May 26, 2015

Discovering the Architectural Delights of Doncaster

by Lynne Chapman, from Sheffield, England

I can't believe that I have lived in Sheffield for so many years and yet never before visited Doncaster, which is just half an hour away on the train. I discovered by chance that there was a lovely Minster there, so did a quick search to see what else there was to draw. That's how I found out about the gorgeous Corn Exchange, which made my mind up to go there, for the next meeting of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire.

That was last Saturday and, at last, we had a lovely day with NO RAIN - hurrah! It was so relaxing, sitting on the grass, peacefully drawing the Minster in the sunshine. It was very gnarly, with loads of gargoyles and a fabulous rose window. I intended to do various sketches, inside and out, but got very into one complex drawing, so ended up spending the entire morning on just that. I used my Koh-i-Noor 'Magic' pencil to get the multi-coloured line, which gives a softer finish than black and doesn't overpower the subtlety of watercolour:

I'd made yet another concertina book before the visit (I can't use the 35 I made recently, as they are to be saved for my residency). The concertina format was perfect, because it could expand with me as I worked my way up the building. I like to draw big enough to explore the nooks and crannies, so would never have been able to fit it in otherwise.

We had lunch at The Red Lion, which looked from the outside like a little, traditional pub, but unfolded like a tardis once you got inside. Wetherspoons had recently spent millions on it. The indoor restaurant was a bit busy, but there was a lovely courtyard garden: a real suntrap. We pulled 4 tables together and spent a very enjoyable hour chatting, eating and, of course, doing quick sketches of one another. This is me, between two newbies sketchcrawlers, Richard and Alec, sketched by another first-timer with Usk Yorkshire, Steve Beadle:

We had about 6 new members this time, so there was loads to talk about. As we were leaving, one of our first-timers, from Doncaster, pointed out two enormous paintings on the wall of the restaurant, one of Doncaster Market and another of the race course. He had been commissioned to do them by Wetherspoons. We were all suitably impressed!

The Corn Exchange had the sun behind it. I could tell that squinting at it all afternoon would give me a headache, so I wandered around the adjacent market for a while, trying to decide on other things to sketch. It was no good though - the grandiose building pulled me back. 

As with the morning, I spent all my time on the one drawing and never even got to see the inside. The concertina book did its work again: this time expanding sideways. The building was huge (I had to work really hard to make myself fit it into the height of the book). 

We went back to The Red Lion for the sharing. There was some amazing work done - really inspiring stuff. I always enjoy nosying through people's sketchbooks. Having so many new members gave me plenty to look at and there was a good deal of 'wow'ing.

It was quite late by the time we started for home. I ended up on the train by myself, and was lucky enough to have a 'snoozer' opposite, so got out my rainbow pencil again. I showed it to him as I got off.

I had a really smashing day and I met some lovely people. I've got to go back some time though, to draw the inside of the Corn Exchange and have another go at some of the other views of that Minster.

May 25, 2015

Euphoric sketches in Turin

 by Mário Linhares, Sintra, Portugal

Last April I spent 12 days in Turin sketching with some fellows. 
The city have a very special sanctuary called Consolata, which is baroque. We went there on Sunday, for the holy mass, and stayed there sketching with our most colored material. Each 2 minutes we changed the pencil/pen/... and we should keep sketching during the entire hour.

The results were so euphoric that we keep sketching that way all day...

Outside, in Piazza Castello, when the watercolors arrived, I took the opportunity to paint the sky. The trees turned blue because a blue pencil came to my hand when I was supposed to draw them!

In this square, I try to use one single color in one single motive. We were changing materials very quickly... 

One week later, again on Sunday (this time the Easter Sunday), we repeat the dose!

Piazza Castello, inside a coffee shop. So cold in Turin that day...

Inside the train. Everybody was sketching in a multicolor euphoric way...
I think we all dreamed about overlaid colors! 

Venice Beach

Memorial Weekend is a perfect time to get out and sketch. I headed down to Venice Beach to draw the sun worshippers, Hare Krishnas, hawkers, skaters, musicians and joggers. I also squeezed in a painted study of one of the cool beach houses.

