteran's portrait. Only one artists work would win the grand prize and hang in a British museum. With high stakes, it was fascinating to see how each artist handled the commission. There was yet another show that featured a convicted forger teaching artists how to paint like John Singer Sargent. I was transfixed. We need programs like this in the states. The arts are so revered and appropriated in Australia.

Shangrila was our home base for a day trip to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. After my bout of sea sickness while whale watching, I did research online to find ways to avoid it happening again. One remedy suggested saltines the day before, so I got a box of saltines and popped some Dramamines and drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow would be a long day.

Analog Artist Digital World

April 18, 2015

Sketches from a visit to the Burke Museum at University of Washington

This morning a handful of Seattle Urban Sketchers volunteered to be artists in residence at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington Campus.  Tina Koyama arranged this event with the Museum.  The Burke staff set up tables in the entry foyer with objects as well as  paper and pencils to encourage visitors to try their hand at sketching some of the objects in the museum.  We were located at different parts of the museum as live sketch artists.

I had been wanting to see the Native American Mask that was the inspiration for the Seahawk's Logo which is currently on display.  So I focused most my time in that portion of the museum doing a few vignettes of that area.   I found time before I left to sketch a display of Mastodon bones in a different part of the museum.  Because of medium restrictions,  I chose to sketch in pencil. 

The Native American Display Are of the Burke Museum.

The Mastodon in the Prehistoric section of the Museum.

To see more sketches and pictures from that day check out http://seattle.urbansketchers.org/2015/04/an-urban-sketching-event-at-burke.html  Tina Koyama's write up of the event.

April 17, 2015

Two hundred years of legacy and heritage

Kalimat di atas merupakan headline untuk pameran sketsa Indonesia's Sketchers (IS), hasil kerjasama IS dengan Kedutaan Besar Belanda dan Erasmus Huis dalam rangka memperingati 200 tahun berdirinya Kerajaan Belanda. Pameran yang menggelar 30 karya sketsa ukuran A# dan 7 accordeon sketchbook ini melibatkan 30 artist dari 6 kota di Indonesia; Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Jogyakarta, Semarang, dan Surabaya ditambah beberapa sketchers dari masing-masing kota sebagai cabang IS di daerah. Obyek sketsa merupakan bangunan peninggalan masa lampau pasca VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) yang banyak tersebar di kota-kota di Indonesia.
Satu kesempatan yang baik bagi IS untuk dapat tampil diri dalam upaya menguatkan eksistensinya sebagai komunitas sketsa, disamping juga sebagai upaya untuk lebih mendekatkan seni sketsa (live sketching) kepada masyarakat luas terutama generasi mudanya.
Pameran yang sedang berlangsung hingga 30 April 2015 ini merupakan pameran nasional pertama IS karena melibatkan seluruh komunitas IS daerah. Tak mudah mewujudkan satu kegiatan pameran yang cukup representatif seperti kali ini, perlu kerja keras serta dedikasi yang cukup mengingat sebagian sketchers yang terlibat aktif dalam kesibukan mereka sehari-hari, baik sebagai pekerja kantor atau profesional.
Disamping pameran, IS juga menggelar workshop, sketchwalk dan sketchtalk. Ketiga kegiatan ini lebih diutamakan untuk kaum muda; pelajar dan mahasiswa.
Semoga pameran kali ini mampu menjadi pemicu bagi IS untuk lebih banyak menjalin kerjasama dengan berbagai pihak agar bisa menyelenggarakan kegiatan budaya serupa dalam rangka lebih mendekatkan seni sketsa kepada masyarakat luas.

Berikut hasil liputan singkatnya. Enjoy it!
Acara pembukaan dibuka oleh Duta Besar Belanda untuk Indonesia; Mr Rob Swartbol.
Pose sejenak...
Dari kiri ke kanan: Mr Ton van Zeeland (direktur Teater dan Galeri Erasmus Huis), Atit Indarty (IS founder),
Yanuar Ikhsan (Ketua IS), Mr Rob Swartbol (Duta Besar Belanda), saya dan Donald Saluling (Ketua Pameran)
Sebelas dari 30 peserta pameran.
Dari kiri ke kanan: Yoso Bayudono, Seto parama Artho, Donald saluling, Wahyu SP, saya, Artyan Trihandono,
Nino Puriando, Iqbal Amirdha, Soleh Hadiyana, Yanuar Ikhsan dan Hani Handayani.

Suasana ceria penuh keakraban...
Acara workshop dan sketchwalk selama 2 hari di 4 lokasi di Jakarta.
Sketchtalk; presentasi hasil karya dari peserta workshop dengan dipandu oleh Kris Wardhana, Nashir setiawan,
Donald Saluling, Benny Zhuang, Toni Malakian dan saya sendiri.

Clockwise: Senoaji Wijanarko, Aryo Sunaryo, Iqbal Amirdha, Yulianto Qin, Kris Wardhana, Hani Handayani.

Clockwise: Yandi Prayudhi, Wahyu SP, Yuventus Win, Toni Malakian, Dhar Cedhar, Darman Angir.

Clockwise: Harry Suryo, Nashir Setiawan, Gunawan Wibisono, Adji setiawan, Artyan Trihandono, Jatmika Jati.

Clockwise: Yanuar Ikhsan, Andry Daud, Erick Eko Pramono, Donald Saluling, Nino Puriando, Yoso Bayudono.

Clockwise: Soleh Hadiyana, Muhammad Thamrin, Yoes Wibowo, Seto Parama Artho, Benny Zhuang, Rudi Hartanto.

The Making.
Bagi kami yang biasa membuat sketsa dengan sketchbook dengan ukuran yang relatif kecil (A6, A5 atao A4), tidaklah mudah ketika dituntut untuk membuat dalam format A3. Ukuran pena terpaksa menentukan sesuai dengan format kertas agar garis yang dihasilkan proporsional.
Saat membuat Menara Syahbandar saya harus membuat beberapa thumbnail, dimana saya tidak pernah melakukannya saat bersketsa di sketchbook.
Hampir sebagian besar sketcher di setiap kota mengalami masalah yang sama, yaitu cuaca. Hujan dan panas yang ekstrim cukup mengganggu kami saat kegiatan menggambar berlangsung. Saya sendiri sempat mengulanginya sampai 2 kali. Kali ke dua baru saya mendapatkan hasil yang sesuai dengan kehendak...

Menara Syahbandar dibangun tahun 1839. Dahulu menara ini berfungsi sebagai menara pengawas untuk kapal-kapal yang keluar-masuk Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa. Kini kondisi menara ini sudah miring. Kemungkinan akibat pengaruh dari pembangunan sekitar dan getaran yang diakibatkan oleh kendaraan berat yang lalu lalang tepat dibelakangnya.
Panas terik dan bau yang tidak sedap membuat konsentrasi menurun drastis!
Hampir 4 jam saya bergelut dengan situasi seperti ini sebelum gerimis menghentikan tangan saya, kemudian berkemas kembali ke menara untuk berteduh dan meneruskannya sambil menunggu hujan reda. Finishing touch saya lakukan di rumah karena hari mulai gelap...
Foto-foto doc. Indonesia's Sketchers