August 23, 2014

Local “Bon-odori ”dance festival was held at the nearest playground

It is not such a fantastic, big event. It is just a mere local and small dance festival called Bon-odori. Even though it is called a dance festival, there were fewer dancers dancing on the stage... It seems that no kids were interested in dancing this kind of old style dance at least this neighborhood. When I was a small kid, I used to love to clime up on the stage whenever one of my favorite dance musics were played... Anyway people come and enjoy this once a year occasion by buying festive food, drinks, meeting friends, and finding lottery result at the end of the festival.

Bon orori dance festival -1

Bon orori dance festival -2

August 22, 2014

Flickr Weekly Theme August 4 - August 10: Monsters

Monsters make for an interesting theme, sometimes it seems like monsters are every where! Just the scenes we try to capture can quickly turn monstrous. I would believe everyone has that thing or place they want to capture or have chosen not to just for the fear of it. Below are some great sketches of monsters found in the Urban Sketchers landscape or in the process of drawing.
You can see the complete set of submissions here .  As well, check out last weeks theme of Gazebos, Bandstands and other park and Garden structures , or participate in this weeks theme of Reflections.

My Summer Location Drawing Class at AAU, San Francisco (Pt 7: Chinatown)


A pigeon poop splats on my boot heel as I'm drawing Chinatown's Dragon Gate entrance on Grant Street, thankfully missing my book. I look down to notice that, here against the wall under the eaves, I'm surrounded by dozens of white sidewalk spots. Do I move? Are you kidding? I'm in the middle of a drawing. I put on a wide brimmed hat and pick up the pace. Two shopkeepers are cursing across the street at each other and I wonder who buys this stuff? A giant bronze tortoise on the sidewalk next to me, somehow free of guano, whole landscapes in burlwood and supposed ivory tusk. This is the second Chinatown, rebuilt in a theatrically orientalist style, all dragon lanterns and Edwardian chinoiserie, rising phoenixlike to draw in the tourists after the original burned down in the great quake. Still, it is the most densely populated neighborhood of the city, and said to be the largest Chinese community outside of China.

Portsmouth square is a good place to watch and draw the local residents, who don't seem to mind the scrutiny. I've drawn the old folks and their ever shifting cardgames in this plaza many times, but this time, after our midday meeting, a group portrait of my students - or many of them anyway - presented itself and I couldn't resist. Next: the San Francisco zoo.

berlin late summer day
On a late summer day in Berlin

- Olga Prudnikova

August 21, 2014

Meet the Correspondent: Gail Wong > Seattle, USA

Hi, I am Gail Wong, an architect, educator and illustrator with roots California but now a long time resident of Seattle, WA. My interest in art and drawing began in my youth and I have used it on and off throughout my career. With the incorporation of digital drawing in architecture I found myself spending more time drawing at my computer and less time drawing on paper. My passion for sketching for pleasure and recording the urban environment around me developed more recently since teaching a Summer sketching class at University of Washington in 2007. Joining Seattle Urban Sketchers in 2009 gave me a group to consistently sketch with and a way to ultimately share my drawings with other people. It has truly changed and enriched my life.

I primarily work in ink and water color and rarely use a pencil underlay. I love the spontaneity and directness of the initial line work. I find it hard to recapture that if working first in pencil then inking later. The character of a space and quality of light is what entices me to draw a place. Drawing people is my nemesis but realizing how much people enliven a scene I continue to work on that!

I have included two sketches that represent the history and quirkiness of Seattle. The first one is of the Montlake Bridge near the University District. Seattle is surrounded by waterways and there are draw bridges everywhere. This particular bridge is in my neighborhood and is celebrating its 90th birthday next year.

The second one is a sketch of the Hat and Boots originally built as a Cowboy themed gas station in 1954 named Premium Tex. The Orange Hat topped the gas station’s office and the Boots housed the men and women’s bathrooms. Closed in 1988 it went to disrepair until it was relocated to Oxbow Park in Georgetown, Seattle in 2003.

I am looking forward to sharing my work on the main USk Blogsite.

Gail's blog.
Gail's sketches on flickr.

A Treat for the Senses: McCambridge's Restaurant and Delicatessen, Galway City

McCambridge's in Galway has to be one of my favourite shops. I don't go in half as much as I should. If I want something special, I go there: last week my sister and I bought a wonderful lunch of grilled artichokes, olives, artisanal Irish cheese, organic smoked salmon and sourdough bread there. The minute you walk into the shop, the smell cloaks you in comfort. It's the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, dried sausage, cheese...well actually I don't know what the smell is but it's great.

