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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guest post: Millions vote in India's longest elections in history

By Kalpana Balaji
Chennai, India

We are electing our representatives for the central government today. Who we vote for will determine the Prime minister. The choices are not great but the event itself is quite a spectacle. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections is happening in nine phases spread over a month and we in Chennai fall into phase six today. I come under the South Chennai constituency and within that there are various sub-sub-sub parts that determine where I queue up. Considering South Chennai has 3.5 million voters and the country has 814.5 million people on its electoral roll, it's quite a management miracle.

I went with my grandmother who is 85 years old and determined to exercise her right. Our polling booth was in a corporation school and ten residential areas have to come here to vote. The open quadrangle had ten different queues snaking around the shamiyanas, those striped colorful clothed tents in my sketch. I had thought I would have plenty of time to dash off many sketches but thanks to my grandmother I was given red carpet treatment. A security guard ushered us in and we were out in five minutes! Actually all the queues were moving pretty fast.

Earlier in the morning I sketched another line of folks waiting to vote in Mylapore just outside my house. This was around 8 in the morning and the line was very very long. Generally the lines are much longer before office starts. All the schools and colleges have to shut as they become polling booths and counting centres.

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

Spring has been slow in coming to Brooklyn this year and it feels good to slip into the habits of the season.

 It's been such a long, dark, dismal winter -- like being on some other planet entirely. It's great to see the season begin to change.  The transition seems very gradual this year.
El seguimiento del progresso de la primavera en Brooklyn. Los árboles están hojeando. (Following the progress of spring: the trees leafing. The quality of light is definitely changing)

La vuelta, desde español, boludo reflejado, Brooklyn. (F train again: coming back from Spanish class.  My husband reflected in the subway window, reading of course.)
La vida se convierte en un desenfoque en el tren F: quemando plata con Piglia.  (Life becomes a blur on the F train, reading Ricardo Piglia.) 
Sharon Frost, Day Books

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cafe hopping and sketching at Lavender, Singapore

Tyrwhitt Road shophouses The Bravery Cafe
Two weeks ago, I rounded up four other USK-Singapore sketchers (Parka, Eve, William & Patrick) and went on a cafe hopping trip. We visited Lavender, a quiet but up and coming neighbourhood near the city centre. The number of cafes in this little neighbourhood is astounding. We managed to visit 3 cafes and had a great time trying out coffee (lavender latte anyone?), cakes and of course sketching the cafes. The Coffee Shot cafeCafe sketching (9 Apr 2014) Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore

Signs of the times

Life on the trains reveals a lot about the current situations we find ourselves, living in the 21st century.
Observing people and sketching them on public transport is now even more easier than it has ever been.

Ask me why? Now, everyone seems to be absorbed into their smart phones and tablets. So, if you are sketching they probably think you are on one of those tablets too! (good reason to start sketching on Public Transport)

Lady sketched From Finchley Rd & Frognal to Stratford.

This particular lady was sketched today on the trains on the London Overground line. She was completely absorbed for 25 minutes on the train. Her daughter who was around 4 or 5 years old, tried ever so much during this journey to make every attempt to connect with her mum or get her attention in but it was all to no avail.

Maybe once or twice her daughter got too close, she'd then receive a harsh look or near silent words which I couldn't quite make out but I can only figure they were said to open up a wider gap of not communicating with her daughter.

What is happening in our society? Are we all becoming zombies and slaves to the advancing technology? Is there a way out? Are we coming to the end of all true mutual face to face connections......

Hmmmm the life of sketching has brought me speaking to many, who would have never spoken or even given me a second look. I hope to put all these thoughts and observations on my experiences on public transport into a book one day.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Coolidge Corner

It was a nice relaxing Easter Sunday, I sat at Coolidge Corner, the intersection of Harvard Street and Beacon Street in Boston to do a sketch while I waited to meet with my high school friend. This is a lively area with lots of shops, restaurants and access to the light rail train - I really like this area.

While I sketched I overheard lots of conversations of people introducing themselves and talking about where to meet up tomorrow - they were all talking about the Boston Marathon. Tomorrow is"Patriots' Day", a holiday for many people here in Massachusetts and this street with the train is going to be completely closed off for the Marathon. 

I can't believe it's already been 1 year since the tragic event.
Monday is going to be a beautiful day and I just wish for the best.

Easter Sketch

Easter Sketch

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Outskirts of a Desert Town

...this isn't urban, exactly, not even suburban...this is a view of the town of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert of Southern California.  So where are the palms?  Those that dot this landscape are imports...planted here and there surrounded by the natives like cactus and creosote.  I love coming here and to Joshua Tree National Park right next door, especially in spring when the desert begins to bloom, and view life for a little while from the outskirts...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sketchcrawl #43 in Stockholm

Skärholmen, Stockholm.

Not many sketchcrawlers in Stockholm today, due to this being the day everyone celebrates Easter in Sweden. But two of us went to sketch in Skärholmen, a Stockholm suburb with a big shopping mall and a very active square. The weather was fantastic, and there were people everywhere, kids playing, dogs barking, music playing and a buzz of constant conversations in the air.

People in Skärholmen, Stockholm.

The weather gave the perfect conditions for sketching people. The warmth of the sun meant noone was in a rush to go anywhere, which gave plenty of time for sketching.

/Nina Johansson

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

sketch in Hongjicheon (stream)

conte, watercolor, Fabriano, 300g, 38 x 25.5 cm

Two days ago I walked along the Hongjicheon where the old temple "Ogcheonam" located. Though the original scenery of the stream was changed by overpass circulation road or artificial concrete walls among stream those elements made another scene anyhow. Ridges of Bughansan and Inwangsan would be a necessary element in picture. 

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!

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