Mark your calendar! The 2015 Symposium will be in Singapore, July 22-25. Read more here, and see the Call for Programming here.

December 23, 2014

On the beat with a San Diego police officer.

By Thomas Thorspecken in San Diego

Debbie and Paul Andreen's son, Kevin has joined the San Diego Police Department. He was kind enough to suggest I join him for a ride along as he cruised the neighborhoods just North of Mission Beach. When I first got in the police cruiser, he said I should seek cover and immediately use the cruiser radio to call the dispatch if shot were fired. He also wanted me to exit the cruiser any time he did. Much of the morning went by without incident. He pointed out several homeless men that he knew by name. Several weeks ago, a homeless man had died from an injury. He would have lived if any of his buddy's had thought to bring him to an ER.

After a long time of driving without incident, Kevin parked the cruiser near an intersection that had stop signs. He explained that the road, heading towards the beach had a stop sign at every intersection. By the time drivers got this far they started rolling through the stops.  The law is that you have to come to a complete stop behind the white line. Within minutes, a woman approached the intersection and rolled past the line. He quickly followed and pulled her over a block away. He approached her drivers side door to get her license and write up the ticket. I waited outside the cruiser. The ticketing process took longer than I expected, I probably could have done a small sketch. Kevin wrote down some notes after the traffic stop, because months from now he would have to appear in court. Without documentation it would be hard to recall the details of every traffic stop. He returned to the intersection to check that the stop sign wasn't obstructed or the line worn away.

Twice the dispatch sent Kevin to homes to check on people. Relatives had tried to contact the people living in the homes and they were concerned that they couldn't get in touch. While waiting outside the first home, I felt uneasy. A friend had recently committed suicide and this must have been what it was like when police first arrived on the scene and found the body. In both cases, the person was home and in fine condition. Kevin would diplomatically ask questions to make sure the person was safe. It was a bit odd to follow the police into peoples homes. At one point I kicked over a cat toy by mistake. The resident asked who I was since I wasn't in uniform, and Kevin would explain that I was a ride along. She had a history of depression and Kevin needed to confirm that she was taking her medications.

One call was from an angry woman who was sure that construction workers who were jack hammering up a driveway, had dented her car. The construction workers denied damaging the car. Kevin just wanted to get their contact information.  We looked at the car and I didn't notice any damage. When talking to the woman in her yard, Kevin explained that this wasn't a police matter but an issue for insurance companies. He gave her the construction company's information and told her to contact her insurance company. She seemed relieved just to be able to air her grievances. Before being a police officer, Kevin had been a teacher and that must have given him experience in being diplomatic. The beat puts him in contact with a wide variety of people, from beach bums to the ultra rich. Interacting with so many people certainly makes police work interesting.

Analog Artist Digital World

Another type of Urban scenes

by Rene Fijten, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Most posts here at Urban sketchers show the nice parts of our Urban world: parks, buildings, cafés, museums, markets, people in metros or other urban settings, old villages, vintage shops and so on.
But there is always another side, the lesser known parts of our world. 
Backalleys, distribution centra, traffic jams, canals, railwaycrossings, harbours, abandoned and half demolished buildings, parking lots, container terminals, just to mention a few. And Industry.
For my work I have to visit a lot of industrial sites like chemical plants, heavy industry zones, glass factories and pharmaceutical laboratories. 
Here are a few impressions of the hidden beauty of these sites.

This is an abandoned steel plant in Ougrèe, near Liège, Belgium. I made this drawing together with a group of Urban Sketchers in Belgium in September, on invitation of Gerard Michel and the "Emulation" (I cannot tell how much I enjoyed the opportunity and companionship I met during these days). Another version of this site was shown a few days ago by Inma Serrano  Check that beautiful drawing: I am even in it drawing this sketch!

This is a quick sketch of the still working Arcelor Mittal steel factory, on the canal between Terneuzen and Gent, just across the Dutch border in Belgium. It was a grey and moist autumn day, and the billowing clouds rose beautifully. I made this sketch with non-waterproof fountain pen and water from a water brush.

This view is of a petrochemical installation on the DSM terrain in Geleen, the Netherlands. They were cleaning the installations, and for inspection and safety reasons they burn the fumes during the process.
I glued thin calque paper (semi-transparant paper architects use to make their designs, I think it's called tracing paper in english) in my A4 moleskine with acrylic binder. The calque wrinkles in one direction, the watercolour will run in unexpected ways. Nice to experiment with.