It's been a fixture on High St in Galway for about a hundred years and is still owned by the same family. It's great to see it doing so well - I remember back in my college days I would get these amazing sandwiches in McCambridge's (beetroot and Emmental on ciabatta, mmmm). Me and my classmates would eat them by the rushing water of the River Corrib, and now I buy Easter eggs for my children there.

I felt like knocking out a sketch on Galway's High Street today, but the intermittent rain put paid to that (plus I had forgotten my little stool so my sketching spot was going to be defined by whatever bench was nearby). Then I saw McCambridge's and thought I'd draw from within. I settled down with my coffee and off I went.

I love this sketching business. The coffee bar where I was sitting was jam-packed with people getting lunch, and I overheard snippets of all kinds of conversation, from the diners to my left and right, to the lovely French girls behind the bar. The only problem was my new Schminke watercolour set: I was trying out my new full-pan big set, and it was much too big for the tiny space I had. Eventually I knocked everything over, and my jar of mucky paint water went everywhere.

I saw something quite touching as I sketched: I heard an exclamation, and the lad with the beard was giving a great big hug to another chap. I thought it was a girl at first, because the hug was so affectionate. Then I overheard the bearded lad telling one of the French girls behind the bar that so-and-so was back from his travels, and I realised that the guy he had bear-hugged was a colleague in the shop. It was so sweet to see such camaraderie amongst the staff.

I bought some amazing pesto, a couple of artichokes and some stuffed vine leaves, and after all my sketching I was very hungry. I walked out into the pouring rain and because everyone had fled to the shelter of the shop entrances, I figured no one would notice if I wolfed the vine leaves right there on the street. But it was really pouring and I remembered that there was a dress I wanted to try on: the very nice shop assistant was not going to be happy to let a drowned rat put on one of her dresses. So I joined the tourists and Galwegians under the awnings, finding lots of room in front of a bookshop opposite Lynch's Castle, where AIB Bank is now. A soldier was standing beside me - on duty during a money transfer - and he smiled indulgently as two little kids fondled his gun (I kid you not).

(The dress was much too small. I resembled a certain sister in Cinderella trying to get the zip up, which was very sad as it was black cotton, with a russet-toned cowgirl print all over it, beautifully cut.)

McCambridge's has recently added a restaurant on the second floor. It's really cool and the food is super. I had lunch there with my sister earlier this year and we both sketched. She drew the cake stand: she gave me the sketch and I treasure it.

I loved those two old boys having lunch - they must have been friends for years as they talked for ages. I haven't done the restaurant justice at all: oh well, I shall have to go back, choose something from the table covered in goodies, and do another one. Next time I'll show it in all its finery....if that's possible when it's covered in cake crumbs.

Making summer memories with my nephew

Family and friends rarely visit us in Seattle. Most of them live just too far away, either on the East Coast or Spain. But this summer, we hit the jackpot with a special guest. Our nephew Seth, a 19-year-old journalism student at Ohio University, stayed with us for almost three months. He spent his time here well, working at a deli and doing some freelance writing and photography. And whenever he had free time and we weren't at work ourselves, we took him to as many places as we could. Below are some of the sketchbook pages I filled recording our time spent together. We miss him already!

Fishermen's Terminal and the Fremont Troll.

Snoqualmie Falls.

Folk Life Festival at Seattle Center.

Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C.

Go Bags Go: Field Sketching Kits for the Brazil Symposium

It’s last minute packing time before the symposium.

I’ve been waffling back and forth over what to bring. There was a time I was willing to carry the kitchen sink, but these days my 40 year old neck is telling me to pack light.


[The old me, in Santo Domingo with a huge tripod easel]

Experience from last year in Barcelona suggests being attentive to ‘bag security’ while in Brazil. There were a number incidents of theft from distracted sketchers. Mostly phones and tablets. This is easy enough to avoid. Just don’t bring those items. But, in any crowded city, my general policy is: never put your bag down, never spread your stuff out, be able to walk away at any time. This is not just paranoia, it’s handy for staying out of the way of traffic, avoiding panhandlers, dodging police, etc.

So, here’s what I've settled on. The plan requires two bags actually.


Go Bag Watercolor! 14 Liter 34x26x14cm Cocotte FRED. Loaded weight 11lbs.

CONTENTS: A: Sirui tripod, B: Eric Michaels tripod accessory tray, C: 6 - 11x14” Coroplast drawing boards (thus, 12 sheets of paper – more than enough for a day – typical over-packing!), D: brush case full of too many brushes (I will probably only use the #10 round), E: Holbein 12 slot tin palette, F: 250 ml Nalgene water jar (optionally x2 - will see if I need more), G: bag of bulldog clips for dogging down boards,  H: Moleskine mini-sketchbook (removed)  I: pouch with paper towels, eyeglass cleaner, J: pouch with black and sepia washable ink (removed), 60ml water bottle for ‘kung fu grip’ and misting bottle. K: sun screen, sun sleeves and scarf (yes, I'm over doing the sun safety - but now that I’m outdoors ‘full time', better safe than sorry). There’s even space remaining for a water bottle.

