Meet the Correspondent: Marina Grechanik > Tel-Aviv, Israel$show=/search/label/Marina%20Grechanik

"Sketching is one of my passions. I don't feel comfortable when I leave home without a sketchbook and some pens in my bag. I think that my way to put things in my memory is to draw them. And taking pictures isn't the same thing.

I live in a very dynamic surrounding — Israel is a warm country with warm weather and warm people. Of course, we have seashores, which calm us a little bit. I love to sit in a corner of some Tel-Aviv coffee shop and explore relationships: between people, their environment, between myself. All this unique local mix of cultures, languages and styles is always a great source for inspiration. You need to be fast, because, as I said, everything is very dynamic. But that's why I love it so much.

Sometimes, I look around, and I find some usual items like sugar bags or napkins. I use them in my drawings to show the atmosphere. Sometimes I draw directly on placemats."

• Marina's art on Flickr.
• Marina's website.

Meet the Correspondent: Tina Koyama > Seattle$show=/search/label/tina%20koyama

"The dictionary says that a hobby is “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation.” Although urban sketching certainly provides both pleasure and relaxation, I don’t think of it as my hobby. I think of it more as a way of life – something that has become such a normal part of my everydayness that it shapes how I view the world.

For most of my life I had both the fear of drawing as well as the desire to draw. In 2011, inspired by Gabi Campanario’s Seattle Sketcher column, I finally decided to overcome the fear. His drawings of Seattle – my birthplace and lifelong home – were of sights that I had seen many times, yet had never truly seen. I wanted to learn to see, and therefore experience, those locations (and any new ones that I travel to) more completely. Part 8 of the Urban Sketchers Manifesto, to “show the world, one drawing at a time,” has a flip side: Sketching enables me to see my own world, one drawing at a time.

In the last four years, it is not an exaggeration to say that Urban Sketchers has changed my life. I have met and sketched with many wonderful people around the globe, either at symposiums or during other travel, because the USk network brought us together. I sketch almost weekly with my local group, sharing sketches, art supplies and friendship. Even when I stay home and enjoy sketches online, I am still a part of that rich network, learning with every sketch about other people’s lives.

In May, my husband Greg and I went to France for the first time, and I sketched the Eiffel Tower. Sketching one of the world’s most famous icons felt like a dream come true – the ultimate in urban sketching. But although I can’t resist sketching world-famous icons whenever I’m fortunate enough to see them, for me, urban sketching is much more than that.

Urban sketching is a tree with its middle chopped away to accommodate Seattle’s ubiquitous power lines. It’s about a couple of women chatting over coffee, or about workers roofing the house next door. It’s about an excavator filling a hole where a cherry tree once stood. Or the Tibetan monastery I drive by frequently that I couldn’t resist because it’s bright orange. Urban sketching is a string band performing at a local farmers’ market – or perhaps in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Celebrating the mundane as well as the famous is what urban sketching is all about. My sketches are not necessarily about “special” moments; they are moments made special because I sketched them."

Tina has been editor of Drawing Attention since 2013 and now serves on the Urban Sketchers editorial board. See more of her sketches on her blog, on Flickr and on Instagram.

Meet the Correspondent: Pete Scully > Davis, Calif.$show=/search/label/Pete%20Scully

"I am from urban north London, but now live in urbane Davis California. I sketch, I write, sometimes do things and go places and my name is Pete.

When not Davis, I sketch Sacramento, San Francisco, London, or anywhere else I happen to be. I tend to erase people and cars from my cities, but I'm starting to get over this.

Davis: calm, old-fashioned, progressive, quirky, very very hot in the summer. I use micron and copic pens, with watercolour."

• Pete's blog.
• Pete's art on Flickr.

Meet the Correspondent: Suhita Shirodkar > San Jose, Calif.$show=/search/label/Suhita%20Shirodkar

"I was born in Mumbai (Bombay) and lived in different parts of India until I moved to San Jose, California, where I now live.

Travel inspires my art, but, traveling or not, I try to view the world around me as a traveller would; so whether I’m capturing a moment of calm on the banks of the Ganges in India, or sketching over coffee at my local coffee shop, I aim to look deeply, and with wonder, at both the everyday and the exotic, the old and the new.

I love color. My sketch kit consists of Extra Fine Sharpies (the fact that they bleed into the paper as soon as they touch it works really well for me—it forces me to work super-quick), a small set of Prismacolor pencils and a little watercolor travel set".

