Mark your calendar! The 2015 Symposium will be in Singapore, July 22-25. Read more here.

November 22, 2014

Boomshop of Comics, San Diego

By Lydia Velarde, San Diego
Boomshop of Comics is the only comic shop in San Diego. There is a coffee bar inside so it was easy to sit down to sketch. This is done in pen and watercolor.

Flickr Digest November 22,2014

November 4th 2014, marked the 7th anniversary of USK Flickr. It has been an exciting year with a huge burst in new participation. The Group has gathered 176,000 sketches from around the globe. The other day, I dug really deep and explored the foundations of the group, going all the way back to day 1. It is amazing to see the initial growth, member by member, and it is also really fun to see the technical growth of some of the founding members. Within the group pages you can find strong visual proof of the benefits of sketching every day. Here are some interesting early sketches by Gabi, Flaf, and Jason.
The anniversary and exploration of the groups development has led me to think a lot about the founding ideas of the organization. In my own sketches I have been making and effort to establish a greater sense of immediacy, I have heard it said "to seek verbs as opposed to nouns". So, I have been particularly in tune to those sketches submitted that have a  stronger sense of a specific moment, action, or general quality of time.
I have always thought immediacy meant a specific kind of line quality, though the USK Flickr submissions have made me aware that it is really something else.
This weeks weekly theme "sketch bomb" a play on photo bombing has really nicely reflected the idea. The submissions are all sketches that have been transformed by the changing environment they were sketched in.
Here are three, that stood out from the general roll.

Urban Sketching in Venice

I’ve not posted for a while but I wanted to share some of my sketches from Venice. I’ve just returned from a study trip to the Architecture Biennale with 50 students. Whilst they were off touring the exhibitions and exploring (or probably shopping and drinking!), I took every opportunity to sketch. I know Venice quite well but it always takes my  breath away. We had lovely weather for mid November, last time we were there 2 years ago - we had lots of freezing fog. This time it was bright and sunny…perfect sketching weather.

This was drawn in St Marks Square, students were looking at the Carlo Scarpa designed Olivetti showroom - a must for architecture fans and good to see something contemporary, well circa 1950-’s Mad Men era. We split them into 3 groups as 50 (students) is quite an unwieldy number. I spent time with the first group before sloping off to sketch. What an inspiring view!

This was drawn in the Giardini at the Biennale where there are a collection of National Pavilions each representing different countries. The Biennale alternates between art and architecture each year. Each country has to be invited to build a pavilion. The new Australia Pavilion is under construction and will be open 2015. Britain’s pavilion was built in 1909. The gardens are such an interesting place to wander round, they’re very shady with tall trees and provide such a contrast to the glittering light of the waters of the lagoon.

We were staying out on Guidecca, our students were staying in a fab hostel called the Generator (highly recommended to anyone travelling to Venice on a budget)! And here’s San Giorgio Maggiore. I've been writing about using a viewfinder for my book on architectural sketching (to be published by Rotovision / North Light Summer 2015) and here's me putting one into practice!

Here’s my final sketch of the trip, this is looking towards St Mark’s Square, the light was starting to fade behind St. Maria Salute. I spent quite a lot of time trying to capture the architectural detail. I was outside the 5* Hotel Danieli Gondala Station and a couple of gondoliers were most complimentary about my drawing - if I didnt have a plane to catch (and as tour leader...50 students to check in at the airport), I’d have tried to negotiate a trip in exchange for a drawing!

Great view!


Bikes and Cherries in the Free State

By Cathy Gatland in Clarens, Free State, South Africa

We took a drive last weekend to the small town of Clarens in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, known as an 'artist's haven' as so many live there, or visit regularly. Apparently it is also a biker's haven, as both times we have been, we've had these enormous growling, throbbing machines follow and overtake us all along the way there, and once in the village, parked outside the pubs and restaurants while the leather-clad, be-studded, tassled and tattooed riders mill around on the pavement and occupy tables not too far away from their beloved beasts. 

I first tried sketching the approaching road, but found it a bit stressful and decided to relax and enjoy the scenery - but grabbed a quick scribble at a 'pitstop' in Harrismith. It must be one of the prettiest places in S.A. to fill up and get coffee and a snack - rose bushes and flowers everywhere with sandstone mountains as a backdrop - bikers were here too so in they went - I didn't realise at that stage that my weekend's sketching would mostly feature these guys!

In Clarens, late afternoon and at the Brewery for a refreshing drink, I started sketching some wire sculptures outside the window, when more bikers arrived and I had a view of them through the doorway. I discovered that it was, in fact, the Harley-Davidson weekend in Clarens, and that the Steel Wings raise funds for Aids orphans and other charities. They did seem perfectly nice and normal once you got chatting (my husband chatted while I sketched) in spite of the rather intimidating outfits.
On Saturday I sketched at a wedding - a commission and the main purpose of our trip - though flattering to be asked, that was scary... a whole lot more pressure than picking your subject and it either working, or not. I'm still working on those!

