August 26, 2014

My Summer Location Drawing Class at AAU, San Francisco (Pt 8: the san francisco zoo)

I had never been to the SF Zoo, though I had just been to the Denver zoo a few weeks before with my buddy Adam, who, back in the day, used to visit the zoo in Sacramento with me where we'd see extraordinary things - steam rising off the haunches of mating zebras in winter, gibbons pausing their brachiating, transfixed by floating bubbles, and that one time passing by the tiger enclosure when a tiger spied us from across the yard and came bounding for us, smacking with a mighty leap into the chain link fence (!) mere inches from Adam, giving him a rare view of what few have ever seen and lived to tell. Nothing so colorful happened this time, but a fine day was had. It was San Francisco resident day, so most of the students got in free. I headed for the megafauna, wanting to draw some rhinos. The big greater one-horned here took a few passes as he kept moving around. Someties if there are several animals together, you can draw one and then another as they change positions, and keep several sketches going at the same time. Alternately, if a more solitary animal, you might have to wait until it comes around again to a similar pose. Drawing at the zoo brings out the historical naturalist in me, I try to get both the essence and the details down, as though I am seeing these creatures for the first time and reporting for a wondering audience back home.

We ran into my friend and colleague Mark Simmons who draws at the zoo quite often and who gave us good tips about where to go at what times to see feedings, presentations and petting opportunities, and shared his current zoo sketchbook with us. I spent a while watching the grizzly bears, playful,  majestic, and primal, swimming and cavorting behind thick walls of glass. If I really were a naturalist back in the day, I could never get so close to draw so much. So many more wonders than I got a chance to draw, I'll have to come back. Next: the Cable Car Museum.

Riding the 1920 Carousel in Balboa Park, San Diego

"The 1910 Balboa Park Carousel, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, is a menagerie of animals and all but two pairs are original with hand-carved European craftsmanship. This carousel is one of the few in the world still offering the brass ring game for everyone taking ride."

My friends and I sketched outside the San Diego Zoo before the carousel opened. This was a little secluded spot across from the Otto Center in Balboa Park.

All Sponsors Announced for 2014 Symposium


For Release August 26, 2014

Urban Sketchers Announces All Sponsors for 2014 Urban Sketching Symposium 

This week over 200 urban sketchers from around the globe will converge on Paraty, Brazil, for the 5th Urban Sketching Symposium. The 4-day event is organized by Urban Sketchers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the art of on-location drawing. Beginning on Wednesday afternoon, sketchers will discover Paraty as they explore materials, techniques and concepts of drawing on location from direct observation.

This event is made possible in part by working with the following sponsors:

Platinum Level
We are pleased to welcome PEN.UP as a Symposium sponsor for the first time this year.
PEN.UP is a creative social network service that allows you to share images and pictures with other users. PEN.UP has also scheduled a meet-up during the Symposium, where they will demonstrate drawing with a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

Gold Level
Cretacolor is sponsoring the Urban Sketcher Symposium this year for the second time. Made by Brevilliers, Cretacolor pencils are part of a 150-year-old tradition in the making of pencils. Cretacolor has prepared a set of six pencils as giveaways for Symposium attendees, packed in a practical metal box with the Paraty Symposium logo.

Moleskine has been our partner for many years as a Symposium sponsor. Moleskine and Urban Sketchers share a love of the analog approach of recording what we see in a notebook, and the digital approach of sharing online. Moleskine has also provided sketchbooks for Symposium attendees.

We are pleased to welcome Strathmore as a Symposium sponsor again this year. Strathmore has been making paper products in the United States since 1892.

Silver Level
We are happy to introduce new sponsor Super5, a fountain pen from the format-creative workshop in Darmstadt, Germany. Attendees will receive their own Super5 pen, and various inks will be available for testing.

Bronze Level
Cretacolor’s sponsorship was made possible with kind support by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

Laloran joins us as a sponsor again this year by providing sketchbooks handmade in Portugal.

Casa do Artista, an art supply store based in São Paulo, has provided sketchbooks and pens for Symposium attendees.

In addition to providing materials for participants, many of these sponsors contribute funds that go toward airfare and lodging for instructors and staff, all of whom volunteer their time to the Symposium.