Autobahn focused on implied automotive relationships at the Olando Fringe Festival.

by Thor from Orlando Florida

Handwritten Productions presented Autobahn written by Neil Labute, in the Red Venue of this year's Orlando International Fringe Festival. It presented five one act scenes with the audience voyeuristicly looking through the windshield at couples in the front seats of their car. The show began with headlights shining in the audiences eyes. The first scene featured a young woman, (Kristen Shoffner) in a black skull T-shirt slouching down in the passenger seat. Presumably her mother, (Candy Heller) sat stoic and silent behind the driving wheel. The young woman chatted non-stop while the driver never spoke and always seemed a bit annoyed. It became clear over time that the young woman had beer released from a rehab program. She had learned how to give the staff all the right answers. The one thing she had learned is that she needed to have one person she could always confide in. She informed the driver that it was her lucky day because she would always confide in her. What she confided however was that she couldn't wait to start using again. She missed the rush, the heavenly high. It was clear that the stoic driver wasn't pleased, but she must have had a checkered past as well because the passenger felt no one would take the driver's word were she to try and turn the young woman in.

A boy and girl sat in a car with a bench seat at a lovers point. The girl, (Jillian Gizzi) was on edge because she thought the boy, (Adam DelMedica)  might want to break up with her. Instead then began to make out. When they come up for air she tells him  about the last boy who broke up with her. She sought revenge by mailing dead mice to his house from different locations. She rejoiced in the fact that police were unable to stop her. The boy's face turned pale as he heard about her fatal attraction and unending need for revenge. He had been happy with their relationship, but now he clearly wanted out but was to frightened to broach the subject.

The scene that hit closest to home for me featured an older man behind the wheel, (Lucas Perez) and a young girl curled up in the passenger's seat (Marisa Nieves Hemphill). From their first interactions I presumed this was a father and daughter. He chastised her for her behavior in a rest stop where her temper tantrum had gotten him quite upset. However, the more they spoke, the less close they seemed. I kept trying to guess her age. When she was curled up in the fetal position she seemed like such a young child but as they spoke she seemed to mature. The drivers affection for the girl seemed fine when I imagined he was her dad but when it became clear he was a stranger, his affection became menacing. He was her driver's ed instructor and he was taking her to a secluded cabin. I wanted to shout out, "Get out of the car!" But instead she chatted amicably seeking forgiveness for her outburst at the rest stop. He spotted a deer on the side of the road, and she begged him to turn around so she could see it. He refused. He was now clearly in control. She curled up again. He asked, "Can I touch your hair?" She asked "Why?" "Because I want to." he replied. The lights dimmed as he ran his fingers through her hair. Marisa, the actress in this scene, resembles a friend of mine who once confided that a relative had sexually abused her. This is more common than I ever imagined here in Florida. Another friend, who later committed suicide confided that her brother had done the same when she was very young. She had blocked that memory for years. When it resurfaced, she couldn't live with it. This scene sticks with me because I wish that the inevitable tragedy could be averted.

The plays title comes from the last scene in which the woman says that perhaps the Germans had it right with their Autobahn in that there should be no speed limits and we should speed through life never having time to see the people speeding past us. We are all in a mad automotive rush, but to what end, what final destination? I can't shake this play which first appeared at the Little Shubert Theater in NYC on March 8, 2004. This is what Fringe does best, five one act scenes that will linger forever.

Analog Artist Digital World

Sketch memories

by Laura Frankstone in Chapel Hill, NC

It's said often that sketches can evoke memories of times and places like nothing else can. Well, maybe Proust would object to that claim, but still. Last week, sketching in San Francisco, I found that sketches can also bring back powerful memories of OTHER sketches, if you've been at this sketchy business long enough.

Drawing a scene at the Oakland marina, I was immediately transported back to Bouziès,  France and a sketch I made there in 2010. Here is Oakland:

And here is Bouziès:

Here are two men sitting at a café last week in San Franciso:
And here are two men sitting at a café from last year on a trip to Portland. The dynamic is different in the two drawings, but I felt a similar ease of connection between the men as I drew.
And here is a couple captured at an airline lounge at San Francisco airport. As is often true these days, the couple were lost in the world of their electronic devices.