This weekend is the annual Cherry Festival in nearby Ficksburg - we're missing that, but were delighted to find bucketloads of the perfect, glowing fruit being sold along the edge of the town square, and the cherry sellers happy to be drawn if I bought their wares, which I did in abundance.

Thumping exhausts alerted me to another group of bikers having breakfast across the square, so I found a spot behind the row of bikes and did another sketch while my husband watched cricket inside before they roared off, and we drove more sedately, back to the city,

East along the Thames

By James Hobbs, London, UK

Last Sunday, London's Urban Sketchers headed east along the river Thames to Trinity Buoy Wharf, the site of London's only lighthouse and much historic maritime activity, and now home to Container City, a studio and office complex created out of sea shipping containers. We were invited with other drawing groups by the Campaign for Drawing – the organisers of The Big Draw – to take part in a sketchcrawl and other drawing events in venues around the site.

Although the weather wasn't kind, the turnout was excellent, and the Fatboy Diner did a good trade with sheltering artists. Across the river stood the O2 Arena (the old Millennium Dome), where Federer and Djokovic were due to play in a World Tour final, and a thicket of never-ending dockland construction, while people moved slowly through the sky to the east in London's river-crossing cable car. 

It was an unlikely but popular venue, and one unknown even by many long-time London dwellers. It was great, as always, to meet up with our city's array of urban sketchers, and meet new ones. A show of drawings by artists shortlisted for the 2014 John Ruskin Prize continues there until 30 November. 

This is my biggest location drawing on the cloth

By Kumi Matsukawa, in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan

In October I went to Misaki fishing port, Kanagawa prefecture to sketch the view on the big cloth ( 1.25 X 3 meter). I applied newly learnt Kiah Kiean's Chinese ink method with watercolor wash. It was a bit windy day and I had to keep unfolding flipped edge time to time while drawing. It was an experimental attempt, I understand later that the cloth should have been washed before to be drawn ( It wasn't watercolor friendly state..) Anyway I enjoyed all the inconvenience and experience like playing a new game. The resulted work was too big to display in the house, so until recently I exhibit it in the gallery with some artists who also live in Kanagawa prefecture, I haven't been able to observe the whole look of it.

Now you can see it in the gallery until 24th (Monday) in the local gallery inside the Shopping mall called “Aeon mall Yamato Shopping center”near my place.

sketch on the big cloth
Half done with Chinese ink.

sketch on the big cloth

Misaki fishing port
The displayed view in the gallery.

November 21, 2014

Historic Illinois Route 66

Guest post by Adriana Gasparich
Joliet, Illinois, USA

I've heard so much about the famous Route 66; I know it crossed the United States from the Midwest to the West Coast, but .... does it still exist? In my quest to know, I found that part of the old road still exists and passes through nothing more and nothing else than Joliet, the next town from where I live. So on the first weekend of November, I drove there and south to sketch some of the roadside attractions in three different towns.

The first one was the Rich & Creamy Ice Cream Store in Joliet. Once my husband took me there when I first moved to the United States
. I wasn't impressed, I thought it was dated and old. With my limited knowledge about this country, I had little appreciation of what I was witnessing. That has changed.  Now I like anything vintage and that has history. I sat on the shade across the road, it was cold, but I captured the Blues Brothers on top.
20141101-Joliet IL Ice Cream Store Rt-66

Next day, Sunday, I headed south to the Village of  Dwight, Illinois. There's a beautiful historic place called the Ambler's Texaco Gas Station. I LOVED the vintage gas pumps. This time I wasn't going to let the cold weather get to me, so this smart girl parked the car with the trunk's window facing the building. I sketched in the trunk very comfortably and stayed warm. I love the result.
20141102-2-Dwight IL Ambler-Becker Texaco Gas station Rt-66
Finally I headed back north to the town of Wilmington to make a stop at this statue made of fiberglass, the Gemini Giant. Now a restaurant, it started as a stand selling only hot dogs. I believe old Route 66 is full of these giant statues, something in vogue then. I had a great weekend on Route 66.

20141102-1-Wilmington, IL Gemini Giant

Adriana Gasparich, originally from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, has lived in Joliet and, more recently, Shorewood, Illinois. She posts to Urban Sketchers Midwest Facebook, Urban Sketchers Chicago Facebook, and to her own blog, A blog about worded sketches.

Houses of Memories

By Eduardo Salavisa in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires and Rosario, Argentina

Do you know what Plan Condor was? According to the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón it was “a diabolic operation from some secret services, coordinated by CIA and by Latin American military dictatorships, destined to annihilate the left wing movements on the regions through the detection, elimination and disappearing of their elements”.

Since these countries (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay) democratized they deal with this past as well as they can: some better then others. Some cities were able to create “Houses of Memories” as didactic museums so that the generations do not forget and do not make the same mistakes again. When, last year, I travel through Latin America I was able to visit some.

There are touching places to visit in silence. The sketches below are also a way of remembering my visit to those places.

