September 30, 2014

within my walls



It's been very long since I've posted, and I suppose it's due to the fact that I just don't get out much these days. When we lived in Germany, there were trips to Stuttgart and Colmar, Barcelona and Nice. Now that we live in California's central valley, the architecture here just doesn't inspire me, and I find it hard to get out with my sketchbook. But, on the bright side, the weather here is always perfect sketching weather, so I just need to adjust my eyes to seeing the things around me with new perspective. I truly believe that no matter where you live, the content is there for the taking if you truly invest some time looking for it. In the meantime, I will draw scenes like this, from inside my house.

Two years after the final flight

It's been two years since I sketched the space shuttle, Endeavor, on its way to California Science Center (in this post), and my fellow Los Angeles correspondent Virginia sketched it when it arrived at the Science Center here. I finally had the chance to see Endeavor in its final home before the exhibit closes intermittently for payload installation. It's quite amazing to see it up close with scratches and dirt - a well-earned proof that it flew 25 times into outer space and back to earth.

sketches at beauty parlor

An old woman took her grand son to the beauty parlor.
He was loved by old ladies in the shop. I could hold him for a while and remembered the past of raising my kids. She could finish her perm well by their help.

heating treatment for better perm

On August I went to beauty shop located at Eunpyeong-gu twice for my mother and myself. While waiting I could sketch many. I washed them at home because there was no room to spread painting gears. The hair designers(dressers) moved very often. So I had to observe well to catch the same pose. I smile when I see the baby drawing remembering how cute he was.

Procissão da Luz

Carnide is an old and village like Lisbon neighborhood.
Since 1463 Carnide is proud of the procession that honors Our Lady of the Candles, in the last Sunday of each September.
It is a memorable happening with thousands of proud citizens, Bishops, Priests, Firemen, Guards, lots of helmets, berets, uniforms and banners.
Neighbors watch from the windows and balconies and show colorful quilts.

It happened again last Sunday, between showers and a proper sun.

The City of Christopher Wren

Sketching Wren's City, Aug 2 2014
London, UK: Many years ago, when I was a teenager with a travelcard, I would often get the tube on a Saturday afternoon and head into the City of London to explore, to figure out the labyrinth of grey-washed streets in my head, and I remember very clearly becoming a little obsessed with Christopher Wren, the famous architect with a big wig who built St.Paul's and who lived on the fifty pound note. I had just climbed narrow staircase inside the Monument, the large column commemorating the Great Fire of 1666, and I said to myself on the train journey home, oooh I am going to write a book about all of Wren's buildings in the City, no wait, I'll DRAW them all! That was more than twenty years ago, and I never did. But now in this age of high-speed sketchbooks and global availability of pens I figured the time was right to re-visit this modest and crazy dream (that's also the title of one of my favourite books, which is not about Wren but it could be). So from the sunshine of California I decided to, you know, organize a sketchcrawl. It was a really, really good idea, and a really, really fun day!
Sketching Wren's City

