October 23, 2014


Nowadays known as New Zealand crane capital,  Christchurch is a fast changing city, behind this fence will pop out the new central bus station but for now what interested me was this patchwork on the background.

October 22, 2014

I sketched this gigantic Thinker by Auguste Rodin at the Cantor Museum on the campus of Stanford University. This little gem of a museum has loads of pieces by Rodin, including many of the small studies for his Gates of Hell sculpture.

Initially I wanted to sketch this piece from a more classic side angle, but the museum guards wouldn’t let me stand there ( I never figured why). But I’m glad I had to stand where I did, sort of in the back: it was quite a dramatic sight with this monumental piece looking down on the museum-goers.

I really enjoyed contrasting the size, solidity and permanence of this sculpture with the relatively small and fleeting viewers.

29 sketch videos

Back when I first started making urban sketches, I decided it would be fun to try to film the process, or at least give some ideas and inspiration. I didn't have anyone to sit over me with a camera, so I started holding a camera with my left hand while sketching with my right. The footage I got out of that was often pretty ridiculous, and most of it had to be deleted. But, with a little editing and some interesting music, the thing would be done, and a few people seemed to enjoy them and get ideas for their own sketching. Over the past few years, I've made 29 sketch videos. My first videos were done in the little Swiss, German, and French villages near our home, then the Bay area where we lived for a year, and now in California's central valley. In between are a few videos on trips, like a sketch video in the snowy Idaho hills, and one on the shore at Laguna Beach, and the most unique video of all, sketching Mount Etna as it was erupting. The sketch wasn't anything spectacular, but the experience was unforgettable, and even ended up on a local TV station once. Most of my videos are pretty short, some barely a minute long, and a few over five minutes. I try to put some type of music to them, usually royalty free stuff, and a couple I even added my own vocals or instrumentals to. I never expected to make so many sketch videos, but now it's like watching old home movies as a kid in my grandfather's house, and maybe some day my grandkids can enjoy them. As if! Anyway, here are some links to the latest 3 videos:   Video One     Video Two    Video Three

Usk Yorkshire Brave the Ghosts of Sheffield!

On Sunday, we had our monthly Urban Sketchers Yorkshire day out. This time we spent it in a slightly spooky building, which was once Sheffield's Victorian Police and Fire Station, although these days it's the National Emergency Services Museum

Apparently it's the largest volunteer-run museum in the UK. Fancy that. I also didn't realise that it has several resident ghosts. 

I'm not surprised, to be honest: those Victorian police cells in particular really looked the part. While I was sitting sketching, I kept waiting for a ghostly tap on the shoulder, but the spirits in question are obviously not art-lovers.

The upstairs rooms of the museum are stuffed with all sorts of paraphernalia, big and small, but I found myself mostly drawn to the vintage vehicles downstairs. I don't know why: I am pretty rubbish at drawing cars. I had two cracks at the American fire engine below, but got frustrated with my inability to judge the various wheel ellipses. My problem is that I don't do pencil prelims. I just want to go for it: I think it's the challenge of that which excites me.  Unfortunately, there are some things which are totally unforgiving of errors - big tyres chief amongst them!

During the first couple of hours at the museum, sketchers arrived from different places in dribs and drabs, until we were about 20. The only drawback being that, as each person arrived, they came to say hello to me, so I ended up doing a lot more talking than sketching before lunch. It was very sociable though. 

I was most pleased with my last sketch of the day: the fire engine near the top of the post. I squeezed it in, right at the end of the afternoon. I braved the outdoors to sit in the yard and finally managed to nail a vehicle, tyres an' all! I only just finished it off in time and had to hold my sketchbook open all the way to the pub, to let the paint dry.

As usual, it was good fun looking through the sketchbooks. Not everyone made it to the pub, but we still had to pull two tables together to fit us all round. Then I stood on a chair to attempt a panorama shot, to fit all the books in. Not 100% successful to coordinate, but the source of much merriment.

Gold star to Andrea Joseph, for being the only person STILL sketching:

The beautiful journey that is drawing...even better with tea and cakes

 Last February or March I took my evening class to Claire's Tearooms in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, for a bit of peaceful sketching on a Sunday afternoon. I knew, or I hoped, that they would feel the difference between drawing in a tutored situation and drawing, on location, whatever took their fancy. Sure enough, the conversation soon drifted into silence as each became absorbed in their subjects, and they all said sketching on the spot was infinitely easier than being in a class...I'll need to think about that one.

In the eight months since then, I think I myself have travelled further down my personal path as a sketcher. This is the drawing I made that day in early spring, done in the little side room that the staff give to groups:

and below is the drawing I made yesterday, done in the main café itself. I left the pens in my pencil case and took my 3B pencil for a meandering walk around the lines of these old ladies' forms. I know it doesn't have the same "pow!" as a drawing rendered in ink, but it felt really good to not have to think about mistakes (even though I didn't remove any lines). It was the fact that I knew I could have removed lines that made the difference.