More than 200 sketching enthusiasts will gather for hands-on sketching workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and sketch crawls in Paraty. Sketchers will gather at host institution Casa da Cultura. The workshops and activities are led by an influential team of local and international artists, listed on the Symposium site,

Urban Sketchers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing; promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Elizabeth Alley, Events Director


Amongst the tombstones

A sketch-crawl through the vast Peidmont Cemetery. From the top there are beautiful vistas across the Bay Area with downtown Oakland, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.  The layout of the cemetery has lovely swooping curves like the shape of an artist's palette. There are some incredible tombs like the pyramid visible on the left of the picture below.

This was my 'warm-up' study. I'd seen George Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' recently and was on the look out for zombies!

Down at the main gate these old Navy veterans were entering the chapel for a memorial service. They each had a rifle which they fired in salute. I couldn't resist trying to capture them in their neat uniforms.

How I spent my summer vacation: Scaling the Alberta Rockies


One of my old art school chums has become a serious rock climber in the years we've been away. On a recent trip back home, she invited us to join her climbing buddies for a day at Grassi Lakes, above Canmore AB.



The ladies were doing rapid scrambles up 35 feet of vertical rock faces, taking only five or six minutes top to bottom, testing themselves against different routes and difficulties. Sometimes ‘hang dogging’ or ‘taking a whipper’ – but mostly making it look easy.

My friend led her first 5.10d pitch on that day, which was cool to be there to see. Much appropriate high-fiving and who-hooing all around.

I think this group of climbing vets wouldn't normally choose this kind of spot. I get the feeling it’s a lot closer to civilization than they prefer. They’d quite generously picked a place I could hike into without raising my heart rate.

We started early, initially having the spot to ourselves, but by mid-day the walls were crawling with climbers.


There are lanes of bolts set in to the walls, every 20 feet or so around the upper lake, making what I can’t help calling a vertical bowling alley out of the box canyon.

Every pitch was in use. There were old pro’s showing new guys the ropes – (hah! Literally!), hard core mountaineers with ratty dreadlocks and well used gear, next to city people in super hero lycra and matching harnesses. At the foot of the wall patient crag dogs waited, people prepped lunch, (we had smoked sausages, that I bet smell *great* to bears), and significant others swam in the lake while their buff-er partners clung to the rocks. Or mostly, swapped stories and waited their turn.

You have to wonder how long the rock faces will stand up to such popular use. But I guess, this is the way of things. I can see the climbers love the mountains, and people try to be responsible. But at the same time, it seems there’s no stopping the growth of sport climbing in the Rockies. Every year it’s just going to get bigger. I suppose it will push the good climbing further out into the parks – and then there will be heli-climbing. You can’t stop people getting at the thing they love. Which I have respect for in its own way, given what I do.


I’m always excited (and a bit nervous) to sketch something like this. Something I haven't seen before. Doubly so, when it’s something that won't hold still for you. You never lose the concern you’ll flounder, be unable to capture what’s happening.

But I think the very new-ness of the thing, the fact you've never drawn it before, makes you hyper focused. Plus the pressure to live up to the occasion. The drawings might not be as polished as with more familiar, or more standing-still subjects, but they’re always a living record of a new experience.





Trees under threat

Málaga, Alameda Principal

A city is always in the need of new underground structures or equipment: pipelines, parkings, tunnels... and here they are, just in the way. Trees.

A brand new subway has recently been opened in Málaga. A new line is being planned under the Alameda, a wide avenue shaded by a group of 150-year-old ficus trees. Experts from the engineering office responsible for the design guarantee the trees will not suffer any harm at all; some groups of citizens disagree and fear for the future of this old beauties that give such a strong personality to this place and provide an effective shelter in hot summer afternoons.

Not far from there, the Paseo de España was involved not long ago in a major city plan that would build a trench to lower the lanes and hide them from the surface. Of course this would imply that the double plane tree row would be gone; in that case plans were finally descarded.

Issues like this one arise from time to time and everywhere... the balance between progress and heritage becomes often difficult. 

Málaga, Paseo de los Curas

August 25, 2014

State Housings

It wasn't a specific urban sketching trip. A friend texted me for lunch and I obliged since I wasn't doing anything important. We were to meet in Clementi, a satellite town in the west part of the Singapore island, and about 15 minutes drive on the highway, about 10km from where I was. We picked a coffeeshop aka kopitiam at random and just sat and draw.