You'll note the absence of any drawing supplies. This my minimum kit for watercolor. If I bring pens, I'm going to end up drawing :) I just like drawing too much. But mainly I want to be able to grab the bag and go, knowing I'm set up for watercolor. This is the way my creativity works: I set up a project for the day, and do ONLY that. Otherwise I'd be bouncing around and never finish anything.


Go Bag Sketching!  6 Liter 27x19x12cm Cocotte FRIDA. Loaded weight 4.6lbs.

CONTENTS: A: Hand Book 8x8” watercolor sketchbook and coroplast backing boards. B: pouch with tin boxes of (way too many!) pen cartridges and pencil leads (what is wrong with me? it's not like I'm going to run out this many times! Security blanket behavior!), black and white gouache, kneaded eraser, C: mini-kit of W&N half-pan watercolors and #10 DaVinci sable travel brush (don't know what I'll do if this wears out/gets lost - I bought it back when I had a job!), D: pencil box with Lamy Safari fountain pen, 0.7mm pencil, Kuretake #13 brush pen, E: Tachikawa nib holder and various nibs, F: Pouch with 30ml bottles of black and sepia (washable) ink, 60ml water bottles, sun screen, sun sleeves and scarf. G: That's not really there. Combined with H.

If I can manage it, (convenience/willpower) I might do all my drawing with the dip nibs, allowing me to ditch all those pen cartridges. That would be nice. I could lose all the tin boxes and probably save an entire pound.


August 20, 2014

Costa Rica. Part 3 and 4

I'm rolling up part 3 and part 4 of my Costa Rica reportage together. That doesn't do two incredibly beautiful places,- the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio National Park- justice, but it just might help me pack in time to get to Paraty for the 5th International Urban Sketchers Symposium!

Getting to the cloud forest in Monteverde involves a ferry ride across Lake Arenal, a huge manmade lake that once generated 70% of Costa Rica’s electricity.

The cloud forest is like something out of a dream. The mist never clears and it never truly stops raining. There are a million layers and textures of vegetation, and every imaginable shade of green. Trees compete for light, and are covered in bromeliads and mosses and are taken over by strangler figs and fungi. This is a guide at the Monteverde cloud forest, setting up his scope to look at birds in a nearby tree.

And maybe I just won't learn, because I attempted to sketch yet another waterfall in the rain. And, like many other drawings, it got seriously splashed on, but didn't wash away...

After 10 days of rain-without-a-break, we went to the relatively dry (what's a couple of thundershowers everyday?) Pacific Coast near Manuel Antonio National Park.
These were our last days in Costa Rica and we spent lots of time at a quiet little cove called Playa Biesanz where the ocean was as calm as a pool and there were more locals than tourists. At Manuel Antonio the forest comes right down to the beach and the ocean is dotted with little green islands.

Like every other place in Costa Rica, what fascinated me most was the vegetation. The forest is everywhere, and always on the verge of taking over the little patches of man made landscape.
Some trees I drew: The Banana Tree

And a tree we called the ‘Sloth tree’. Almost every sloth we spotted (and we spotted a lot of them) was in this tree. And yes, this is another sketch that a thundershower played a big part in shaping.

When you live right at the edge of the forest, the iguanas join you for breakfast. This guy waited patiently by us while we ate breakfast on the patio. He was just there for the crumbs. For a black spiny tailed iguana, he was small at about 2 feet long.

I could go on and on, and post so many more sketches of amazing Costa Rica. But I'll leave you with a Costa Rican toast and a Costa Rican beer. Pura Vida!

 More sketches from Costa Rica here on my blog, or, all the sketches and none of the commentary in this flickr set.

The Buzz and Liveliness of Covent Garden

3 Rickshaws Covent Garden
I have known Covent Garden since 1999 when I first came back to London after 19 years of being away from the place. It was first place I attended an interview to be a School Representative of African Arts Centre which used to be at Covent Garden and still has a new location but different from where I attended the interview.

I sketched this place with Liz Steel when she visited London about 2 years ago, and ever since then I've always wanted to go back and sketch there.

It's such a busy place, with people of all works of life moving up and down, its crazy! There is a certain buzz to the place.

So I went out to capture a bit of that buzz and liveliness!

I sat down on the floor to do the sketch below, as I sketched from a more relaxed view at Mark & Spencers for the Sketch above.

I've know Covent for years but sketching it made me appreciate it even more.