The tearoom is a great place. The food is seasonal, really excellent, cooked with care by the tall, patrician Claire and her staff, and the atmosphere is always just right. The staff will accommodate you if you're in a group - memoir-writing class, sketching class, they don't mind - and they don't charge you a penny more than you spend on your tea and coffee (and maybe a nice slice of cake). Other venues will charge the teacher €25 for an hour, to cover electricity and things, but perhaps in Claire's they have confidence that you'll succumb to their goodies. (They're usually right.)

Whatever the reason, there are always lots of punters in Claire's. These two ladies looked so comfortable at their table against the wall, a glass of red for the lady on the left, a glass of white for her friend. They chinked their glasses as they drank a toast to something. 

I'll be back soon, and maybe I'll leave my pen at home next time.

Meanwhile I've been inspired by some of the lovely seasonal sketches posted by other urban sketchers over the last few weeks, and I'm surrounded by glorious autumnal scenery. I don't know when the trees have been so colourful - I think it's something to do with the dry summer. I struggle with painting things without lots of definition: I can do indistinct distant things, and big, bold close things, but the middle distance gives me trouble. At the same time, I've been taunted by the beauty around at the moment and I've been dying to try to capture it. Yesterday I ventured out into the wind and sunshine to try again.

It's the combination of puddles reflecting telegraph poles, the bright sunlight, and all those orange, yellow and brown crispy leaves blowing about, that gets me going. I have unfinished business with puddles and I mean to draw more.

I'm trying to stick with my own rule about drawing - getting each point in the correct place relative to its neighbour. That doesn't work for leaves, really, so I just scribble like mad instead. Doesn't really work either. At least I was okay with the car - there were myriad little points that told me where each next one should be.

This is the road that leads down to Killeenaran Quay, which I've talked about on this forum many times. There are two horses in the field to the right of the car, and they are quite sweet, sticking their noses over the wall, curious about my activity (it was too boring for them, so they went). Two of the horses in the field are really close, forever nuzzling each other and grooming each other, but seem wary of anyone else. I'll draw them.

I was nearly blown away but I had 7 layers on, as well as two hats, and I beat the cold (apart from my fingers, as usual).


Traveling from New York City To Almagro, Spain. Funny how the eye always seeks a window.

Flight 6250 Iberia. Between JFK and Madrid.  The windows of the plane: screens.

It's all a blur.  Renfe train between Madrid and Almagro.

Almagro, Spain. Casa Grande Hotel.  The window of our room has a balcomy.

Sharon Frost. Blog: Day Books

October 21, 2014

sketchcrawl 45: san francisco

Unusually small turnout for the sketchcrawl this time. We met at the Ferry Building on Embarcadero, which I've drawn many times before, so this time I went to check out the nearby sculpture SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls which is said to represent two neurons firing in communication and apparently glows at night. Later in the evening I stopped by Academy of Art University on Powell Street, where I teach, where the students were well underway in their 24 Hour Comics marathon. Such focus and creativity and enough participants to fill Bradley Hall, our ballroom turned drawing theatre. For sure a better turnout than sketchcrawl!

Rota Vicentina

I have been walking ROTA VICENTINA, a track (GR) along the south atlantic coast of Portugal. The whole trail will need about 15 walking days but, after the first experience, we don't want to spare any of them.

It is a wonderful walk, along the shore, with stunning viewpoints and great beaches.
All the way beautiful views want to jump into my sketchbook and, some of them, finish on my BLOG. The trouble is to select them, keep walking, and arrive on time for dinner and sleeping by the end of the journey.

October 20, 2014

Sketchcrawling in LA...

Saturday was a beautiful fall day in Los Angeles for the LA Sketchcrawl group to meet...and as always, Shiho Nakaza organized a great day!  Shiho and I are posting together on this one.  As you see, we had a good turnout!

The Los Angeles Sketchcrawl group decided to revisit our favorite sketching location: Union Station. This sketchcrawl was also a part of Big Draw LA events (http://thebigdrawla.org/), so I'm glad to meet new people that found out about this event through Big Draw LA event calendar. I could only stay for about an hour and was busy chatting with other sketchers, so I did a quick sketch in about 5 minutes, and added the colors with watercolor later. I chose to focus on the iconic lighting hanging inside the lobby area, and I love how morning light was filtering through the high ceiling and frosted glass. 

Union Station is a real architectural treasure, built in 1939 and is variously described as "Mission Revival" and "Streamline Moderne".  I sketched this view of the clock tower from one of the Spanish-style garden patios that flank the elegant waiting area sketched by Shiho above.  Sketchcrawls are always a great way to meet fellow sketchers--and I find I need to sketch faster than usual...