It was called "Sketching Wren's City", and every participant was provided with a hand-drawn map and a mission - go forth and find Wren. London's sketchers gathered, appropriately, at the Monument to the Great Fire. The Great Fire, you say, what’s that? Well in September 1666 a baker called Thomas Faryner in a street called Pudding Lane had the misfortune of having a fire start in his bakery one night, a fire deemed so insignificant that the Lord Mayor, awoken with the news of flames rising above the rooftops, famously said that, well, it could be extinguished by, er, female urine (he used a slightly coarser phrase). However, the fire spread, and kept on spreading, and no amount of wee (male or female) was able to make up for the lack of a decent fire-fighting service (if only they had fire hydrants in 1666, eh!). The City of London was destroyed, including the grand old St.Paul’s Cathedral, and a good number of churches. Enter Christopher Wren, and his fire-proof wig. He had been redesigning London on a grand scale since, er, before the massive unforeseen and entirely coincidental catastrophe that gave him his big break, and now here was his chance. The people of the City however did not want a grand urban-planned metropolis, they wanted their land in the same place thank you. So London kept its medieval street plan, and Wren got to work on the churches. It was a Wrenaissance, if you will. As a special thank you to London for giving him a Great Fire that basically set him up for life, Wren built the Monument, topped with a blazing golden ball; it was designed so that if the column fell over, the top would rest exactly where the fire started, which must have made the City planners a little nervous. Behind it in this sketch there is a brand new building called the Cheesegrater, because all of London’s new tower blocks have to have some silly name or other. If the Monument were built now it’d probably be called the Bunsen Burner or something.
The Monument
I crossed over the busy traffic junction at King William Street and Cannon Street to sketch the couple below; to the right, St.Edmund King and Martyr, and to the left, the rather unassuming St. Clement’s Eastcheap. St. Clement’s…now where do you know that from, ah yes the famous song, “Oranges and Lemons”. This is the St.Clement’s of the song, not St.Clement Dane (the more famous one, located on Strand), and probably so alluded to because of the fruit cargoes offloaded from the riverboats nearby. Or maybe just because it kind of rhymes with lemons. I sketched in an alleyway. It’s not one of the more interesting pieces of Wren architecture. In fact it’s almost as though he couldn’t be bothered at all. “Oranges and lemons, do me a favour, I’ve got fifty-odd churches and a bunsen burner to build,” he was reported to have said, before designing the more handsome and dashing St. Clement Dane. This one is the forgotten little brother.
St Clement EastcheapSt Edmund King and Tomato
I met my good friends Simon, the actor, and Tamara, the director (this sounds like we were about to make "Urban Sketchers: the Movie"; hey that's a great idea, let's get on that! Casting ideas below; I want to be played by Michael Fassbender) and we sketched the wonderful domed church of St. Stephen Walbrook, one of Wren’s most beautiful churches. Oh, on the inside that is. It was closed this day, so we made do with sketching its, um, wonderful exterior, Starbucks and all. Still, it was very nice to catch up with old friends and do some sketching. St. Stephen Walbrook by the way was Wren’s dummy-run for St. Paul’s (spoiler alert, St. Paul’s is domed as well) and the inside truly is a delight to behold, ok it’s not the Aya Sophia or anything but it’s still pretty nice.
St Stephen Walbrook sm
After finishing St. Stephen Walbrook I bumped into international-travelling urban sketcher Sue Pownall, and we walked over to St. Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside. The approach to this old church up the narrow Bow Lane is lovely, although the buildings are now modern you can just use a bit of imagination to fly back through the centuries and picture the narrow timber-framed houses leaning into each other over dirty streets, the sound of the Bow Bells echoing through the dark, bustling lanes. Yes, this is the church of the Bow Bells; the tradition is that a Cockney, a true Cockney, was born within the sound of the Bow Bells (and not Bow in East London as many wrongly believe), that is, within London. Cockney is synonymous with all Londoners now, London being much bigger than in Dick Whittington’s day, though of course he famously heard them from up on Highgate Hill, calling him back to his destiny as London’s Lord Mayor. It's a yarn all Londoners know. The Bow Bells were important to London not because of fanciful stories and cockney categorization, but because in the middle ages these were the bells that rung to sound the curfew, and the closing of the city gates. If they rang and you were outside the city, you spent a night sleeping in the filthy gutters of Southwark or Finsbury. These days you can just get a Night Bus, and it’s a similar experience.
St Mary Le Bow sm
Ok, skip to the end...St.Paul's Cathedral is Wren’s masterpiece, but its significance to London is much older. There has been a cathedral dedicated to St. Paul’s on this site, since St. Augustine brought Christianity to the Angles and Saxons. The fourth incarnation, a huge Gothic cathedral, was built in the twelfth century and was one of the largest buildings in Europe, but alas, the Great Fire of 1666. Along came Wren. As I’ve mentioned before, he had plans to rebuild London including St. Paul’s on his drawing board for several years before the convenient fire, and for London’s landmark cathedral he wanted not another towering spire but a large Romanesque dome, technologically advanced and rivaling the greatest buildings in Christendom. The wooden model of his first design is still on display, but it looks rather different from the final building. This was late seventeenth-century England, not a time to make your premier church look, well, too Catholic. It was shaped like a Greek cross, and the nave was not long enough; it just didn’t look 'English'. Wren went back to the drawing board, and in the end built the Cathedral we have today. It’s hard to think of more ‘London’ building than this. During the darkest days of World War II, when bombs flattened everything around it, the dome of St. Paul’s stood untouched, a symbol of hope for a city devastated. The ‘people’s church’ this was, and probably because of that, it was here that Prince Charles married Lady Diana in 1981 rather than at the traditional Westminster Abbey.
St Pauls sm
There were about thirty of us sketching London in total that day, many who had to leave before the end, but those of us who made it gathered at the steps of St.Paul's to look at each others' sketchbooks. It was so nice to meet old and new sketching friends, including fellow USk correspondent and extraordinary art-blogger Katherine Tyrell, and afterwards many of us gathered at the Old Bell pub on Fleet Street for some post-sketchcrawl socializing. Some truly beautiful sketches were made this day, an inspiration. I really love meeting sketchers in London, but especially after fulfilling an ambition I've had since I was fifteen. Thank you for coming along with me!
Sketching Wren's City, Aug 2 2014
Sketching Wren's City, Aug 2 2014Sketching Wren's City, Aug 2 2014

Why not try sketching Wren's City yourself? Here is a link to the hand-drawn map.
by Pete Scully

Eyewitness sketches of Hong Kong pro-democracy protests

Urban sketchers are capturing the increasing wave of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. These are some sketches from Monday, a day after the police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up protesters demanding democratic elections. You can follow the Hong Kong urban sketching community in the Urban Sketchers Hong Kong Facebook Group, and Sketching Occupy Central.

