October 13, 2015

"La Redonda" in Buenos Aires

By its shape, it is the only circular church there in Buenos Aires. And that made the popularly known as "la Redonda of Belgrano". But the Immaculate Conception Church is in that neighborhood has much more to this curious singularity: it was and is the symbol of this area of Buenos Aires from the days when those places were part of a neighboring village to the city, that even used to be summer resort for some "porteñas" families.
What was this bold design? With marked Renaissance influence, the church is notable for its symmetrical visual sense and strength, topped by a large dome (21 meters diameter) that frames the central ring. The dome includes a top flashlight to catch the light from outside.
Ink on a rainy day.

October 12, 2015

West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl in San Diego

by Shiho Nakaza in San Diego, California USA

Here is a belated post about West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl that happened this summer. The Sketchcrawl took place in San Diego, which is a pleasant train ride away from Los Angeles. I sketched on the way to get ready, of course - I was passing by Oceanside, which lives up to its name.

As soon as I arrived in San Diego, I headed to Balboa Park to meet the group for some sketching. Balboa Park is very large, and has a lot of museums and gardens within its boundaries. I met my sketching friend Alice to do a quick watercolor study by the reflecting pond by the Botanical Building.

After a group photo and lunch, I sketched the dancers at international dance group. I'm not too happy about this one - sitting under one of those colorful umbrellas made the color shift on this sketch - but I still enjoy sketching to record my experiences.

Alice put her local knowledge of the city to good use and lead a small group of us to Alcazar Garden. I found a spot in the shade with a great view of Museum of Man. A small wedding was happening, so I included the couple in this sketch.

On the next day, the group went to Old Town. This is the "birthplace of California", where the Europeans first settled in 1850's. There is still a flavor of Old West along with strong Mexican influence in the buildings. After a bit of scouting, I settled on sketching the colorful scenery at Fiesta de Reyes plaza. I attempted to sketch the dancer in traditional Mexican costume as well.

Sketching as a group in a beautiful setting like San Diego is a great change of pace from my daily solo sketching at home. It was an ideal weekend getaway!

October 11, 2015

siTigun Cafe, Nagore Road, Penang

An heritage corner shophouse that turns into a modern cafe, this is the trend now in Penang.

Busy, Busy, Bangkok

busy_chinatown_corner_bangkok_total Bangkok is one BUSY city. I don't really know what I expected, I guess my biggest image of Bangkok was informed by the movie The King and I. There were definitely many opulent temples and palaces to admire (more on that in another post) but the thing that struck me the most about this city was its D-E-N-S-I-T-Y. The drawing above was made sitting on a corner in Chinatown, just adding all of the pedestrians, tuk-tuks, bicyclists, cart-pushers, cars, and buses as they went by in an hour. Did I leave out mopeds and motorcycles? I did, but they were there too. And the back drop of all of this mishegas is a layered city of old structures, older temples, and electrical wires everywhere. See drawing above as a case in point. The various configurations of electrical wires are almost as lyrical as the Thai alphabet - amazing. And dangerous too, I would think? I was rather obsessed with them while I was there.
 I made the Chinatown corner drawing on my way to meet a few Bangkok (and other) Urban Sketchers at Wat Trimitr, one of the temples of Bangkok that happens to be in the middle of Chinatown. Again, some super density, with gold leaf hammered on top! The street level of the temple was an awesome display of monks, vendors, and local people milling about, mixing with the tourists and generally trying to make a living, through praying, cooking, or selling. All were present at the steps of the temple, and the top of the steps was crowned by a picture of the King of Thailand. No one in Bangkok passes his photo without stopping to give a motion of thanks, known as the wai. It's hands together, as in prayer, accompanied by a slight bow. I found it a beautiful gesture, although in the crush of people it was sometimes hard to accomplish, ha ha. wat_trimitr_children_full

Next door to the temple was a school. The children were having some kind of a play, and I laughed to see how the little boys in the audience were mimicking and making fun of the little girls dancing on stage. Culture may be different the world over, but some things stay the same. I had to draw these kids, they were so cute! Check out the boys wrestling in the top right corner of this drawing. The monks were having a hard time keeping everyone in line! My Thai friend Pramote told me that the principal was making an announcement (in Thai, of course) over the loudspeaker that the children should be respectful, and leave the artist from New York alone to do her work. (They were having a little trouble listening!) After we spent the morning at the temple, Pramote took us to a wonderful corner stand to have lunch. There are outdoor cooks working like this all over Bangkok. We had the most delicious stir-fry I've ever had - flat noodles with shrimp, pork, and mixed vegetables in a small personal frying pan. So good, and so fast, and so many people around eating it. Again - dense!  I enjoyed watching the chef, and making the drawing below while we ate. street_lunch_bangkok

After lunch, we all walked over to the main Chinatown gate to draw. Pramote and the other Bangkok Urban Sketchers were so nice and full of hospitality. They seemed to think that I was a little nutty when I wanted to sit right on the edge of the street with all the activity, but politeness won the day and they all sat there with me. Such wonderful people, and what a nice time! Plus, the Chinatown Gate was also sufficiently dense, and busy, to allow me to continue my drawing theme of the day, which was, WOW, and I thought New York was a busy city! I love Bangkok! chinatown_gate_bangkok_full
It's amazing how all the people on bicycles, in cars, in tuk-tuks (an open air kind of bus, very precarious looking to me), on foot, and on motorcycles all manage to co-exist and race around this corner at a breakneck pace without any collisions. Even the dog (lower left) was in tune with the vibe. Bangkok dancing machine. I definitely enjoyed Bangkok, and the people I met there. But honestly, I was always happy to have a little quiet time back in my room at night. What a place! Hope to be back soon. ;)

October 10, 2015

From Bali and Ipoh

This year, I went back to Bali again for some sketching. And after that to Ipoh, Malaysia.