Many of the group headed next across the street to Olvera Street, at the heart of the original El Pueblo de Los Angeles for lunch and more sketching...here visitors browse the stalls in the afternoon...

Above Olvera Street is another treasure and an important piece of history, "América Tropical".  In 1932, David Alfaro Siqueiros, a founding member of the Mexican Muralist movement, created a mural overlooking Olvera Street.  Those who expected a nostalgic scene were shocked when they saw Siqueiros' passionate political imagery.  Sadly, the mural was whitewashed in 1938, but later on began to show through and has now been conserved.  I sketched the ghostly image from the viewing platform, listening to the very gracious museum guide explain its history to visitors...

My quick sketch doesn't do justice to the mural...here's a photo I took of what it looks like now:
...and a link to more information and a black and white image of what it looked like in 1932:

Two visits to São Paulo: Before and After the Symposium

Just when you thought the Brazil posts were finishing… I am finally about to getting around to sharing a few highlights and reflections. I had nearly three weeks in Brazil and it was a totally unforgettable experience. Not only did I love being in such a vibrant place but I was always in the company of fellow urban sketchers - either visiting like me or locals. I was in Sao Paulo at the start and the beginning of the trip and it is interesting to compare the sketches from the two periods - so that is what I want to do with this post.

There is no better way to start a trip than by two serious sketching days with Marc Taro Holmes. Every symposium we try to have at least one day together (the tradition started in 2011 with our Belem Day) so to have 2 was a special treat. Sketching with Marc is always fun - we have all kinds of fascinating and insightful art chats and he always manages to produce masterpiece after masterpiece - even when he is using a non tested palette of new colours! You can read all about Marc's sketching and the impressive collection of sketches he produced with this limited palette here.

I had not been doing much urban sketching in the lead up to the trip - seriously sketching too many teacups - so it was a total shock to the system to be out on the streets in a mega busy city on my first day after my long haul flight. The first sketch of the Cathedral (above) was done in the most intense situation ever - surrounded by 'interesting' people, a man shouting behind us, a woman shouting at me (and blocking my line of sight),  people coming up to look and chat… and I was worrying at all times about security. But if you sketch regularly somehow your reflex sketching kicks in and I was thankful that Marc was doing most of the chatting to onlookers. You can read the full report of the day on my blog.

I find that it takes me 24 hours to get the feel for a new place - the vibe, the local colours and light - and how to translate it onto my page. In addition, after a long haul flight I need time, to get back into 'the groove' - the state where I am feeling comfortable and my work flows out of me. But even when I am in the goove there is always a number of tensions that are bouncing around in my head. A big scene or a control composition? - how should I use line and colour? are two recurring themes while I sketch. Till I found my feet, I sketched in my traditional way of line first then colour. But on the second day I made a switch after this sketch of Casa das Rosa. It is a beautiful 'coffee mansion' on Ave Paulista… one of the last standing.

These days I find the line first approach can be a little dull - whilst I like the outcome I have more fun when I mix up line and colour. For the rest of my time in Sao Paulo that is what I did.
Sketching the magnificent Estacau de Luz in a looser and quicker style - mixing line and colour and using the variable thickness line of my Sailor pen. It is faster if you add colour first and you are less likely to overdo the linework.

An afternoon spent in the Consolacao cemetery - using a similar approach and with a very limited palette. Read the full report of the day here.

On my return to Sao Paulo after the symposium (and after a week in Rio) there is quite a change in my work. For one thing my colour is stronger and I was really striving to base my sketches on good strong shapes. Doing Behzad Bagheri's workshop was a real catalyst for me to focus even more on shapes and rich watercolour mixtures on the page. There is a  difference in the subject matter too - still architecture but a radical shift in style! Pre:Paraty I was with Marc sketching all the elaborately decorated buildings from early 20th century. Post:Paraty I was with architects (Emma Fitzgerald and local USker Ronaldo) and we were tracking down modern buildings.
I really fell in love with the work of Lina Bo Bardi and her MASP building on Ave Paulista. I was so in awe of its strong architectural form and worrying about doing it justice with my lazy perspective that I decided to throw caution to the wind and paint the red first. I was happy with my decision!

Another strong form was the Auditorio Ibrapuera by Oscar Niemeyer. In a similar approach I drew the sky first. I do find that if you focus on shapes the perspective will try out right (or right-enough!) Full report of the day here

My final day in Brazil was a Lina day - we went to SECA Pompeia in the morning. I know of this building through Eduardo's sketches but the real thing blew me away.

The afternoon was spent doing a tour of Lina's private house - the Glass House. There wasn't any time or opportunity to set aside for a 'decent' sketch but I decided to test out the ideas I had picked up from Richard Alomar's Unfolding Story activity at Paraty.  Here is one page of my quick note taking approach (you can see how my recent Gehry construction site sketches have flowed on from this)

If you want to read all my detailed posts from my trip (lots of photos as well) I have a summary post on my blog.

