April 25, 2015

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.

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