Santiago do Chile: Memory and Human Rights Museum

Buenos Aires: Memory Park: Monument to the victims of the State Terrorism

Rosario: Memory Museum 

November 20, 2014

The Beauty of Alexandria, Threatened by Development

By Sylvie Bargain in Alexandria, Egypt

I would like to tell you about a project that went well above the ordinary.
On occasion I've met sketchers who have lost a little of their motivation to draw. They've asked themselves the question, "What's it all for?" and have wondered if their sketchbooks truly reflect the country, the people and the personal encounters after a trip abroad. So when I met a group of people doing just that, I was very excited.

For a number of months, I had been in contact with Mohamed Gohar, the force behind "Description of Alexandria" .You can find out more on his blog. I decided to join them, in spite of the current less-than-ideal circumstances, and travelled to Alexandria on my own, where I met up with the group. I wasn't disappointed, and my time there was rich in meetings and in friendship: the drawing was a starting-point, to be sure, but it led to genuine friendships with certain members of the group.
Mohamed's project is ambitious, with many books in the pipeline, and the aim of it is as follows: "To document the vestiges of the cosmopolitan town through drawing and describing the urban and architectural elements with the aim of educating the public as to the rapid and unplanned development of Alexandria, in particular by profit-hungry developers, whose actions will change the face of Alexandria forever."

This is a city of silent contrasts: modern streets are juxtaposed with areas that make you wonder if an earthquake or war have just taken place. Back home in the calm of Cahors, I missed the incessant honking of cars, but above all I missed the laughter of my new friends.
So here are some of my sketches from Alexandria. They will be on display at the Rendezvous of Travel Sketchbooks at Clermont-Ferrand, for those whom I will have the pleasure of meeting.

Venetian buildings on the coast road

 Our group after drawing the Venetian buildings - that's me with the yellow sketchbook

 A boatyard on the beach

Alexandria Library

Roman Theatre

A bird mosaic and my Egyptian friend Mai

If you'd like to read more, I'm writing a daily reportage to keep my head there a little longer here.

Sylvie Bargain is based in Cahors and contributes to Urban Sketchers France. You can see more of her work on her fantastic blog at the above link.
Translated by Róisín Curé

November 19, 2014

Like a Bad Haircut

Guest Post by Tina Koyama
Seattle, Washington, USA

I have a love/hate relationship with utility poles and power lines. Stark and unattractive, they have certainly marred many otherwise scenic photos. At least as a sketcher, I can choose not to include them in a sketch. But if they are a prominent part of a cityscape, they seem to demand to be included. Ugly as they may be, they add a certain rhythm of lines, both vertical and horizontal. They are also inescapable.

Trees, in particular, are often hapless victims of power lines in Seattle. Standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, many tall trees get their limbs chopped away like a bad haircut. As I sketch them, I imagine how grand and beautiful the trees might have been if left to grow undisturbed. At the same time, I appreciate their silent dignity as their remaining branches negotiate with the straight, unyielding wires.

Shown here are some trees I’ve sketched in all seasons in various Seattle neighborhoods. All of them were sketched from my car – my all-weather mobile studio.

Tina Koyama is a Seattle native and active member of Seattle Urban Sketchers. She enjoys sketching outdoors when the weather allows and inside coffee shops and her car when it doesn’t.

Explore, Investigate and Communicate (Sharing Students' Works from Italy)

By Fred Lynch, Boston, Massachusetts

Explore, investigate and communicate - that's what my students do every July in my class called Journalistic Drawing in Italy. The results can be terrific, and, I hope you agree, worth sharing. No doubt, I'm lucky, because I get to work with a pretty remarkable group of students, mostly from Montserrat College of Art and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the two schools where I am a professor. (No, this is not an advertisement- sorry, this is a college course). This year, my colleague from both schools, Kelly Murphy, was my co-teacher.

The class explores much of what we refer to as “urban sketching,” but with a particular focus on drawing as a communication tool. Students learn the skills of drawing on-site and then use them to investigate their surroundings. As a final project, students explore a singular, narrow topic and aim to make personal works which share views, opinions and/or information. (Like my own work, the art is perhaps better understood as “urban drawing,” as much more time is spent on each work, and students may go beyond the long, on-site experience to form a more completed statement, if needed. That said, the works must act as evidence of the artist's “had-to-be-there” experience of working on-site.)

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 narrow themes. Creating works as a series promotes deeper investigations and artistic advancements. I hope you like them as much as I do.



Song Kang, a RISD student from Atlanta, Georgia, explored stonework in the medieval city of Viterbo to the extent that nothing else mattered.


Bronte Pirulli, a student at Montserrat College of Art, from Connecticut, explored the passages of light and space through the city's archways.

Ala Lee, a student at RISD from Seoul, Korea, focused on characters "chillin'" in public spaces.

Dong Min (Katie) Shin, from RISD and South Korea, communicated her thoughts as well as her observations as she sat in the city's public spaces.



Hans von Schroder, a RISD student from Bliestorf, Germany focused on the "open spaces between" in his cityscapes.

Natalie Fondriest, a duel degree student at Brown University and RISD, from Massachusetts, explored  the passages of time and movement through the city's piazzas.

More great works can be found on the course's blog: Drawing Viterbo.