Alvin Wong

"Organisers announced the KICKOFF of OCCUPY CENTRAL. thousands of people came in to Central to show support,and the people blocked the main road which link the West to East. We were right at the spot, and at around 5:30pm, police began to push people away and throwing tear gas to the people with no weapon but only an umbrella and goggles. But the people went back and continue to occupy at the location and spread to other locations as well."

Terry Lai

"The day after tear gas bomb attack by barbarian police on citizens handing up, it makes Hong Kong people even more unity. At Chater road, it was already filled up by many citizens. Here, with the backgroung of HSBC Main Buliding, Standard Charter HQ, Citibank Tower, the development of Hong Kong is actually based on the core values - Democracy, Freedom, n Justice. For those already at the highest position, dun u forget?"

May Chiu
"I drew from a restaurant of one of the high risese, seeing that the people come from different corner and the group is getting bigger and bigger. All have the same urge : "We want Democracy!""

Gary Yeung

"I was standing on top of the city's Mass Transit Railway Entrance roof with a group of protestors. By the time I finished the sketch, the sky had darkened and the streets around me were all packed with people, showing their support for those who suffered yesterday."

Luis Simoes

Adolfo Arranz

New Life breathed into Old Ireland in Galway

While out and about sketching a few weeks ago, I was asked to paint a thatched cottage in my local village by its new owner. I was delighted, as I've watched the restoration take place since last winter, and I'd even done a quick sketch while my kids were doing sport nearby once. That sketch didn't get very far. This time, I'd have carte blanche to indulge myself as much as I liked, and as much time as I needed. That red. Those chimneys. Everything. I couldn't wait to start.

Eventually the decks were cleared and off I went to do the job. It was really hot, unseasonably so, and I thought conditions would be perfect. But the sun blazed right in my eyes and I'd forgotten my cap. I tried to balance my spare sketchbook on my head, and tie it on with the bag from my stool, but even though I've more or less given up on the dignity front, it was too much to sit in my very own village looking like a lunatic. Besides, it kept falling off, my head not being flat on top. I kept trying to get the drawing right, and it kept being wrong. I was easily distracted, as I always am when the drawing isn't working, and painted this little shield bug, which wanted to climb to the top of my shoulder, and was probably most unimpressed at being thwarted in its progress and parked on my forearm a few times to be drawn.

Why couldn't I throw the lines of the cottage down as easily as I drew the shield bug? Pressure, I guess - one had a client waiting for it, the other didn't. I tried twice more to get the lines of the cottage right, and twice more they were totally wrong. Then I remembered a technique that I read in Felix Scheinberger's book Urban Watercolor Sketching, where you tell yourself the sketch isn't the "real" thing but only for fun. Just like the shield bug. Lo and behold - the new drawing went swimmingly. I went back the next day to paint the drawing, in my baseball cap, and had a wonderful time. I might point out that thatched roofs can be very hard to do because if you draw all those cut ends of reeds, it's going to look overworked and heavy. So once again I took inspiration from Felix's book, and used a combination of splattering and salt to get a nice texture. Sadly I splattered the sky too but never mind.

Michael, the new owner, has done a spectacular job on the restoration. Everything has been done with the greatest care and attention. The furniture has been picked up from various auctions, windows have been enlarged and it is simply immaculate inside. He's delighted with his new painting, and I loved doing it. Better again, he's asked me to paint the fireplace with a roaring fire in it, along with its magnificent stone arch (like everything else in the cottage, salvaged and lovingly rebuilt from the original fireplace) and the beautiful dresser (hutch), full of blue and white china. I really can't wait, and the fine mugs of tea and plentiful biscuits provided by Michael have nothing to do with it - honest.

September 29, 2014

Rescued Tree

This yellow tree is a Kentucky Coffee. It’s on the boulevard along our house in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on the 11th Street side of our corner lot. We planted it 6 years ago to replace a large maple that had been toppled by a violent windstorm. My husband is passionate and opinionated about trees. He was set on a Kentucky Coffee and not just a spindly sapling. Even though it is a native species, nurseries didn’t have any. “Just not in demand”, we were told. My husband tracked this one down: a local arborist (with an interest in obscure trees) had rescued it (dug it up) from the University of Northern Iowa campus when a building project would have otherwise necessitated cutting it down. My husband swooned with tree love from the moment he spotted it growing on the arborist’s orphanage-for-rescued-trees acreage.

Fertilized, deep-root watered through dry spells, and pruned of lower branches so the snowplow and garbage truck wouldn’t swipe it: it’s been pampered. We see it from our kitchen table window. It’s grown straight and tall and bushy, obviously happy in its new spot.