The Buzz of Covent Garden

Urban swimming

One cool thing about Stockholm is that the water is clean enough that you can take a swim right in the middle of the city. It feels a bit unreal to swim so close to where the boats and ferries are, seeing wellknown landmarks from the surface of the water. There are a few small sandy beaches, and quite a lot of cliffs to go to if you want to cool off in the summer.

There is still a lot of work to be done about the environment here, as in most other cities, but we´ve come a long way from the 60´s, when the water was too dirty to even dip your toe in.

Meet the Correspondent: Teoh Yi Chie > Singapore

I'm Teoh Yi Chie from Singapore. I'm also known as Parka online from my website, a blog where I post my sketches, art book reviews and some musings. My exposure to art was through comics I read when I was a kid. Since then, I have always been interested in art. I never had any formal art training and sketching is a hobby I picked up only in recent years.

I started sketching regularly after joining the Urban Sketchers Singapore group in 2009. Since then, I've learned a lot about the art of sketching and the places I've been to. I've also made many friends along the way – both sketching and non-sketching friends. It's great fun to hang out with people who share the same interest and enthusiasm.

What I like about sketching is that you get to connect with the place or the person that you draw. I'm able to remember more vividly things that I've sketched. That's a bonus when it comes to sketching overseas; I can remember places and events without having to refer to photographs. You know that heightened sense of awareness you get when you're overseas or visiting some place new? I get that when sketching, and maybe that's why I feel like I'm on holiday whenever I'm doing it.

My preferred medium is ink and watercolour. My favourites are technical pens for their predictable, uniform lines, and I have a small, portable, 12-pan set of watercolours. It's a lightweight and versatile combination that I've been using for years. Recently, I've been trying other media to experience drawing in another way.

Parka's sketches on his blog.
Parka's sketches at Urban Sketchers Singapore.

After I kept drawing illustrations for hours, this is how I spent waiting time in an office

I was asked to come to an office to draw illustrations for an advertising company at around 20:00 pm.
Then I finished the assignment there at around 1:30 am. It was way past midnight and I was a bit fatigued, but they requested me to stay a little while there while they confirmed that all the necessary drawings were properly done and there was no missing piece.During this waiting time, what could I do except sketching the environment I was forced to stay. Nearly forty minutes later they set me free. After all I always enjoy drawing regardless it is working time or waiting time...

in a office

All ready for Brazil

There is no doubt that getting your sketch kit together is a good feeling when packing for a symposium. So here is mine (any questions go here). Still a lot to do as I leave early tomorrow morning. I am pleased it is a mere 18 hours of flying time to get from Sydney to Sao Paulo. (often it is in excess of 24 hours flying - 40 hours door to door)

I am really looking forward to my workshop Feeling the Edges and last month found a local church that has similar characteristics to the building that will be the subject of my tacile approach to sketching architecture.
Here is a photo of my planning .... and a sneak peak at my handout
I know many people are not able to make it this year  (will miss you all terribly!) so don't forget to follow the hashtag #uskparaty2014
I will be posting at a regular rate as much as I can - sharing my work, where I am and who I am with. So if you want to follow me please do.
Facebook LizSteel Flickr LizSteelArt Twitter lizsteelart Instagram lizsteelart 

And also if you pop over to my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the next 3 weeks I have pre-scheduled a few "Rewind! Symposium" posts during my absence. Looking back on what I got out of the previous symposiums (I am one of the select few that have been to all of them)

Safe travels everyone heading for Paraty! See you soon!

August 19, 2014

Meet the Correspondent: Bruno Agnes > Montélimar, France

I am a landscape architect, I live and work in the south of France, in Montélimar along the Rhône Valley between Lyon and Marseilles. I am also a co-founder of the French USk group I have been hosting since its beginning and a USk France Blog correspondant.

I have drawn since my childhood and naturally I turned to the artistic and technical education (Fine Arts school, Leo Marschûtz school and then Landscape architecture in Aix en Provence, land of Paul Cezanne.)

Drawing and drawing again allowed me to gain some mastery that has long been a personnal challenge, a kind of race toward a well done job...

Today I have discovered a real pleasure in playing with blunders and blemishes. In order to master drawing, I had to be extremely patient only to find out in the end that the sum and substance are out of control...

Sketching is —for myself— a vector for journeys and discovery (foreign countries, other French areas.) It is also a way to meet people and sahre ideas: linguistic and social borders seem to disappear when I draw. The wonder of a child in front of my drawing is a wonderful gift.

When I draw, my personal time stops: I am one with space, it is an inner immersion.

My job naturally led me to draw monuments and landscapes, but I recently discovered other interesting topics: cars, everyday scenes...

For my sketches I use calibrated pens and my palette consists of warm colors that are as close as possible to our local color and light

Thus, beyond the sketch, thanks to the colors I try to capture the change in the light ... and life ...