USk Workshop

——> USkParaty Symposium is next month. There's still time to register!

July 23, 2014

Step-by-Step Drawing Example : Davis House Dot Plot


The other day I showed you a quick example of what I’m calling ‘Dot Plots’. I really need a better name for this. Maybe somebody who isn't such an autodidact can tell me what it's called? I came up with this on my own, but there is probably an official name for this trick.

Anyway -  I was out sketching the other day, and got another good example. Here's the step-by-step shots:


This is the first pass of the Dot Plot.

What I have here are a set of small dots and dashes that describe for me the roof line of my subject, and where the ground line falls. The two major perspective angles I need to know in order to fill in the ‘face’ of the building.

It’s just a matter of putting in a small mark wherever there is a corner or intersection. The peak of each cupola, the width of each column of windows. You can stop whenever you have enough measurements to see the silhouette. Once you've got the ‘box’, you can just pile the details inside.



Ta da! See how the building appears, simply by connecting the dots? This is what they mean when they say ‘work larger to smaller’.

It might be easier for beginners to do this in pencil. You can poke in a few of these tiny markers, and if a quick sight measuring check says they’re wrong you only have to erase a few dots, not a whole drawing. When I'm doing it like this in ink, if I mis-place one, I just ignore it, and put another in the right place. At the end of the drawing, you don't notice any stray marks.

I talk a fair bit about sight measuring in my upcoming book on sketching. (Sorry, sorry, relentless promotion. Baby needs a new pair of shoes). But, even while doing so, I try to give you the techniques to escape measuring as quickly as possible.

My philosophy is, learn to make measuring instinctive. It really should not become labor. That sucks all the fun out it. I don’t think anyone enjoys the measuring part of sketch. We’re in it for the excitement of the rapid scribble! The lightning fast impression. The measuring is only so we’re not disappointed later, coming home with an out of proportion sketch, or a drawing that's crammed into the corner of our page.


Personally, I’m aiming for the best of both worlds. A way to get just enough accuracy to keep my left brain happy, but to go fast enough to keep my right brain engaged.



14June01_On Location

By the way, this is Davis House. It’s in is in a great location on De La Montaigne where you can sketch five small buildings surrounding a cute little park. A real oasis for sketchers. If you’re ever in Montreal, and find yourself near McGill, you might like this spot. (MAP).

July 22, 2014

Sketching Georgetown 2, Penang

Sketching GeorgeTown 2
I am bringing you updates of our recent Sketching Georgetown event held in Penang from 5-7 July. This is the 2nd time USK Penang has organised the sketching event and what an overwhelming response this year. They were expecting only 120 participants but the number swelled to nearly 200 when registration opened. We had sketchers from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia and UK. This event also coincides with the annual Georgetown festival. We came together to sketch and celebrate this famous UNESCO town.
Sketching GeorgeTown 2 Morning light @ Lebuh Herriot Workshop E - Sketching Hawker Food Sketching Georgetown 2 (Sketching Hawker Food Workshop)
I had the privilege to teach a food sketching workshop during the 3 day event. Together with Whee Teck, we taught 20 participants about watercolour properties and how to do paint testing. We finished off by showing how to create interesting textures that can be quickly used for sketching delicious local food. There were 8 other workshops conducted by fellow Asian sketchers which took place during the 3 day event.
Sketching Georgetown 2, Penang Sketching Georgetown 2, Penang Armenian Street Old shophouses @ Lebuh Tye Sin
The atmosphere throughout the 3 days was electric. We did not want to stop sketching. I had a blast and so glad to part of this big sketching family. Thank you KK and Khoo from USK Penang for being such good host and organisers.

July 21, 2014

Nudist Colony or Butterfly Garden?

Zoro Garden, a sunken stone grotto garden that was designed as a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition. It is now a butterfly garden containing both the larvae and nectar plants needed for the complete life cycle of butterflies.

The Zoro Garden is located in Balboa Park, San Diego, California and was the meeting place of a weekday sketch group I attend every month.

Spring travel log

This spring we completed our old plan - travel to Mediterranean via Paris and spend there at least couple of days.

So I succeeded to fulfill my old dream to sketch Paris roofs. This is one of them. From hotel window.

A little history in Detroit

Not too long ago, I was on a whirlwind project in Detroit. I had the pleasure of staying in The Inn on Ferry- a series of renovated and re-imagined historic houses. I had just enough time to make a fleeting impression of the charming outsides. They whispered stories yet untold in that ever-evolving city.