And here is another couple at the San Francisco airport five or so years ago. Electronic devices played a big part then, too. I called this sketch "Jerry, I'm telling you." I loved the wife's response then. I still do.

layers of paint

Among the new and shiny buildings in Christchurch there is still some old forgotten constructions standing that I like sketch and apply several layers of paint like someone did on the facade, not that there is much to salvage from this old house, is just a romantic view of a Christchurch that I never knew.

May 24, 2015

USk News: New workshop in Oxford "Pushing your Sketching Boundaries"

24 May 2015

USk is pleased to announce a new workshop in Oxford, UK!

July 08-12, 2015

Join Urban Sketchers Isabel Carmona, Miguel Herranz and Swasky for 3 full days workshop that will get you to know Oxford intimately and to develop your personal urban sketching techniques.

For more information or to register for this workshop please visit

May 23, 2015

A few more sketches from San Juan Capistrano...

Joining in here to say what a beautiful day it was when my sketching friends Shiho Nakaza, John Banh and Chris Ruiz-Velasco and I met up at Mission San Juan Capistrano with Gail Wong and Frank Ching with their workshop group for a day of sketching!  See Gail and Shiho's posts below!

I think this might be the loveliest of all the California missions, and I decided to focus mainly on the light in the courtyard that day with some monochromatic studies...

Sketching for the Second Time in San Juan Capistrano

by Shiho Nakaza in San Juan Capistrano, California USA

My fellow Los Angels correspondent Virginia and our sketching friends Chris and John and I went to Mission San Juan Capistrano together for the second time since sketching last summer. This time we enjoyed meeting Frank Ching and Gail Wong, who were visiting Orange County to teach Line to Color Workshop - you can read about Gail's account of the weekend here.

My day was filled with half-finished little sketches, but I did manage to make two separate sketches of Great Stone Church. The first sketch was done under the soft morning sun. The second one was done under a stark afternoon light, and it is from a different angle than the first version because there was no shade in the spot where I sketched in the morning. It was interesting to learn that this is the only Greco-Roman style ruin in the United States.

May 22, 2015

Line to Color Workshop in Orange County

May 1-3,  Frank Ching and I went to Southern California to give our Line to Color Workshop.  This workshop was initiated through the Orange County AIA Emerging Professionals Program.  It was also opened up to the community through the Urban Sketchers Workshop Program.  We ended up with a great mix of architects and non-architects...from beginners to experienced sketchers.  All in all it was a wonderful weekend with perfect weather for outdoor sketching.

On Saturday, we spent time at Mission San Juan Capistrano sketching and painting the mission.
This was the 7th of 21 Missions that were founded in California by Franciscan monks and Spanish soldiers between the years of 1775-1776.

Local sketchers from Los Angeles,  Virginia Hein, Shiho Nakaza, Chris Ruiz-Velasco and John Banh took the train from Los Angeles to the Mission San Juan Capistrano and met up with us. Check out their blogs and facebook posts for their sketches of the day.

These are two watercolor sketches I did toward the end of the morning  and afternoon sessions of the ruins of the Great Stone Church.

The ruins of the Great Stone Church were the result of an earthquake in 1812.  The Church was never rebuilt but became the home for swallows who built their nests in the arches of the ruins. Each year like clockwork the swallows of San Juan Capistrano would migrate to the mission in March  to build nests and then migrate south again to Argentina in October.  While the church ruins were being stabilized the nests of the swallows were removed.   The swallows rebuilt their nests in other areas of San Juan Capistrano.  Today you don’t see the swallows that help make that Mission famous, but there are projects that are in process to help lure the swallows back to the mission.

On Sunday, we sketched and painted in Laguna, California.  Sunday morning we started off sketching at Main Beach Park  and then walked along the Promenade to Heisler Park getting a sweeping view of Laguna where participants were able to get some great sketches of Laguna.

Sunday afternoon we went to Lumberyard Mall to have our final sketch crawl.  Lumberyard Mall was actually the home of a lumberyard in the early 20th century.  The buildings that are quasi French Normandy style architecture create a quaint village atmosphere.  It has been converted to offices, boutique shops and cafe’s.

