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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crystal shore

Two days ago I was looking for a good location to sketch the cracking ice on Lac St. Louis but when I got down to the shore, to my great disappointment, it was all gone. Today a friend emailed me a few photos of where the ice had ended up, so I made my way there this afternoon. I don't know if this happens every year or if this was a freak occurrence, but for a good distance the ice was piled up along the waterfront in Dorval and people were gathering to take photos or just to gawk. With some of the chunks at least a foot thick and four feet across, I can only imagine what the sound must have been when this happened. I found a bench to set up on because there was no place close by to park and sketch from the shelter of my car, but with the wind blowing icy gusts on my palette (and my face) I had to pack up after about 30 minutes and finish the last details in the warmth of my house. I have never sketched outdoors in a colder situation than this, but I have also never sketched a scene as brilliantly gorgeous as this either. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dana Schutz

Critically acclaimed artist Dana Schutz will be Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida from February 17 to March 9, 2014. She talked about her artistic process on February 27th during her visit to the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, Fl.)  Dana’s work suggests tradition while simultaneously presenting innovative compositions. The artist explains, “My paintings are loosely based on meta narratives. The pictures float in and out of pictorial genres. Still life's become personified, portraits become events, and landscapes become constructions. I embrace the area between which the subject is composed and decomposing, formed and formless, inanimate and alive.” New York-based critic John Yau stated, “This is what Schutz does so well—she asks questions that challenge the answers given by others. More importantly, she asks her questions by folding them into the painting.”  The appearance of Dana Schutz was made possible by the Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist in-Residence Outreach Program and United Arts of Central Florida.

Dana's work blew me away. The classical paintings on the museum walls seemed shocked and surprised by Dana's work on the screen. The image I sketched on the screen answered the question, "What would someone look like if they ate their own face?"  Dana works large with all her colors pre-mixed. While in school she painted portraits of the men she imagined would be right for her friends. A bright landscape sprouted body parts which people then devoured. Her imagined world is believable yet abstract with the light and color intensity dialed way up. I wish I could have seen some of her work in person. The paint looks luscious and thickly applied. There is a vibrancy and directness to her work that I admire. I left the talk inspired. What a surprise to discover another artists vision with self effacing humor and warmth.

Analog Artist Digital World

Plymouth Rock

We had one of the first warm weathers over the weekend and therefore took a day trip to see one of the most famous ‘Rock’ in New England - possibly even considered to be the most important symbol in the American History too .

1 hour drive south from Boston in a small town called Plymouth lies this rock - The Plymouth Rock.
It is said that in 1620 the first European settlers called the Pilgrims first stepped into the new world and was directly on this Rock.

The history and the stories behind the rock is impressive, and in comparison the actual Rock was quite the opposite – it was just a small rock engraved ‘1620’ and had a large crack running down the middle with concrete used to glue the 2 halves together.
As I sketched the Rock, I overheard many spectators say “Is this it?” or just looked at it and walk away quietly with a look of disappointment on their faces.

Anyway, it was a fun trip, admission is free and it’s nice to be able to say that I saw it (sketched it)!

sketches around the large parking lot at Apgujeong-dong, Seoul

The large parking lot of Hyundai  Department Store in Apgujeong, pencil and watercolor

nearby Hyundai Apartment complex, pen and watercolor

Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong,  pen and watercolor

members of Outdoor Watercolor Artist's Group waiting for the bus, pen and watercolor

Gangnam City Tour bus, pen and watercolor

the overpass crossing Apgujeongno,  pen and watercolor

FarEast Sports Center across the road, pen

Hyundai Department Store viewed from the parking lot, pen
( 21 x 29.6cm sketchbook )
In spring every Sunday morning, members of Korea Outdoor Watercolor Artist's Group used to gather at the large parking lot of Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong for outdoor painting to the countryside by chartered bus. I've participated in the group frequently for 20 years. Recently every Sunday morning, I arrived on the spot a little earlier, and sketched here and there while waiting for the bus to departure.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, Balboa Park, San Diego, California

This morning I met with friends at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden in Balboa Park. The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden displays approximately 2,500 roses of nearly 200 varieties on a three-acre site full of fragrance, color, and beauty. These are my sketches and the group's sketches.