July 20, 2014

Sketcher-in-residence in Civita di Bagnoregio

By Stephanie Bower

It's been about three weeks since I arrived in Italy from Seattle, and I am now settling into the tiny, ancient hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio, a short distance north of Rome. The Italians refer to Civita as il paese che muore ("the town that is dying"), as the soil erosion around the town of only eight permanent residents has left it isolated and virtually in the clouds.

The Civita Institute (, a non-profit based in Seattle, helps to support the town and sends people here with study fellowships each year. I'm in Civita for two months with the Astra Zarina Fellowship, to teach a sketching workshop and create a much-needed illustrated architectural walking guide to the town, before heading to the USk Symposium in Brazil.

Thousands of visitors show up in Civita each year, walk from one end to the town in only a few minutes, and have no idea that they are walking an ancient 2,500-year-old Etruscan road, enjoying an espresso in a Roman forum, or meandering through tiny medieval streets. No cars here, as access is across a narrow, steep bridge, and until recently, donkeys were the primary transport. Walking the town, one is transported back to medieval Italy, and the views out to the landscape are nothing short of breathtaking.

I'll be making a few guest posts to this blog in the coming weeks, taking photos of my sketches with my camera... I hope you will follow my adventure!


Stephanie Bower is a correspondent of Urban Sketchers Seattle. See more of her work on her website, blog and flickr.

Splash in the Fountain in Downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles group met at Grand Park for 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. This park features a fountain that shoots up water at random intervals. Many people were dressed in casual, colorful clothes, and kids in swimsuits were playing in the water on this lovely summer day. It's probably easier to let the kids play in the water here if you live far from the beach!

I had to leave early, so I only had about an hour total to chat with other artists and sketch - so here is my result. This sketch started as watercolor study of two ladies in dresses in the foreground, and I decided to added more elements whenever I saw something that interests me - kids sitting in the water, parents taking photos, a boy with a hooded towel with a green dinosaur design, bright pink chairs - the scale is off as a result, but I enjoyed splashing colors around on the page. White spots are made with correction fluid pen.

Shiho Nakaza "Los Angeles" summer "Grand Park" sketching sketchcrawl watercolor pen people park kids

A Farewell to Barns

covell blvd barn, davis CA
Davis, CA: And then it was gone forever. Anybody who has lived in Davis will probably know this familiar sight, an old barn, in a great state of disrepair, standing lonely in a field just off the northern edge of Covell Boulevard. For years we drove by it, and ever since my son was old enough to talk he was telling me I need to sketch that barn, have you sketched that barn, you gotta sketch that barn. It's near where I live, it's iconic, and yet I, well, never found the time. Always some complaint about it being too sunny, not enough shade, not really on my way anywhere, all the usual excuses. Then one overcast Sunday morning in March I decided to cycle the five minutes from my house in north Davis and sit opposite for forty-five minutes out of of my day with a sketchbook. It isn't much to ask. It's a sad building, but heroic in its own way.  Sure, it's falling apart and looks in no fit state for any real use, but it has that thing you cannot buy, character. Amid all the development, this barn waved a fist at the sky and said yeah, take one step closer and I'm gonna, well, you get idea. There's a brand new housing development being built next door, the Cannery, and this part of Davis is about to get a whole lot busier. Four months on from drawing this, we drove by today, and there was no barn. It was gone, forever. Well, said my son, it's a good job you sketched it. Just in time. He's not wrong. Goodbye, old barn.
by Pete Scully

sketches related with Ferry disaster

yellow ribbon, Cheonggyecheon, 38 x 26.5 cm

38 x 26.5 cm

Ferry Sewol was sunken on last April 16. 100th day is coming on July 24th. Death toll is 294 among 476 passengers including 325 students of Danwon high school for school trip; missing persons are 10 for now and 172 persons were saved. Families of victims ask a special bill to probe the cause demonstrating in front of Blue house and national assembly. Even the alive 38 students kept walking during two days from their school to the national assembly requesting not to forget their friends and to know why their friends had died by the adults' greed for money and failure in saving system of government. 
People cherished the victims in heart hanging yellow ribbons in streets. At the entrance of Cheonggyecheon stream near Gwanghwamun not far from the Blue house I sketched two pieces a month later on May 19th. 

Among the victims there was a girl student, Park Ye-seul. It was known that she wished to be a designer and had kept drawing since kid. Seochon gallery opened her little exhibit under the title of "Dream of Ye-seul" from July 4th to no-time-limit. Last Friday I went to see her works and sketched two as following. So many students filled small gallery. People visited endlessly leaving signatures on the signing book for the passing of the bill. A young volunteer in the gallery asked me to promote all about the disaster to people giving me yellow ribbon badge. I put it on my shirt at once. 