Sketchers meeting in Rome, along the river Tevere

Caput Mundi
Roma Caput Mundi: you can read it in this stone fragments in front of a cafè in Trastevere. 
From my friend's house, I sketched the same view of last year, where I found the squatter better organized than before. Nearby, I passed under Porta Portese, near the famous fly market that take place on Sunday.

Porta Portese


I've been in Rome briefly a few weeks ago for a sketchers meeting I proposed to welcome a group of students from the Fine Art University of Moscow, visiting the italian capital for an art tour.  Federico Gemma suggested to sketch in front of Isola Tiberina and the Ponte Rotto, on the river Tevere. 
I found the local group of sketchers really growing and very active: they meet nearly each weekend as you can see in FB Sketchcrawl Roma. Location proposed are always great and the city is so magnificent that I should join them more often.
I met old friends like Salvatore Santuccio and new ones like Marco Carloni, one of the main organizer of the group and with the Russian students we spent a nice morning. 
Rome Caput Sketchcrawl!

sketchcrawl roma

Enclosures in New York City.

 In New York we lived in enclosed, defined spaces.  Even the parks have boundaries. The mental space is, however, infinite.

On the F train.  Of course there's one (9/11) every year.  And in New York City we talk about and think about that day in 2001: where we were and when we found out about what had happened.  " I was getting ready for work."  "I was walking to work."  "Smoke filled the air."  All of that.

In front of the window gate in the kitchen.  I need a haircut. I don't even see the gate anymore -- I go right to the sunlight and the trees beyond it.

Time seems to stop on the F train.  Sitting still rapidly.  It's quite a concept.
Julio Cortázar on the F train -- 100 years since his birth.

Sharon Frost. Blog: Day Books

Denmark Street

Denmark St panorama

London, UK: This is Denmark Street, just off of Charing Cross Road in the heart of Central London. I sketched it over a period of two and a half hours one Wednesday afternoon in late July, sketching until my hands and feet hurt (I stand while sketching these panoramas), and added the rest of the colour later on when I had somewhere to sit down (that would be a pub round the corner). Denmark Street is famous within British musical history as our very own ‘Tin Pan Alley’, home of music publishers and recording studios, and later of music stores. There are lots of guitar shops, as well as other instruments of course, and there's also the famous 12 Bar Club. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, all are associated with this street in some way (the Pistols actually lived here for a bit). Not only music – the comic shop Forbidden Planet was founded at number 23, where that red awning is in the picture now. It’s based around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue now. This place is steeped with history and it’s a street I have always had a lot of love for, being a bit guitar-obsessed when I was younger (it took me years to actually pluck up the courage to enter one of those stores though, they were very intimidating to a shy teenager!). I actually bought my current acoustic guitar from Macari’s, though it was from their other branch, on Charing Cross Road, back in 1996.

Sketching Denmark St, London

So when I heard that Denmark Street was under threat of demolition, all part of the Crossrail redevelopment that has completely destroyed the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, I knew I had to sketch it while it still looked like this. Many of these buildings are ‘listed’, historic buildings of importance. Whether they will be knocked down or just somehow modernised is not clear, what it will mean for the historic character of Tin Pan Alley is also unclear, will the music stores be forced out in favour of latte shops and luggage stores and corporate office space is also not clear, but let’s face it. If Denmark Street loses its character it will be yet another blow to London.
Denmark St map sm
Here is Denmark Street on a handy map.

And finally, ss some of you may know, I like drawing fire hydrants, mainly because I find them exotic and foreign - we don’t have them in the UK. Well, actually we do, but they are underground, with metal coverings on the pavement. Here is one I sketched on Denmark Street. Despite my panorama sketching-aches, I couldn't resist doing one more.

Fire Hydrant in London

by Pete Scully

Kiosk in Ku'damm, Berlin

When I was walking through the Kurfurstendamm (oder einfach Ku'damm), I was attracted by this kiosk located in the corner with Uhlandstrasse. Ku'damm is a fancy street in West Berlin, where all expensive brand name stores are. The boulevard's design was inspired by Champs of the Elysee, in Paris.  It is a nice place, with many old buildings that survived the war.

At the beginning of the century cities used to have many kiosks as urban furniture. They were small, built in a round or polygonal plan, crowned with a roof like a chinese hat (the inspiration were chinese pavilions) The uses were simple, coffee & beverages, flowers, magazines or tickets.

Nowadays there are hardly present in modern urban design. However kiosks always later occupy the streets, but in boxy shapes, crowding a street already too narrow. So why not plan from the beginning to do something nice?

Do you have kiosks in your cities that you like? would you share them with me?