This is Tanah Lot, the temple by the sea. Bali has lots of beautiful temples. If you love architecture, this is the place to visit because you get to see culture and architecture being mixed together to form the Balinese identity.

A Kecak dance at Pura Uluwatu temple. Go early and sit in the middle so that you can see the beautiful sunset behind. The story depicts a battle from the Ramayana. The performance runs for an hour and is definitely worth it.

After Bali, I went for a short trip with my fellow sketcher friends to Ipoh.

Plan B is a nice trendy cafe/restaurant in Ipoh, Malaysia that takes up the space of what I think is a former warehouse. I love the high ceiling that makes the whole place feel spacious. There's air-con to escape from the heat and free wifi.

There are many old but lovely shophouses around the town. It's quite a small town and you can probably go through it within half and hour. Highlight of Ipoh for me would be the wonderful food.

Masjid Panglima Kinta mosque

The morning view from my hotel window at Ibis Style.

Below's the video I made while in Ipoh.

All the sketches above are from my recently completed sketchbook. My friend Paul Wang has also written about this trip earlier.

- Parka

Still room for Singapore?

By Melanie Reim in Singapore
Call it jet lag, the end of summer, the start of school, whatever, I never did get around to scanning and posting anything from the amazing adventure in Singapore and beyond. This past week, I was asked to present my summer travels and the Symposium presentation to the Board of Trustees at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and so, that set me into action. Now, all of you who were there have been presented! Along with my work, some of it shown below, I waxed poetic about Urban Sketchers.org. and am really thrilled to report that, no sooner had I showed my sketchbooks to my freshman the first day of class, then, one of them has started the paperwork to launch an Urban Sketchers Club on the FIT campus, sponsored by Student Government. Woo hoo for them!! Stay tuned for that.

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Join the Urban Sketchers Editorial Team!

Help enrich and shape our widely viewed Urban Sketchers Blog by becoming a member of the Editorial Team. We are looking for one or two new editors to join our current five. The Editorial Team curates content for the blog. We seek and edit guest posts. We conduct and publish interviews of Urban Sketchers who are not Urban Sketchers Correspondents. We serve as a conduit for Regional Correspondents submitting posts to be considered for the international blog. As positions become available, we invite new sketchers to become Correspondents for the international blog.

You must be readily available to interact by email with the Editorial Team. We work through a process of consensus. We work respectfully, decisively, and with humor. We seek people who have a flair for words and who share our enthusiasm for Urban Sketchers' unique form of telling the stories of our time through on-site drawings and narrative. This is extraordinarily gratifying work.

If interested, email us at editorial@urbansketchers.org

October 8, 2015

Sketching People in Action at the Cortona Flag Tossing Festival

By Marc Taro Holmes in Cortona, Italy

During this summer of 2015 we were in Tuscany on a painting expedition that happened to coincide with the Cortona Flag Tossing Festival. This event is a festival of color, a patriotic display, and athletic competition rolled into one. We were there for a week of plein-air painting, but some of us took the opportunity to take in the action with a small sketchbook.

I had blogged about the event on the day using cellphone photos - but we've finally found some spare moments make real scans, so we're able to bring it to you again with real color and sharper images.

Before the Flag-Tossing Teams marched in to the sound of trumpets and drummers there was kind of a pre-game show. A troupe of medieval minstrels played bagpipes, and a team of falconers showed off their birds. The crowd started to gather - a mix of tourists in stands and the local citizenry coming out in costume to support their teams, but also be part of the show.

The flag event was the culmination of a three day historic festival including a crossbow competition and a recreation of a renaissance wedding – which I think was an important alliance between Cortona and a neighboring town. The cast of the recreation are all locals, drawn from the approximately 800 residents. Amusingly, the groom was played by a tall handsome gentleman who owns one of the local art galleries, and the bride by his beautiful daughter.

Earlier in the week we'd met the Cortona crossbow team. They were out early in the morning taking practice shots at a wooden plank leaned against the doors of the towns basilica. That seemed a little odd to me, but they were having a good time and nobody was stopping them. You wouldn't see that over here in the Americas!

The flag tossing event itself was full of enthusiasm and intense competitive spirit. Each nearby town sent a delegation, their star performers marching in through a phalanx of crossed trumpets – like gladiators into the arena.