just to make this dock my home

SF Balclutha
San Francisco CA: Recently I took a couple of days in the City by the Bay. I know lots of other cities are by bays as well (and this isn’t even the only city by this particular bay, nor is it the biggest), but when we talk about the City by the Bay we mean only one place: the City. Anyway, to San Francisco I came, not to sit here resting my bones as such but to draw furiously, and draw furiously I did. Not this one, however - this was drawn calmly, peacefully and without any fury at all. It is lovely down there by the water’s edge, listening to the tide as it rolls away. I didn’t fancy sketching the mania of Fisherman’s Wharf much, but just wanted to sit and sketch the Balclutha, a magnificent old boat moored near Hyde Pier. There is Alcatraz in the background, the former prison island (Clint Eastwood swimming just out of shot) and scene of Magneto's last battle with the X-Men. I sat on a bench as joggers, tourists, cyclists, and those funny looking Segway riders paraded by. At one point I took a photo of the scene using my iPad Mini, at which point a Wandering Drunk stumbled by and said loudly, “I wish I could sink that thing!!” Now here is an example of the modern world confusing common vocabulary, because I actually thought he meant the iPad, as in ‘sync’. “It’s not even American!” he continued, while swilling his can of cheap beer, and I realized he meant the boat. He perched himself at the top of the steps with a six-pack and carried on hurling abuse at passing maritime vessels, which to be fair is probably a nice relaxing way to spend the day, for all I know, who am I to judge. I did look up the sailing ship Balclutha when I got home, to see if it really wasn’t American, and apparently it was built in Glasgow, Scotland (‘Balclutha’ is Gaelic and refers to the city on the Clyde), was renamed Alaska Star and Pacific Queen for periods, and has been moored in San Francisco since the Maritime Museum purchased it in the 1950s. You can find out more about the Balclutha on the National Park Service website.
by Pete Scully

First truly warm weekend of the year

For Canada we have pretty mild winters here on the south-west coast, even so the days are short and winter doesn't exactly put a spring in your step. But this weekend was different, it was the first unmistakably warm weekend of the year. Everyone was outdoors this weekend with many sporting shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops and sun glasses even.
I took advantage of the weather by sitting in the glorious sunshine and making an urban sketch. It will surely get better and better from here - and I welcome the sunshine and warmth.
Happy spring urban sketchers!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

listening to tango

in 'Kulturwerkstadt', Danckelmannstrasse, in our Berlin neighborhood. The locals
Marian Zabczuk (piano and arrangements) and Pablo Miró (vocals and guitar) perform a wonderfully narrative and suggestive concert.
kulturwerkstadt1_120414 Kopiekulturwerkstadt5_120414 Kopie

My trip to the UAE

Going on a package tour means you travel with a group of people according to the schedule. Often you can see and visit many places without worrying extra expense... But you have less free time.
Still I made the most of opportunity to have sketching.

Day 1,
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi ( five minutes sketch done while we were given 8 minutes to take photo of it)

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Day 2,
A shop assistant in the Dubai Mall, Dubai. He offered me some sample tasting of tea. He said that he is from the Philippines.

a shop assistant

Inside the Dubai Mall. To see those Emirati people in this huge mall in their folk clothes mede me feel as if I see prince or princess ( characters) in a palace (of dream world)

in the Dubai Mall

After desert safari, I saw belly dance show.

Desert safari, dinner and belly dance

belly dance

And a spinning dancer.

Dancing man

Day 3,
I drew a shop assistant in the spice souk after I tried one clothing and bought it during 20 minutes of given free time there.

Mr. Ali

On our way back to our hotel, I did this tour guide sketch in the bus.
Mr. Shalaby

Burl Khalifa, the world tallest skyscraper. I drew this before sun set near the station called Business Bay. I guess it must be a business district.
Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Day 4,
This day, we had free time until 16:00.
I went to the Mall of Emirates early in the morning. This is another huge mall. It was so lovely to walk around, to see workers preparing to open their shops and of course to shop there.
in the Mall of Emirates

Jumeirah Beach Hotel seen on the premisses of Burj Al Arab.
I did this after I had buffet lunch in a restaurant in Burj Al Arab.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel

Jumeira Beach Hotel

Burj Al Arab( so called seven-star hotel) I had a once in a life time lunch.
Although I had Arabian food every day, I didn't make any food sketch. I so indulged in just eating this time.
Burj Al Arab

Friday, April 11, 2014

A good neighbor

shu My wife just arrived back from a conference in Turkey, so I thought it appropriate to post a sketch I did last week of my Turkish neighbor. Ever since we moved here to Clovis, I have been very grateful for the spirit of kindness I see in the people here. This man, for example, our next door neighbor, has been very helpful. First he helped us with some computer issues. Then he loaned us a car when ours broke down. Another time he brought over an armful of brussel sprouts from his garden. And it seems the general populace is like that. Another time when our car broke down, (you'd think it happens all the time), I counted at least 7 people who volunteered to help us. There's something contagious about that. All it takes is one good neighbor to get things started.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Urban Sketchers Meet up group met at the San Diego Zoo. This is my sketch and the group's sketches.

The Classic Street Sketch and Other Philosophy


This unassuming sketch is a perfect example of why I'm hooked on Urban Sketching.

I'm waiting on the street corner, meeting people before a show. I'm there a few minutes early, and they're a few minutes late. It ends up being 25 minutes I'm sitting there waiting.