Girl students were writing letters to her for long. 

Her shoe designs came to real by the shoe maker. 

We all hoped her dream come true with all these wishes shining on window.

Back to home and sketch the food as usual

Back home after winter vacations and sketch food again.

What else? Wait for the next vacation?

Oot and Aboot


Out and about sketchcrawling with a buddy from the old gaming days.  We went into this little place on a whim - could hear the music from the open balcony. Sat right up front to sketch the band, which ended up meaning we sat at their table. So we showed them their sketches and hung out.


The ladies at the bar were less cool with being sketched. Got the cold shoulder when they saw it. I guess in this setting, 'acting sketchy' gets you classed with other stalkers. Or maybe it's just not a flattering drawing.  Oh well, can't win them all.


Bertrams Inner City Farm on Mandela Day

The 18th of July is commemorated in South Africa and around the world as Mandela Day (his birthday) where people are called to spend 67 minutes of their time - one minute for every year of Mandela's public service - making a difference and helping to change the world around them for the better. At Bertrams Inner City Farm, on abandoned bowling greens, a group called Bambanani grow organic vegetables to feed local communities and to sell at markets. Volunteers were invited to come and spend their 67 minutes helping to mulch, rake, weed and plant here or at other food gardens scattered around the city - on rooftops and in the suburbs or even on your own pavement (sidewalks!) so that the hungry can help themselves.
I went with a friend intending to dig, plant and water after sketching, but we arrived a bit late in the day and by the time I finished drawing, everyone was packing up to go home - but I have a pile of compost and a spot in the garden so hopefully will have a patch of veggies ready for a spring harvest and for sharing too!

July 19, 2014

Pizza Studio

The Pizza Studio is located in The Spreckels Building in the Gaslamp area of San Diego, California. The building which opened in 1912, was constructed to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. My drawing was done in the outside seating area of the Pizza Studio while on an meetup with the San Diego Urban Sketchers Meetup Group.

July 17, 2014

The Poetry of Speed Sketching

By Barbara Weeks

A Japanese poetry form, haiku, focuses on moments in the environment and connects them to the human condition. They are concise, using only the number of syllables that can be said in one breath. They are expressive, capturing those fleeting moments for us to appreciate. Sounds like Urban Sketching to me!

Many of us urban sketchers carry a small sketchbook with us wherever we go. We capture fleeting moments of our days while waiting in line, catching a quick cup of coffee, on the train or bus. Whenever and wherever we can, we draw our connection with the world around us. There is a need to be fast and concise!


1. Think Small - about the size of a credit card or smaller.

This is a 2.25” x 2” sketch of the view from Starbucks in the Presidio in San Francisco. It's the Place of Fine Arts. I scribbled a few lines while I waited in line and threw on the color when I got back to my car. Pencil and watercolor. Total Time: 3 minutes

2. Keep It Simple - avoid details and the need for perfection. Think simple shapes and values.
This is a 3” x 4.5” (a little bigger than a credit card) sketch expressing a bitter cold evening at Navy Pier in Chicago. Simple shapes and 3 values. Pencil and watercolor. Time: 5 minutes

3. Focus - what catches your attention? Pin point your subject.

About 1” x 2.5” sketches done during a long airport wait for a rental car. Continuous line drawing–I filtered out the chaos all around me and focused on the disgruntled and bored people sitting across from me. Gray, fine point Sharpie. Time: 1.5 minutes each

Hint: If you spend more than five minutes on these small sketches you may be putting in too much detail.


1. Focus

2. Improved drawing skills

3. Increased spontaneity and freshness in your sketches

4. Rapid planning of ideas for larger sketches or future paintings

5. Great for fast travel sketching, especially when traveling with non-sketchers

6. Confidence

7. They're fun

About 2.5” wide sketches done in the car on a road trip to Ohio. Continuous line, 4 values, simple shapes, watercolor and pencil. Time: I don’t remember but they helped make the long ride go quickly!

Poetry of speed sketching –capturing fleeting moments in time and recording a reaction to them. I call them Tone Poems.

This article was originally posted on Urban Sketchers Chicago.

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Sesimbra is a small fishing town in Portugal, south of Lisboa.
We met there for the 60th USkPortugal meeting.
First we draw on the fish market. Lots of different models.
Of course we had a lunch of grilled fresh fish.
Later we went to the shipyards.
It was a great meeting, full of sketchers and sketches.