In autumn, it is the first deciduous tree in the neighborhood to change color and lose its leaves. From first hint of yellow to all the leaves falling is a matter of just a few days.  There was no time to procrastinate to get this painting done. I chose this angle because of how the much larger maple, beyond, framed it. I did a preliminary sketch in my pocket-size Moleskine before launching onto a 12” X 18” Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor block. I did a quick under-drawing with Derwent brown ochre pencil, then just watercolor. By the time I started to paint, the vehicles, recorded in the sketch, had moved. I chose to leave out the stop sign, wanting to highlight the sidewalk, the shadows and the trees further down the street.

The People of Clyde Common, Portland

While I most often draw subjects that are architectural, or urban, or even landscape-oriented, and I go to figure drawing sessions as often as time permits ... I don't often draw people in public places - buses, cafes, bars and the like.
 However, after my recent trip to Brasil for the 5th International Urban Sketchers Symposium, where I found myself surrounded by artists who are more or less constantly drawing the people around them ... I've been inspired to follow suit more often.

So here are several of my efforts from my recent visit to Portland, completed in a few evenings of having drinks at Clyde Common. This is an award-winning bar that has been managed for the past several years by an old friend of mine, Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Unfortunately, he was out of town during this visit, but that just left me with more time to sketch.

Drawing in bars and cafes like this is obviously a time-honored tradition among urban sketchers, but it's relatively new to me. I must say, though, that it's a fantastic conversation-starter. Of course people are curious about what you're doing and why you keep glancing briefly in their direction, and when they see even a halfway decent representation of themselves, it seems to really pique their interest. 
 I also did a fair amount of journal-writing, occasionally having some fun with the formatting of the page. In this case, the people were basically a composite image - I sketched various individuals and people in the background as though the bar was much longer and more crowded than it was in reality. A fun exercise, just like all the people-sketching I did over the weekend.

[All drawings were done using either a Pentel Slicci or a Super 5 Fountain Pen in a Stillman & Birn Gamma Series Sketchbook.]

A Few Architectural Moments in Portland

I spent a few days in Portland guiding a field trip, and managed to do a fair amount of sketching while there. It's always nice to go back to this city, because each time I seem to discover new places or to see familiar places in a new light. The city is also full of memories for me from the 1st International Urban Sketchers Symposium back in 2010 ... I still almost can't believe that so many sketchers from around the world descended on this city and started a phenomenon that has only continued to grow. Anyway, here are a few of the drawings form my visit - this first post will focus on buildings, and will be followed by a post about drawing people. [All these drawings were done in a Stillman & Birn Gamma Series 9" x 6" Landscape sketchbook.]

  This is the Federal Reserve Bank Building by Pietro Belluschi, 1949. A very sleek facade and selective use of stone cladding ... one of my favorite buildings in the city.
 The Governor Hotel, East Wing, designed by William C. Knighton in 1909. A very curious building, with highly unusual details at the cornice - anthropomorphic and/or robot-like 'sentinels' in glazed terra-cotta.
 Converted railway loading docks at NW 11th Avenue between Hoyt and Irving. I stopped to sketch here with my students, who are currently studying various housing typologies. This little stretch of street shows what can be done with existing industrial infrastructure - it's a very pleasant space, and I imagine the interiors are nice as well.

 A simple courtyard on NW 19th, immediately adjacent to The Commissary Cafe, a beautiful little space where I got my morning coffee.
And finally, "The Indigo" ... this is a building we visit each year for a tour of ZGF Architects, who designed the building and have their office here. I've always loved the way this building reflects the sky, and that's the main point I was trying to get across in this sketch. It was a struggle, as I'm still getting used to the paper in the Gamma Series sketchbook (watercolor behaves quite differently on this paper as compared to the Moleskine I've been using most recently), but I'm glad I made the effort.

September 28, 2014


In  all my years of going to Cal Berkeley for undergraduate school and University of Washington for graduate school, I had never heard the term “convocation” until my first son  started at Western Washington University. Convocation means "to call/come together" the convocation at the start of a school year is the calling of students (particularly the freshman students) to come together for an assembly to celebrate the start of their academic years at the University. 

My son Matthew is in his freshman year at University of Washington. He and we as his parents were invited to the 2014 Convocation Ceremonies and President’s Picnic.
At least 400+ incoming students and  their proud parents and families attended the event filling the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Ed.

We then went to Drumheller Fountain and Rainier Vista for the President’s Picnic greeted by the sounds of the Huskies Marching band as we waited to get into a huge tent for the picnic lunch. It was a great way to celebrate the beginning of the school year.

President's Picnic Tent and UW Marching Band
Inside the Big Tent for Lunch the sketch doesn't do justice to how large and how many people where in there!