But this was actually perfect! I could pull out my book and sketch the building on the corner of Sherbrooke and Guy - which happens to be a favorite of mine. (Though locals will see I took considerable artistic license). I've heard these red stone hulks are called railway style? Remnants of the lost empire of Canada's rail barons. There's a good one of these on the map for our Griffintown sketchcrawl on the upcoming 4th Sunday.

So we got up to the theater, and the damn show is sold out. Since when is a show at the MFA sold out? But this is actually even better! Because we can go get something to eat and I can take out my half pans and add some color.

My point is - isn't that the classic urban sketch? Something you can do in any spare moment. A slice of life, as you find it. Time waiting isn't lost - it's turned into something creative.

I haven't been carrying a book at all times lately  (because winter) - but I was inspired in Savannah when I saw Gabi Campanario make an entire drawing in the time it took the rest of us to find a restaurant on Google maps.

So that's my self-refresher on what's so awesome about carrying a sketchbook 24/7.


So, about the 'Other Philosophy' part -  you might be interested in a short interview with myself, conducted by Julie Prescesky over at Design Inkarnation on the topic of urban sketching and living as an artist. She asked some thought provoking questions!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The aftermath of protests in Kyiv

Editor’s note: On February 20, Ukraine lived one of its most tragic days in recent times when dozens of antigovernment protesters were killed by security forces close to Kyiv’s central square, known as the Maidan. As many as one hundred people were reported dead. In this guest post, local urban sketcher Natalia Litvinenko describes her experience that day and shares sketches she made on and around the square after the massacre.

Feb. 22, 2014. Marks from burned tires were still fresh on the pavement as a passerby paused to reflect on the scene. The sight of sharp anti-tanks hedgehogs contrasted with the gentle shape of a Ukrainian flag waving from a leafless tree.

Feb. 22, 2014. Orange helmets worn by protesters lied over a wall of cobblestones. Another sign of the violence could be seen in the background: The burned walls and windows of the Trade Union building.

Feb. 22, 2014. The remnants of canisters from Molotov cocktails and piles of cobblestones that were used as weapons became the subject of an impromptu still life.

Feb. 22, 2014. People brought flowers to remember the victims.

By Natalia Litvinenko

The subway system was shut down, few buses ran and it was impossible to hail or phone a cab. Many people don’t own cars here, so they had to hitchhike to get transportation. My friend had to walk five kilometers in the snow to get home. My office email was filled with messages from people offering rides to those who needed them.

Then the offices were shut down and we were told to work from home "until the situation stabilizes," as it was very unsafe to go outside. Thugs hired by the government were roaming around, ransacking the city and beating people up. Some guys would patrol the neighborhoods to protect people from those thugs, some would go to Maidan and help with what they could. They brought food, warm clothes, and dug up cobblestones to be used as weapons. They also brought helmets and bottles for making Molotov cocktails. They also burned tires hoping the smoke would protect them from pro-government snipers firing at them.

On February 22, 2014, two days after the sad events, I went to Maidan to see the scene for myself. Black dirt and ashes from burned tires covered the bare ground. In some places, you could still see stains of blood. Thousands of people brought flowers and candles to remember the victims. The smell of burned wood that protesters used to keep warm was still in the air.

Now the situation is much safer and stable. We hope for a better future as our country comes together again. But there are still barricades in the center of Kyiv and people still remember the "Heavenly Hundred," as the fallen protesters were called.

On April 6, I did the last sketch (below). Two dummies dressed like protesters and a pile of tires are now a so-called monument to remember why people rose and what they fought for. The writing on the container says "Share warmth [with others]." The other one says "Heroes are not dying."

April 6, 2014. A makeshift monument honors the lives lost during the February protests.

Natalia Litvinenko works as a technical writer for a software company and sketches during her free time. “I don't have artistic education, but art is my passion, something that I love doing more than anything else,” says Natalia. She recently started a flickr group for urban sketchers in Ukraine, and this is her first guest post for

Want to contribute a guest post? Email USk Editorial Director Gabriel Campanario at

Sketchers Share a SketchCrawl with Authors!

I was invited to run a SketchCrawl in Manchester a couple of weeks ago, by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I had told them about Urban Sketching during a lecture at their conference a while back.

We spent the day at Manchester's science museum MOSI, which is a great place. You could spent a year sketching in there and still not scratch the surface. It was challenging though: lots of stuff crammed into the space. The building itself is lovely too. I must go back and tackle the Victorian ceiling above this tri-plane:

There are fantastic views out of the windows at the top too:

Because SCBWI includes authors, a couple of people on the SketchCrawl were grabbing impressions of the day using words instead of pictures. I have invited people to try that at some of SketchCrawl North's events in the past, but nobody has ever given it a try before. It was an unusual twist and the perfect compliment to the drawings when it came to the sharing at the end.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing on grey...

Experimenting on the train with my Strathmore sketchbook, the one with the grey paper we got as a lovely freebie in Barcelona. I'm so pleased with it (thanks Strathmore!). The spring flowers which someone had laid on the table were an unusual detail and provided a great splash of colour:

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