November 25, 2015

Italian Explorations

By Fred Lynch, Boston, Massachusetts

It's that time of year again when I share a bit of the work created last July by my college students in Italy. The group was amazing - pushing the possibilities of "urban sketching". My co-teacher this year, Kelly Murphy and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results - only a little which I share with you today.

What we see here, are selections from a few Final Projects - explorations of singular, narrow topics. 

The class also focuses on “voice, ” that is, by pushing students to celebrate how each artist has a different style of drawing - a different aesthetic - different interests.  In other words, we aim to make our point as well as make our mark through our drawings.

Ok, with all that in mind, here are some examples from last summer - series' that address particular themes. Creating works as a series promotes deeper investigations and artistic advancements. I hope you like them as much as I do.



Ashley Caswell, a Maryland Institute College of Art student from Needham, Massachusetts, made lists comparing characteristic features of the city.


Chrissy Dreyer, a Dual Degree student of both Brown University and RISD, from Maryland, explored the passages of light, space, and color, through the city's narrow roads using acrylics.


Angela Hsieh, a student at RISD from Pennsylvania, explored the feeling of being lost in a foreign city.



Taylor Pendelton, from RISD and Massachusetts, explored bright colors and texture, creating an incredible collection of images in a short period of time.



Edward Yang, a RISD student from California, using each drawing as part of a cafe review, incorporating a great deal of writing.

Many more great works from other students can be found on the course's blog: Drawing Viterbo.

Slim pickings

I’ve been following the progress of the pop-up saffron farm in the centre of Croydon over the last couple of months.  This is the scene recently when the volunteer pickers were harvesting the crop.  

November 24, 2015

Traveler in Tindouf. Local terminology

By Javier de Blas in Tindouf, Algeria
Between February and March 2015 I spent a month living with a Sahrawi family in their "haima" in the refugee camps of Tindouf. Every Tuesday, I'm posting here the notes and sketches I made about daily life in the camps.

Daira: City hall, municipality. Each wilaya consists of several daira that mark their boundaries, preserving spaces between each of them with a less density of construction.

Haima: home. In the nomadic Sahara, the tents are made with camel's hair and are covered
with cloth inside. In the camps today the "haimas" include daar and gaitun.

Darr: Adobe buildings intended for living rooms-bedrooms and kitchen. In a small annexed
building the bathroom and toilet are situated.

Gaitun/gaitoon: In English, reads "guytoon". A fabric tent, usually in front of the main gate of the daar. They replaced the traditional "haimas" used in the dessert. The gaitoon are made of canvas and they are accompanied by auxiliary adobe buildings, giving the whole group a new "haima"concept.

Melhfaa: Traditional female dress composed of a very long cloth that wraps around the body ending at the head, veil and headscarf. They come in many colors and combinations delighting the sight.

Daraa: Male attire like a cape with a bluish colour almost white with ochre ornaments. Sleeves covering the hands, but usually they roll them up, decorating the shoulders with graceful folds.

Taxi: Taxis here are private cars. They charge you 400DA  to take you to another wilaya. If the taxi is full, you pay 100DA. They are a source of income in a population where jobs are scarce and unstable.

Tzagait: A shrill sound that the women make moving the tongue.

Tindouf: An Algerian city that has grown with the development of refugee camps. At first it
was a military base without access to civilians. The increasing demand for goods within the
camps, has made it the capital of the region. The airport receives aid workers and visitors to the camps.

Wilaya: In Arabic, means city. The Sahrawi refugees have been putting names to their camps of the cities they had left when Morocco occupied Western Sahara.
The six wilaya of Tindouf camps are: L'Aaiun, Aussert, Rabouni, Budjour, Smara and Dakhla.
The wilayas have the appearance of immense villages, the houses are made of  adobe with one floor and generally with a patio and gaitun.

November 23, 2015

Baffled then Inspired at Tulca Contemporary Art Festival, Galway

by Róisín Curé in Galway

The Tulca Festival of Visual Arts takes place in Galway every November. it consists of two weeks of contemporary art exhibited in lots of venues throughout the city, from galleries to public buildings. You can find exhibits in University College Hospital and in the James Mitchell Geology Museum, as well as in more well-known gallery spaces around town like the Galway Arts Centre, Nuns' Island Theatre and more. The old Connacht Tribune print works on Market Street is the main gallery of the festival and was where the opening was held. On opening night I braved the cold, wind and and rain to attend, with the intention of sketching what I saw and soaking up the atmosphere.