Gail's Sketch of Lumberyard Mall Plaza.

Line to Color Workshop Heisler Park,  Laguna CA.

Photo of Frank Ching's sketch with signatures of our participants.
We all left the weekend excited and energized about sketching.  We had such a wonderful group of talented participants.  The local Orange County group have eagerly started a sketching group and hope to see it develop into another USk Group.  We look forward to seeing their continued work.

Urban Sketchers Never Stop (Even When They Ought)

by Róisín Curé in Dublin

I travelled from my home in Galway to Dublin last week for a 30-year school reunion. A lot of organisation went into getting 40 women together for dinner in Dublin on 14th May. Women flew in from Vienna, London, Scotland, France and I don't know where else, to be there. I took a Citylink bus from Galway which is somewhat less glamorous but no less comfortable than any of the airplanes or motor cars that carried my erstwhile classmates to Dublin.

I was parched when I got on the bus. In the past, complimentary bottles of water have been handed out as you board the bus, so when I saw the driver carrying two bottles I asked him if there were any going around. "Not on this service," he said, then gave me one of his anyway.

This is what it looked like:

I love Payne's Grey and I love Indigo in my tiny watercolour paintbox and I can't remember which I used, but I was happy as a sandboy - messing about with a sketch is my kind of bus journey.

I hadn't seen any of the girls I'd spent five formative years with since 1985, when everywhere you looked were bad perms, legwarmers and blue mascara - and that was just the boys' schools. Only joking, but I'm not exaggerating when I say the passage of time has only improved the girls I went to school with. I walked into the Cliff Townhouse on St. Stephen's Green (that's the posh end of Grafton St., which is the poshest street in Dublin) in my new dress, feeling far less nervous than I might have, which is a good sign, I think. I was determined to make a sketch while I was there, and I did manage a very quick one -

I had only had one small glass of wine by then, or maybe two, but the act of sketching banished cobwebs and I was suddenly stone-cold sober, which may not have been appropriate for a party which was getting decidedly animated but was okay because I had a very early start in the morning. The decibels and the pitch rose as the levels of wine went down and lots of group photos were taken. I'm not sure if a homemade sketch bag, a pair of jeans in a previous life, was quite the accessory for a sparkly red dress but getting my priorities right has never come naturally to me.

There were two more tables to the left behind a wall. The photos of the evening are doing the rounds now but I think a sketch adds considerably to the general feeling...I mean to add a bit of colour to the ladies' skin tones, and a touch of ruby for the wine, and then I'll pass it around to the ladies too.

The 8.45am Citylink back to Galway the following morning was every bit as comfortable as the way over. The lady in the seat next to me evidently felt the same as she had a nice snooze, and kept very still. I'm far too chicken to look at an awake person and draw them (unless they are distracted in some way), but full of courage when a person is out for the count.

Me and the ladies have planned to meet up again in five years' time. Perhaps I'll leave my sketching stuff at home next time...or make a nice gold-sequined sketch bag.

The Other Perspective

by Fred Lynch, Boston

Most of us know that to draw “in perspective” is to create the illusion of receding space on paper. Finding the horizon line and vanishing points help artists to understand, and to show, how things line up systematically in relation to our eye level. This is called linear perspective and it can be a very helpful tool, or a very confusing puzzle, to an artist facing a scene. The development of perspective drawing is considered to be a major breakthrough of the early Renaissance. 
What fewer people consider is that there is another kind of drawing perspective that helps create the illusion of space, and that is atmospheric perspective - otherwise known as aerial perspective.

Using atmospheric perspective means reducing the focus and the contrast of things in the distance of a picture in order to suggest space. If we stand on a tall hill, we can notice that things in the distance are affected by the atmosphere between us. We are very familiar with the fact that objects lose details to our eyes, the further they are away. But also, if we were to hold up a piece of black or white paper, we'd see that far away things are reduced to a middle value, or darkness. Color, too, is affected by the atmosphere, casting a blue tint.

Recently, I came across two drawings created side-by-side in the late 1800's, by the terrific on-site artists, John Warwick Smith and Francis Towne. They were both British artists living and drawing in Italy.