The event itself was a mix of tossers juggling flags 30 feet in the air while synchronized sprinters wove silk rivers of color around them. Every so often dueling pairs matched their talents in a kind of Kung Fu dance off. A squadron of drummers provided a dramatic martial soundtrack while flagpoles clacked like quarterstaves, whipped over ducked heads and below leaping feet.

In the final spectacle all the teams ran a tight double spiral, filling the small square with upraised 12 foot flags, then peeling back out a huge iron studded gate.

This night was a terrific unexpected bonus to cap our week of sketching in Cortona!

The Dance of the Cranes – Barangaroo Development, Sydney

Guest post by Chris Haldane in Sydney.

Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve been really interested in documenting the huge 22 hectare Barangaroo development which is changing the face of Sydney's central business district. It is named after an important indigenous woman of colonial New South Wales who was also the wife of Bennelong, after whom the site of the Sydney Opera House is named.

In my first sketch of International Towers Sydney in February 2014, I tried to capture the noise and energy of the site with its Lendlease cranes.


In August last year, Barangaroo South was a hive of activity, yet these massive pieces of machinery seemed so graceful and birdlike, I call my sketches “The Dance of the Cranes”.

In November 2014, from a park in Millers Point - now closed - I had a good view of Central Barangaroo and all the construction paraphernalia. Tower 2 was up to the 42nd floor. 

On Australia Day 2015, I drew from Darling Harbour with the Harbour Ballroom boat in the foreground. I just love the logos stenciled on the towers, which began as a way to track progress but have become a public calendar of significant events. Because Australia Day falls on 26 January, the corresponding floor of Tower 3 was plastered with a giant Australian and Aboriginal flag to celebrate our national day. 

February 2015 - Drawing Tower 1 from Napoleon St while the cranes and machinery hammered out their music around me. The triangular forms of the cranes really appealed to me. Note the Australia Day flags and two stencils painted on the tower to commemorate the 100th centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. Another flag honors Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, who was fatally struck by a ball during a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground last year. The flag reads "63 not out" in reference to his final innings.


Drawn recently from the Maritime Museum. There are so many changes since I first started to draw this site in early 2014, but the cranes continue to intrigue me. It’s interesting to see how the glass reflects the surrounding building colours now that it's in place. As the sun was beginning to set, the red floating lighthouse at the Maritime Museum provided such a lovely contrast in colour.

Last weekend I went back to where I drew from last November, to see the changes to Central Barangaroo. The gardens on Barangaroo Point are well established now and in the foreground there is row on row of individually crafted sandstone blocks, 10,000 in all, and all quarried onsite! Nawi Cove has also been created between Barangaroo Point Reserve and Central Barangaroo. The waterfront promenade has just been named Wulugul Walk. Wulugul is Aboriginal for kingfish, which have a golden band along their blue-green skin, similar to the foreshore walk’s golden sandstone lining the blue of the harbour.

It’s exciting watching the energy and scope of this development and it will certainly be high on the list of places to see for visitors to Sydney in the future! I look forward to documenting more of the site as various sections are opened to the public.

Chris Haldane is an avid member of USK Sydney. Some of her happiest sketching times are when she is surrounded by cranes overhead, on busy construction sites, or by the rusty wear and tear of industrial areas with stories to tell of the past. You can see more of her work on her Flickr site.

October 7, 2015

Ireland comes to Wembley

By James Hobbs in London
With the arrival of the Rugby World Cup in England, younger daughter and I headed recently to Wembley in north London to see Ireland play Romania. Wembley is traditionally a football venue, but its annexing for rugby purposes made sense because of the huge attendance, more than 89,000, a record for World Cup rugby, of which approximately 88,000 were good-natured and sporting Irish supporters. We had a summer holiday in Ireland this year, and as the sounds of The Fields of Athenry echoed around the stadium, and Ireland won 44-10, we thought of all the places we had visited and imagined the Irish sitting around their TVs cheering as their team ran in six tries.
England, as polite hosts, have already been eliminated from the competition. The final – teams still to be decided – will be at Twickenham on 31 October. Go on, Ireland.

October 6, 2015

Sketching on Bus!

It's easier sketching people while they are occupied in chatting on mobile phone, playing with the tablet, or simply if they're sleeping :)

October 5, 2015

Wedding Music

by Suhita Shirodkar in Chennai, India

Traditional music at a South Indian wedding is led by an instrument called a nadaswaram accompanied by thavil drums. You can listen to it here. It plays almost continuously at a South Indian wedding. To a trained ear, I’m sure it means more than the earworm it is to me. But I do enjoy watching the musicians play it.

It’s easier to see how large those nadaswarams when the musicians are standing up.

Other music at the wedding? There was Bombay Jayashri, a famous Carnatic vocalist, best known outside South India for a song she wrote and performed for ‘Life of Pi’. She sang at the wedding reception as thousands of people streamed by to wish the bride and groom. Accompanying her are two women playing the tambura a stringed instrument. On the left is a drum player, on the right is a violinist. Indian violinists traditionally sit cross-legged on the floor like the rest of these musicians.

My favorite musician to sketch, though, was the violinist Karthick Iyer who plays fusion on the Indian violin. I love that he jumps around and bends and sways to the music: he literally becomes his violin and the music it plays.