The exhibition is called Seachange and aims to draw attention to climate change - and the concomitant disappearance of islands - using the mythology of Hy-Brasil as a motif. The exhibits all referred in some way to the fragility of our existence here on Earth. It's a sort of make-believe sunken island off the south-west coast of Ireland...but any more than that and I'm in unknown territory.

At first the crowd was quiet and well-behaved but the volume rose as the wine and beer began to flow. The dress code was Arty: floor-length black leather coats on some of the gentlemen, opaque black tights for the ladies, black trousers and jackets for nearly everyone. Scarves were worn with aplomb. A man lay down and did some impromptu yoga - you can just about make him out behind the group on the left. Another man struck a funny pose and asked me to draw him, which I did. I recruited a very pretty young lady with huge blue eyes and blonde curls to Urban Sketchers Galway: all she did, poor creature, was admire my sketching bag (plus she had had one or two by then) and I wasted no time in telling her how she should join us. 
Over the course of two days and in two of the venues I drew some of the exhibits. I must ask for tolerance in my interpretation: I was inclined to cynicism, and I'm on the opposite end of the art spectrum (I interpret nothing, they interpret everything), but I did try to get help with interpretation, from no less a personage than the curator. Nonetheless, I wasn't always the wiser.

First I drew something that looked like an umbrella covered in symbols of the euro, by a duo called Culturstruction. This the curator's explanation:
"It's a sort of superhero cape," she said. "A place of shelter and protection. The euro symbols refer to the collective assumption that that currency would save us."
Further reading on the web suggested that the piece was supposed to appear to levitate, a bit like a distant island, and indeed the suspension lines were so fine as to be invisible.

The next piece was about a nuclear holocaust, or more accurately, about a government leaflet that was circulated in the 1960s. This was part of a series of pieces called How Will I Know When To Go Indoors? and it was by Dennis McNulty and Ros Kavanagh. I didn't find out exactly what it meant, although I did try. To give you an idea of scale, it's about head-height at the top.

The next day I called into the Galway Arts Centre on Domick Street to see what was on offer there. I was very taken by the piece I drew, for no reason other than I liked the way the microphone hung over the rock. I liked the vintage, shiny look of the microphone. Naturally, the rock was silent - now. There was a recording of just such a rock type being the bottom of the sea at the Mid-Ocean Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean. The rumbling noise it made was very soothing. The piece (and its companion, a short piece of film) referred to the demise of another imaginary island called Nuuk Island. I looked it up and Nuuk is still part of Greenland, so I'm confused. The artist was called Anaïs Tondeur and the soundtrack to her film had some lovely, very French piano music. I was there two days after the Paris atrocity and I welled up for all things French...I lived in Paris many years ago and was in love with the place from the moment I arrived until the moment I left a year later. 

The woman you can see reading in the background was manning the desk. I asked her if she could help me interpret the exhibition. She did her best, and then recommended a piece back in Market Street. 
"It's called The Water Glossary," she said. "It's a collection of archaic words for weather, and water, and the sea and that kind of thing. The idea is that language is intimately connected with climate and psyche."
She was speaking my language, so to speak, as I am a dilettante linguist and have strongly-held but ill-informed opinions on that sort of thing. It got better.
"It takes the form of a booklet. It's displayed in the gallery and there's abench next to it - you can sit and read it," she said, "at least I think you can, and you can buy a copy too."
I went back to Market Street to the main gallery space and bought a copy of The Water Glossary, by Carol-Anne Connolly. In the absence of a drawing of the booklet (which wouldn't tell you much), here are some of the terms I read:
fiachaire: raven-watcher, weather forecaster
lá idir dá shíon: a day of unseasonably dry, warm and bright weather. In the middle of the wet harsh days of Irish winter, meaning day in between two weathers.
salachar báistí: drizzling mist or rain
síor-uisce: constant rain
maidhm báistí: cliudburst
scim: veil of haze or mist
criathróir: animal surefooted on boggy ground
slograch: sink hole, or a wet boggy corner of a field

These descriptive words about weather and rain and clouds conjure up so many snippets of my life, from early childhood onwards. Our climate stamps us with an indelible mark and it's one of the things we long for when we're far from home - at least, I do. Once, I leaned out of the window in the Wicklow hills, on a September night, having returned from a few weeks in the desert of Los Angeles. I wonder is there a word for the gentle hiss of rain accompanied by the distant bleating of sheep, with honeysuckle on the air?