Francis Towne

John Warwick Smith
Comparing drawings such as these is so interesting because it reminds us that making art is making choices. These two artists drew together, but made different choices. Even though they shared similar views, art materials and drawing styles, there are still clear distinctions between the works. For example, clearly, Smith was more interested in the foreground element of historic ruins - something that Towne overlooks completely.

More to the point, Smith uses "atmospheric perspective" in his picture as a device to to help focus his interest on the foreground ruins and contrast them with the distant town. The town is literally pale in comparison. Francis Towne, on the other hand, considers everything before him equally. There are only subtle differences between foreground and background, and that's because he has made the choice to talk about everything as a whole. He sees everything as equally important in his drawing.

So, which drawing is correct?
They're both correct.
The most important perspective is the artist's perspective - which is the point of the drawing itself. All the choices of an artist follow that.

May 21, 2015

Here's the church and here's the steeple

Marcia Milner-Brage, Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA

Our local newspaper, the Cedar Falls/Waterloo Courier, recently asked their readers: “What makes your neighborhood special? Be specific. Speak details”. Good question! When I draw where I live, I’m showing the specifics of my hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Sometimes the specifics are quite mundane and ordinary (as Virginia Hein spoke in her most recent post). Sometimes the specifics are quite special.

There are twelve churches within a three-quarter mile radius from my house. That’s special!

I drew this on a recent Spring day at the end of April, finally warm enough to draw outdoors. And still bug-free enough to not be tormented. Standing on newly green grass, the steeple of New Redeemer Lutheran Church could be seen through the barely budding trees. Oh, and those glorious shadows of early Spring! 

See photos of the backstory and rough sketches of this drawing-in-the-making HERE, on the regional Urban Sketchers Midwest Blog.

2 Steeples in Winter

Two more of the twelve churches in my neighborhood. This was from several winters ago, drawn from my upstairs bedroom window. The steeple of First United Methodist Church is on the left, and St Patrick’s Catholic Church is on the right. Across the street from each other, they make quite a defining pair. In summer, I cannot see either through the density of leafy, tall trees. But, I can hear the carillon of First United through all seasons. That’s special, too!

Hello, tweeps, would you be our Twitter account manager?

May 21, 2015

Volunteer opportunity: Social media editor (Urban Sketchers Twitter account)
Are you hooked on Twitter? We are looking for a brilliant wordsmith who can engage urban sketchers with useful and inspiring daily tweets. The ideal candidate for this volunteer job is plugged into the global urban sketching community, can name sketchers by their Twitter handles and uses good judgement when crafting messages and retweeting. This is a great opportunity for a journalism or marketing student to get some valuable experience and coaching from a supportive Communications Team. If you are interested, contact Urban Sketchers Communications Director Brenda Murray at

More than 7,000 followers need you!

Urban Sketchers is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to fostering a global community of artists who practice on-location drawing. Our mission is to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of on-location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel.

May 20, 2015

More from New York

Suhita Shirodkar in New York

I do love sketching the big iconic buildings and touristy spots in New York (posted here). But there's so much more than just that to catch the eye. However often I visit, I'm surprised by what Ive've never seen and done before.

I’ve never visited Roosevelt Island. Until this time. Here is the Queensboro Bridge, sketched from the island, looking across towards Manhattan. We rode that red cable car into Manhattan. It was quite a ride.

One of my favorite things to do as I walk around the city is look up. ( you don't get to see much more than blue sky if you look up where I live in San Jose). The skyline anywhere in the city is endlessly fascinating.

And it often holds little surprises. Like this building where you can see the faint remnants of a painted advertisement, from the days when the elevated line ran by it.

Or you might spot a fabulous synagogue wedged between two nondescript buildings in the city.

I was fascinated by the dark underbelly of the subway line on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens.

And then there's green-awninged corner stores.

And bagel shops with a long queue of customers in the morning. If you're a local and have a recommendation for where I can find a great bialy the next time I'm in the city, let me know.

Can't miss sketching the hot dog and pretzel vendor ( with a soft serve icecream truck in the background as a bonus).

Or the musician in Central Park.

Have I mentioned before how much I love the city? More sketches from the city here on flickr.