I told him I haven't been to Clementi so much in my life since I moved out about 12 years ago. And the reason is simple. A mega art supplier has recently moved and set its shop here, and therefore a very good excuse to come pick up something together and then have coffee. There is no short of coffeeshops (the typical Singapore type - the type where you can both eat and drink) here in Clementi Town which is also easily accessible by the MRT.

Hero fountain pen on Monologue sketchbook
This is a typical scene of the urban lifestyle in Singapore. The rows of state subsidised housings in the background and people everywhere, much like what you would see in Hong Kong or Taiwan or Korea. Best way to get to know Singapore is to be in the heartlands.

Coffeeshops are places where you would find many retirees chilling with coffee and a puff; where they meet up with their own friends living in the neighbourhood nearby. I feel like a retiree myself since I am spending lots of time in coffeeshops too, especially during downtime when I am not loaded with too much work to do.

That's when I would usually spend my time looking at people and sketching them.

The sketch of the state housing above was done with a Hero pen M86 on a Monologue sketch book A4 cost about USD19; quite good quality paper, takes both ink and wash very well and quite heavy duty.

I like its soft cover, which is still strong enough to hold the book flat when opened.

Subsidised state housings policy in Singapore ensure that 99% of the people own a home.

Beach in Algarve

The weather is in everibody's talk.
Not so hot, cold water and lots of cloudy days.
But ... beaches are still crouded like here in Armação de Pera.

Bonjour La Bretagne!

                                           Motorway travel, views from a jam

This year's Urban Sketchers symposium is as I write taking place in Paraty- a Portuguese colonial seaside town in Brazil prone to flooding. But while the participants were packing flip-flops for this annual gathering, I was heading with Mr. Price for the tranquil shores of Brittany.
From the north of England, with the motorways jammed with traffic, it's a slow journey down to the south coast and the ferries.

The boat's jam-packed, too! We have no overnight cabin and as I lie bruising myself on the floor under a table I'm close to weeping (or homicide) at one-o-clock in the morning, as I listen to a selfish mother nearby, raucously singing 'Row, row, row your boat” with her child. Well, thank you! Charming and touching though the scene might be in daylight hours, I don't think it's really on when everyone's trying to get some rest ...

                                                  The little barn, washing and roof-mending

Our house has survived since Spring, although the familiar dead-mouse-under-the-floorboards smell greets us and stays around for a few days. Over the years we've learned you just have to sit it out, helped along by incense and air-fresheners.
A box of clothes has been nibbled by the wee pests, too. I buy horrid mouse-traps, but Mr.Price 'forgets' to ever set them while we're over.


The garden's run rampage as well, with little plum trees everywhere. There's a wren's nest built in a hank of rope on the back wall of the lean-to. The little bird has flown, but inside are empty eggshells and just one lonely infertile egg, tiny and white, translucent and almost weightless in the hand. We need the rope for cutting down a big branch, though, so I carefully remove the small dwelling to keep in a box, perhaps to draw at a later date.

Some of the family are with us, and the younger grandson is quite eager to help us, and his Mum and Dad, to clear the garden. The other, older and aware that his hairstyle and cool need preserving, is less naively enthusiastic and chooses to wander around foppishly, documenting the work of others on his camera.

They're at the beach most days, however- and we, too, manage to escape the relentless gardening for an afternoon swim at the lovely Pen-guen beach. The seawater stings my bramble-scratched arms and that cliff-path gets steeper every year, but it's a good pain!

The house is up for sale, so every visit might be almost the last, who knows?                                               

And in an act of blatant self-publicity (contact me, though), here's a link:

Caroline Johnson, Manchester and Rennes

And said Goodbye to the Circus

Piccadilly Circus
London, UK: Whenever I fly back to England, I spend the first few mornings waking up at ridiculously early hours with an urge to go out and sketch everything. One of my least favourite sketching spots in London is Piccadilly Circus, the traffic and tourist filled junction at the bottom end of Regent Street, our very own Times Square if you will. We only call it that because of the neon-lit advert hoardings, there are tourists and traffic jams everywhere in central London. Piccadilly Circus is a headache. So naturally on this early-to-rise morning I headed there first, so I could sketch it in its calmer, emptier state. I stood outside Lillywhites, the big sports megastore full of lovely new football shirts (I'm quite a football shirt geek), waiting for it to open, and sketched the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, also known as the Angel of Christian Charity, more commonly known to Londoners as 'Eros'. After a while, some police officers showed up, dressed in bright yellow overcoats. They were just hanging around, and then more came. Some photographers also started gathering, and then more police, and then two officers mounted on horseback, all in a jovial mood, all happy to pose with tourists. There must have been over forty police officers there, and they all stood together and said “cheese, guv” and had their photo taken in front of the statue (“Ello, ello, ello, what’s goin’ on Eros then?” I chuckled to myself). I had already drawn most of it by then but I did add a couple of coppers for good measure. A young woman from Germany, holidaying in London, stopped and watched me sketch for a while, even sitting down when I crouched over to add the paint, and we talked about the benefits of urban sketching every day. I was in a good mood for my first out-and-about sketch in London, and when I was done I said goodbye to the circus, popped into Lillywhites to see the glossy new Tottenham shirt, and set off to sketch the narrow dusty streets of Soho.
by Pete Scully

Selected sketches from my 2014 Bali trip

I just came back recently from a sketching trip in Bali. I spent two weeks there, sketching around the places I visited. Below are selected sketches (you can click to view them larger) out of the 50+ pages I've completed.

This is Museum Bali located in the Denpasar, the city centre of Bali. The museum features mainly sculpture art. The architecture of the museum is beautiful and intricate. This sort of architecture is common in Bali and you can see them almost anywhere, such as in schools, people's home, hotels, restaurants, and even at the Ngurah Rai Airport.

There are many beautiful temples in Bali. This is Pura Tirtha Empul, a temple that has running spring water that's supposed to be holy. The locals and tourists can dip into the pool to be cleansed by the holy spring water. The water is so clear that you can see big fishes swimming around at the bottom. This particular sketch was sketched with the holy water.

I was drawing this early in the morning before the crowd came. This is the ferry terminal at Padang Bai where the trips are made to the nearby Gili Islands and Lombok. While I was drawing, several boatmen came over to see what I was doing, several of them urging me to write the name of their boats on my sketch.

I gave myself a quota of 4 A4 pages to sketch a day and I was starting to run out of the usual colours I have been using. I switched to Daniel Smith Lemon Yellow, Phthalo Blue and Transparent Pyrrole Orange for the spread above. Phthalo Blue and Pyrrole Orange can mix together to form a nice gray that go quite dark. Pyrrole Orange and Lemon Yellow gives a nice orange.

Here, I tried a much looser style because the sky was getting dark at Legian Beach. Bali is a popular surfing spot. At the airport, you can see many tourists with lugging their surfboards around as luggage. On the beach, you can rent surfboards if you don't have one. If you don't know how to surf, you can get one of the "Kuta cowboys" who've set up shop there to give you a quick surfing coarse. The tides there are quite strong and high.

To see all the sketches, visit my Google+ ablum page. I'll also be writing more about the Bali trip on my blog in the next few days or weeks.

- Parka

Hillfox Value Mart, Roodepoort


I am so tired of winter - think I've gone into hibernation mode as I'm finding it very hard to get out and sketch. These are from the World Wide Sketchcrawl last month where our group went seeking warmth in a shopping complex called Hillfox which houses two large markets, B&B (which was under corrugated iron roofs and freezing) and Food Lover's which was a bit warmer. I picked the brightest stalls I could see in the gloom at B&B markets, where a man named Clive kept fashioning his animals out of wire and beads though his fingers must have been icy, and the hookah sellers were quite busy in spite of a lack of crowds.
I got back to my nice warm car which had been standing in the sun and did a last one of a car guard directing parkers, and a shopper before heading home. Wish I was in Paraty - enjoy it guys!!