Merry Christmas from France

In these days of Christmas, I send you from France all my best wishes. May your Christmas be illuminated by the smiles of those you love ...

December 22, 2014

The Happiest Place on Earth

By Pete Scully in Disneyland, California
Disneyland Castle
While the rest of America was out queuing up for hours to spend loads of money on things they don't need, we spent our Black Friday - that's the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, not just the random Friday at the end of November when things go on sale for some reason, as it apparently now is in Britain - at the Happiest Place on Earth, the original Disneyland in California. We spent all weekend there, enjoying the rides and attractions at both the Disneyland Park itself and at Disney California Adventure, right next to it. I went on Star Tours about five times, Radiator Springs Racers three times, Pirates of the Carobbean twice, Thunder Mountain Railroad twice, Autopia, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Astro-Blasters, the Teacups, It's a Small World, that Peter Pan ride, plus loads of others I have forgotten. I saw an 'Aladdin' show and a 'Tangled' show, my son fought a lightsabre battle with Darth Vader and we got to meet Captain America. We packed a lot in. My wife is quite the Disneyland expert, so we strategised our "fast-pass" usage well, even with an over-tired six-year-old, but I didn't have a lot of sketching time. On the second day however, with the sun shining brightly and people wandering about in t-shirts, I had a little while to myself for sketching while the family went for a nap (they actually sat by the pool at the hotel). Being the holiday season, Disneyland was now decked out in all the Christmas decorations and colours, with so many imaginative trees and displays that it's hard to imagine the place without them. The centrepiece of course is Sleeping Beauty's castle, sketched above, which looked festive enough during the day but at night it glittered with sparkling blue icicles, as the firework display above it was complemented by showers of snowflakes around the square below. I sketched while people around me took photos of themselves with the pretty backdrop.  Later, we sat by the big tree and watched the festive parade, and went back over to Cars Land to have dinner at Flo's V8 Cafe. Hard not to be charmed by this place.
Disneyland City Hall

Winter Rain and a Hint of Holidays

by Shiho Nakaza, Orange, California USA

I went to Bruxie in Orange for a delicious breakfast with fellow Los Angeles correspondent Virginia and our sketching friend Chris. The first of the winter rains were pouring down so we did some sketching at the restaurant rather than braving the elements. I managed to sketch a view out of the patio area when the sky opened up for a little bit. A few touches of Christmas decorations were there - hope you are having a very merry holiday season!

shiho nakaza drawing sketching people watercolor ink Orange "Orange County" "Los Angeles" "location drawing" christmas holiday watercolor pen

December 21, 2014

Cuba on our mind: A peek at the sketchbooks of travelling urban sketchers

Have you ever sketched in Cuba? We posed the question on our Facebook page and urban sketchers from all over the world have started sharing links to colorful impressions of the long-isolated country. With the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba announced this week, more people will be able to travel to the Caribbean's largest island, a place that has inspired artists for generations, including the sketchers who shared their work for this group post.

"First day in Havana, fascinated by the atmosphere... The travel is geographic, but also historical. I feel like in a spatio-temporal flow: without any mark. Besides, Cubans seem very talkative, I feel quickly at ease... even too talkative: there is always someone to ask me something! But most of the times, it's funny. Two guys next to me are joking: "Why are you drawing this old rotten car...?!" "
By Laura Ruccolo (France), May 2011

"I tried to draw this view of the José Martí Memorial in Plaza de la Revolución while sitting on one of the grass yards around the square, but the guard did not let me, so I had to do it standing up. The square was known as "Plaza Cívica" before the Communist Revolution of 1959. "
By Gustavo Racca (Brasil), Feb. 2012

"Whilst sketching in Havana, I walked around the back of the Capitolio Nacional and spotted these buildings. I had just sat down to pull out my sketchbook when I was approached by a policeman who told me I couldn’t sit there. Luckily, when I explained in my bad Spanish that I was an artist and just wanted half an hour to draw the buildings, he let me stay. I’d have loved to stay longer to add colour, but I didn’t want to push my luck. Next to Fabrica de Tabacos, Pen & Ink in A4 Daler sketchbook."
—By Sue Pownall (UK), Sept. 2011