I had no idea what to expect from Tulca 2015. I think some of my prejudices about contemporary art have fallen away. All it took was one or two pieces to make me think afresh about art - and to remind myself that there's room for all of us. 

Tulca Festival of Visual Arts is on until 29th November. Details from

Watercolor Sketching in the Redpath Museum

By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, QC

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Yesterday was fourth Sunday sketching with our drawing group Urban Sketchers Montreal.

With the fall chill in the air, we returned to the Redpath Museum. Blog readers will know, I love a chance to draw from taxidermy animals and mounted skeletons. So this was just a relaxing day for me.

Here we have a Cormorant, Puffin and Egret, along with a common farmyard Chicken skeleton. I didn't note what kind of bird skull that was - it was only about an inch long - the drawing is bigger than the real thing.

This outing I felt like some free-sketching in brush and watercolor. It's a lot of fun taking on these delicate subjects with a direct brush drawing. When I do silhouettes, I always feel a kinship with Japanese sumi brush painting. Each rapid brush stroke combining to make an image. It's fun, and fast, making these economical little drawings. I did more talking than drawing this afternoon and still came away with a nice collection of sketches. If you take the time to make a painstaking drawing - well I don't think the results are any more interesting - and you'd only get half a drawing done in a day :)

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The key to these water-sketches is making the silhouette in a single wet shape - so the colored strokes fuse. But also knowing when to simplify. I haven't counted every rib and vertebra on this ostrich skeleton. It's just the impression of the animal - not really a scientific record. One day I'd like to try for that - a perfect rendering - but that's not the spirit of an urban sketchers meet up, chatting with friends and sketching for enjoyment.

With these 'casual' sketches, I sometimes take a few tries at it. So they look easier than they sometimes are. This is the second of two Ostriches I did that day. My first try is sometimes a bit off - a bit out of proportion or tentative in the brushwork. So I'll just do it again while it's fresh in my mind. It always gets a little better the second or third time.

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The thing I love about the Redpath is the Cabinet of Curiosity feeling of the place. Where else will you see dinosaur bones, Samurai armor, Egyptian mummies, sea shells, taxidermy animals, African musical instruments - all this in one small exhibition hall. It feels more like visiting a crazy uncle's mansion than going to a museum.

We skip December, due to the holidays, but I hope to see some of you at next year's Fourth Sunday Sketching. Just watch the USK : MTL blog for the location announcement.

Two sides of the same neighborhood

These homes are located in Bela Vista. It is very interesting to note the contrast between the rich and the poor part of this neighborhood known by its inhabitants as Bixiga.

November 22, 2015

Jeon Tae-il Bridge

by Byung Hwa Yoo, Seoul, Korea

bust of Jeon Tae-il on the Jeon Taeil-il bridge over Cheonggyecheon

copper plates on the bridge honoring him

motor bikes of merchants parked for minutes because of 'No Parking' and deficient parking area around the big market

Jeon Tae-il was born on 1948 at Daegu city. 
He came to Seoul on 1954 with his family. 
He left elementary school on the 4th grade for family reasons. 
He worked at Dongdaemun, Pyeonghwa markets for living since then.
He realized that the terribly poor working environment was caused by ignoring the labor code for the owner's extreme interest and government's industrial development policy of the former president, Park Jeong-hee.
He insisted that the code should be kept rightly.
His resistance was ignored to unemployment. 
He chose to burn himself to death at the age of 22 shouting 'We are not machines, enforce the labor code!' on Nov. 1970 holding the labor code commentary worn by repeated reading.
His death ignited recognition of the laborer's rights.
Film 'A Single Spark' was made on 1995.
Jeon Tae-il Foundation erected bust on the bridge on 2005 and kept asking the bridge's name after him.
Seoul city accepted the request on 2012 adding his name additionally to the original 'Beodeuldari'. It was the first case to name a bridge after a person in Seoul.

After seeing his statue he was on my mind over months. I went there twice to feel his grim death even a little. I might have passed if I had not tried to seek subject to draw. Watching demonstrations on streets these days I recall him thinking how he would feel and say and hope them to remember his death. 

The Trees of Ta Prohm, Cambodia

By Stephanie Bower, Seattle

Sketch of Ta Prohm, near Angkor Wat in Cambodia from this's a really iconic spot, as these amazing octupus-like trees literally grow out of the temple stones.  I loved this view because I could see the hindu carvings as well as look straight through the building to the jungle beyond.

It was super hot and humid, and my pencil work was much fainter than normal-- I eventually figured out it was because the high humidity caused the paper to be so damp, it was almost wet!