August 24, 2014


Pasar merupakan titik bertemu antara penjual dan pembeli barang. Di situ terjadi sosialisasi antar manusia dalam bentuk transaksi sebuah barang. Aktivitas sebuah pasar tradisional yang besar berlangsung dalam 24 jam sehari, tanpa henti. Disana terjadi pergantian shift untuk lapak, tempat barang dagangan dijual sesuai dengan karakter barang dagangan.
Tiga sketsa yang saya buat ini, saya kerjakan dimalam hari di pasar tradisional Palmerah dan pasar Kebayoran Lama Jakarta Selatan. Untuk coloring saya sengaja membuatnya secara digital karena saya ingin mempertahankan detail garis/goresan yang saya buat secara nyata tanpa ditutupi oleh warna. Hal ini sangat berarti bagi saya, karena saat menggambar sangat sulit melihat detail hasil goresan dimana cahaya yang ada sangat terbatas bahkan nyaris tidak terlihat dengan jelas...

Media: Drawing Pen # 0.1 di A4 Sketchbook; Coloring: digital (photoshop)

Pedagang Kelapa di Pasar Palmerah.
Cahaya disini cukup terang, tetapi saya terganggu dengan hilir mudik mobil yang parkir melewati tempat dimana saya berdiri. Beberapa kali saya bergeser untuk menyamakan dengan angle pertama yang saya tentukan.
Pedagang Sayuran di Pasar Kebayoran Lama
Setelah dari Pasar palmerah saya bergerak menuju pasar Kebayoran Lama. Di sini saya mendapatkan sederet pedagang sayuran sedang bersiap diri dengan merapikan dagangannya di pinggir jalan.
Cahaya disini begitu minim. Beberapa kali saya harus memiringkan buku sketsa saya untuk mendapatkan
pantulan cahaya lampu atau meneranginya dengan lampu ponsel saya.
Selepas dini hari saya bergerak pulang dan sepanjang jalan begitu sepi serta lengang, jauh berbeda saat siang harinya...

Pedagang Pisang di pasar Kebayoran Lama
Dua hari kemudian saya mampir ke Pasar Kebayoran Lama lagi. Kali ini angle yang saya dapatkan
cukup menarik, yaitu view 3/4 kesamping. Sehingga saya mendapatkan suasana
bagian  depan dan belakang dengan payung besar sebagai local point-nya.
Saya menseketsnya dengan duduk di atas sepeda motor dengan cahaya minim. Beruntung, saat sketsa hampir selesai
saya harus cepat-cepat pindah karena tempat saya parkir akan dipakai untuk berdagang....
Foto-foto saat hunting sketsa malam....

Port of San Diego

Cesar Chavez Park is located right under the Coronado Bay Bridge and on the edge of the Port of San Diego. There were many tug boats going in and out of the harbor this morning but I managed to sketch a few of the boats that stayed docked.

I started a little too big so I didn't get the full ship or the water. The sketches were done in a sketchbook I made myself with different types of paper.

August 23, 2014

Sketches From a Road Trip to California

Getting set up for the Obliteride at Gas Works Park: Seattle, WA
We recently did a road trip from Seattle to the Bay Area in California.  My nephew got married and we were coming down for the reception and dinner celebrations.

The drive to the Bay Area was about 13 hours so there was plenty of time to kill in the car. This first sketch was drawn the day before at Gas Works Park in Seattle. The park was being set up for the Obliteride fund raiser for Cancer Research.  I completed a simple line work drawing while waiting for my sketching class to show up the day before we left for California.  I didn't have time to complete my sketch at Gas Works Park so on the way down to Oregon, I applied watercolor washes in the car, basically working from memory.

We stopped in Ashland, Oregon for lunch.  Ashland is known for the Shakespeare Festivals it has held every year since 1935.  It has an outdoor Elizabethan theatre similar to the Globe theatre.  I remember being there years ago but at that time theatre seating was a banked lawn.  

Allen Elizabethan Theatre: Ashland ,Oregon

El Cerrito is a small town just north of Berkeley, California.  This is where my parents have lived for nearly 45 years.  Where the hills of El Cerrito meet the flat lands was a stone quarry which was recently  turned into a one stop Recycling and Environmental Resource Center.   If you are a resident, you can drop off all sorts of items for recycling, including some hazardous waste.  It is designed as a semi circle with different stations where you can drop off pharmaceuticals, needles, batteries,  cfl light bulbs, motor oil, electronics, cardboard, paper, plastics etc.  It also has a drop off for  Good Will items and a center to drop off or pick up free used books.   This design got a Platinum LEED designation.  It is well worth looking at.  I would love something like this in Seattle.

El Cerrito Recycling and Environmental Resource Center:  El Cerrito, CA