"Marea del Portillo. By the swimming pool at our hotel. There is a bar under the palm shade. And the stage on the right. But it's early morning time so we are just enjoying the cool pool water and palm trees swaying.
By Eugene Zhilinsky (Canada), Dec. 2012

"Though it may not appear in the travel guides, "Callejón de Hamel" is the epicenter of the afrocuban culture in Havana. A colorful mix of religion, sculpture, painting, music, poetry... blends along this little alleyway no longer than 200 meters. Sundays are the best days to visit. People dance "rumbas" and play afrocuban music until three in the afternoon. African rhythms with a Spanish accent."
—By Félix Tamayo (Spain), July 2014

City hall and some winter sun

by Nina Johansson, Stockholm, Sweden

Today was a smashing winter´s day in Stockholm, with bright sunshine and just below 0°C. No snow yet, but we´ll get there. Four of the Stockholm sketchers gathered and spent a few lovely hours drawing near City hall, then headed for the compulsory coffee in a warm café, to defrost our fingers.

Somehow, I managed to NOT fit in the three golden crowns on top of the tower here. That is in a way an epic compositional fail, since the three crowns are such a classic, strong symbol of Stockholm, but sometimes that´s just how it goes. I try not to worry too much about it when drawings don´t end up the way I thought they would - if nothing else, it´s a good reason to come back and try again. :)

December 20, 2014

Spiritual Journey to India - 2014

It has been plan about a year ago that I would like to join the journey of Islamic mission to India. I had visited India twice before. The first one was in 1994 and the second one was in 2002 . Those were the journey of man. We called it 'Rijal jemaat'. This recent journey has been very special because I brought my wife as other four couples. Because we brings ladies so we call it 'Masturot Jemaat'.Masturot means the woman with the veil. It is islamic mission to encourage  brotherhood all over the globe. India is the place where our mursid ( teachers) started the effort and the place for our training before going to any other further country. It is base in Nizamuddin, New Delhi. We reached Bangla Wali masjid New Delhi at 3 am dated 5 November 2014. As soon as we reached the masjid men and women are splited in different section. 4 days we stayed there and could not to see my wife. They were busy in the women program. Finally we are five couples from indonesia decided to be sent to Anantapur, Andra Pradesh India. The place was so far away down to the south of India near Bengalore. We went by train with sleeper class and took about 33 hours. We spent 2 night on the train. Anyway it is very enjoyable journey. It is a spiritual journey and the rules was advised not to use mobile and internet . So for about 40 days my smartphone off. However I always try to capture the interesting spot using my pen and pencil on a small sketchbook.

Nizamuddin Bazar (market) just infront of Banglawali Masjid. The first destination in India.

The backdrop is the hill of stone. Urovakonda (sleeping snake). We stayed four days in this vilage.

Breakfast in Bilal masjid with local people.

 This view was captured from the roof of Bilal Masjid.

Another view from Bilal masjid showing the house where our ladies stayed. While we are men stayed in the Masjid.

Pamidi was about 2 hours by car from Urovakonda. very cheap garment  produced in this village.

December 19, 2014

Lots of questions about what I was up to...

I've gotten used to people looking over my shoulder, or standing by and watching me sketch. And I get questions-about sketching and painting, about whether this is a hobby or whether I'm a student working on an assignment.
But last week was a rare day, when I got two people checking in within minutes of each other on what I was upto. I saw this very long gas tanker as I passed my local gas station and I HAD to pull up: how could I pass a chance to draw it?

The gas station attendant approaches me almost as soon as I start drawing. He wants to know what I’m doing and insists I’ve been taking photographs. I haven’t this time, but he's really suspicious.

A minute later, the driver approaches me and asks if I’m an observer with KAG, the tanker company he works for. I tell him I’m surprised everyone has questions today. He tells me something I don’t quite understand about Homeland Security and him having to patrol around his tanker whenever it is parked. He says it’s sad, how suspicious we’ve all been taught to be (since 9/11, I’m guessing).

There IS something sad about always having to be vigilant. Necessary perhaps? I don't know. But sad, yes.

Sydney's Floral Tribute in Martin Place

By Liz Steel, Sydney Australia

All of Australia has been greatly shocked this week by a siege in a cafe at the very heart of Sydney and we all mourn the tragic loss of two young lives. There are other great tragic loss of life this week in other parts of the world, but this is what has been close, very close to us. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

Ten days ago I was in Martin Place sketching the big Christmas tree but today I returned to try to record the huge floral tribute that is taking over the plaza (you can see the tree in the background).

It was a very hard subject to capture - there is an emotional response to the event, the feeling of silence and shock all around you and the sheer volume of flowers, mostly hidden by the shimmering wrappers that were blowing in the wind this morning.

So here is my humble attempt to record something that can't be described in words. Somehow it is easier with paint and lines.

December 18, 2014

¡viva cuba libre!

the 18th of december 2013, the official cuban newspaper grandma announce that the importation and exportation of cars will be allowed after more than 50 years of embargo: a sign of the changes of the politic of the island.
that's why I decided to travel to cuba in march and april this year to sketch and tell about the mood on the island in my book: “Cuba, an 56 de la Révolution. carnet de voyage sous embargo.” published by la boîte à bulles.
I spent 3 weeks in la havana and trinidad, sketching like crazy: 200 pages of portraits, meetings, architecture art déco or socialist, music… and of course old cars!

cuba, an 56 de la révolution 
for the first time, I was not only sketching everything, but I started to tell my meetings and feelings aside the drawings.

and what was my surprise to read yesterday, 17th of december 2014, that barack obama and raul castro have proclaimed a new air in the relation betweens the US and cuba, that will achieved the american embargo in the coming years.
I will have to go back there and sketch this transition…

blogged by lapin 

Old Havana

by Melanie Reim, Habana, Cuba

My story goes back about 10 years ago, but my memories are still very fresh. I was invited to draw a fashion show during a conference in Old Havana. I was very official, applying for, and getting granted a license to travel. I proudly got my passport stamped and arrived to travel experience unlike any that I had to that point, nor have had since. The air was hot, as it was summer, but the heat and humidity transcended the temperature. The people that I met, beautiful, soulful, smart, and sweet, moved about as if in a haze, under the gloom of poverty, restrictions, and the lack of freedom that I so casually enjoyed. Instead of money, they begged for soap, for hair bands, for toothpaste- all of which I had been advised to bring with me, and I did. I passed it out to Cubans of all ages and had my hand kissed.
It was all at once sobering and endearing. The heat and glow of the sun, kissing those antique cars and cobbled streets gave way to sheer exhilaration, for as the sun started to go down, the music, that Cuban music that acts as a constant, pulsing but quiet beat during the day, simply explodes as the light of the day changes. 

December 17, 2014

A New Day in Cuba

by James Richards, Fort Worth U.S.A. (sketch on location in Havana)

In light of my recent visit to Cuba, I hope that today's news of the beginning of normalizing relations between the U.S. and that country are the beginnings of a better quality of life for the people there. I look forward to returning this summer to host a "Sketch Cuba" trip, and seeing firsthand the beginnings of change and the reactions of the people we'll encounter.

The sketch below is the view to the Havana harbor from the rooftop bar at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway kept a room for seven years and wrote articles, short stories and parts of novels.  He wrote to a friend, "At this Hotel Ambos Mundos you can get a good clean room with bath right overlooking the harbor and the cathedral--see all the neck of of the harbor and the sea for $2.00."  The view hints at the striking character of Old Havana, which many more Americans may experience in the coming months and years.

Santa is in town!

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego

While waiting for a store to open, I got to watch Santa from the second floor, using my "backup" sketchbook.

December 16, 2014


By Eduardo Salavisa in Oporto, Portugal

I coordinated another book with several authors. It’s called “Travel Sketchbooks 2. Sketchers-travellers”. You can see here the cover. It has a lovely drawing by Inma Serrano. I invited 30 authors to tell me a journey with 10 drawings made in sketchbooks and a text with a max of 1000 words. I’m also in it with a journey to Patagonia and a text about the characteristics of travel drawings. The authors are Portuguese and Spanish (the book is bilingual) that I know personally and like. Two of them I did not know and to me there are the best in this type of drawing: the Portuguese architect, Pritzker Prize (the Nobel of Architecture), Álvaro Siza Vieira, and the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.

Siza Vieira lives in Oporto. I went there last week to give him some books. The drawings below were done there.