Meet the Correspondent: Omar Jaramillo > Berlin$show=/search/label/Omar%20Jaramillo

"I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I studied architecture. I moved to Kassel (Germany) in 1999 to accomplish a master degree. Although I have always drawn and paint, it was not until I started studying in the Uni-Kassel, that I started keeping a travel sketchbook. I had a teacher there who used to do a lot of sketches when he travelled on university excursions. When he retired, I helped to organize an exhibition of his sketches. He brought a huge box full of sketchbooks he had filled since he was an architecture student. I spent a whole day selecting the most interesting drawings. It was a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to a new world. In the last 10 years I have the feeling of being in a long journey. I like to discover the cities where I live, to understand why a place is the way it is and what makes it different and unique from others. Drawing is for me a way to learn to love a place, to become part of it. I like to draw architecture but I am more attracted to urban scenery, portraying how people live in the city. Since I’m a foreigner, everything that locals find normal and taken-for-granted, for me is exotic. I always carry a small watercolor travel set from Windsor and Newton and my sketchbook in my bag. I always thought that drawing was a solitary experience until I found Urban Sketchers. It was amazing to find so many people doing the same thing. It is a great place to share!" • Omar's blog. • Omar's art on flickr. • Omar's website.

Meet the Correspondent: Luis Ruiz > Malaga, Spain$show=/search/label/Luis%20Ruiz

Imagine sketching in Cuba, that's what Michael Gage did

By Gabriel Campanario

British illustrator Michael Gage, 45, spent 16 days in Cuba in early 2007 and produced more than 100 sketches that are a beautiful and unique visual record of life and places on the Caribbean island. "It's amazing how much work you can do if you keep your sketchbook in your hand all the time," he says. As soon as I noticed his bright and sunny sketches appear on the USk Flickr group I knew I wanted to know more about his experience and checked in with him recently.

A graduate in Fine Art and Art History, Gage says he didn't touch a paintbrush for about 10 years after leaving college. It was rediscovering the joy of sketching that got him back into art, and he has been working intermittently as an artist, illustrator and graphic designer for about eight years now. He lives in a village halfway between London and the South Coast of England.

Camagüey, CubaCienfuegos, Cuba
Left: 12 February 2007, 9:10 a.m. Early morning traffic on the main street in Camagüey, from the balcony of the Hotel Colón. No cars; just pedestrians, bicycles, and “bicitaxis”. Right: 14 February 2007, 4:35 p.m. Palacio de Valle: A Moorish style palace built 1917, now a restaurant.

How was it like to sketch in the streets of Cuba? What prompted your trip to the island?

My trip to Cuba was the realisation of a twenty-year old dream, after seeing Alec Guinness in the film "Our Man In Havana." It was the last Western film to be made there before Castro's revolution in 1959, and it was fascinating to discover that Havana has not changed in the 50 years since. The streets are lined with brightly coloured buildings from when the island was a rich Spanish colony, and everywhere there are classic American cars, still in use after half a century.

I was determined to make the trip unforgettable, and the best way of doing that is to draw. However, Cuba was such a culture shock. Culturally, socially, politically and economically, everything is the other way round to what I'm used to. My sketchbooks became a way of trying to make sense of it all.

As an obvious tourist, you get a lot a hassle from people trying to sell things, mainly cigars and Che Guevara souvenirs. However, sit down engrossed in a sketchbook, and you turn invisible. When you stand up again, you reappear as a potential customer.

Havana, Cuba
18 February, 2007 — Houses on the Paseo del Prado. This was once the smartest street in Havana: on each side stand Spanish style buildings from the late 19th century, colourfully plastered and richly detailed. But they haven't been touched since they were built. They are in tragic state of disrepair: plaster is falling off; windows are boarded up or just missing; sometimes entire walls that have fallen away. And then you realise that people are still living in them.

What steps do you take when you sketch? What tools do you carry with you?

After years of travelling with far too much equipment, I've at last got my tools down to fit into a small camera bag: Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks —I like the landscape format, often a drawing sprawls over two full pages; a Winsor and Newton field box which includes watercolour pans, a palette, and a bottle for water —though I like to get water from where I am painting: a fountain; the sea or a river; even out of a swimming pool; a Pro Arte retractable brush; Rapidograph pens; and pencils cut in half so they fit in the bag. Oh, and a pencil sharpener (don't take a knife; it's liable to get confiscated at the airport — someone in Havana is better off to the tune of a very nice Swiss Army penknife that used to be mine...).

I start by finding the nearest bench or wall to sit on. Ignore what you're told to do about finding an interesting composition or unusual viewpoint; there isn't time. And while it's tempting to paint the obvious attractions, those buildings and sights that I've flown halfway round the world to see, the scenes which make the most memorable and characteristic images are those where I've just drawn whatever happens to be in front of me.

I use pencil to get everything roughly in place, especially things like people and cars which are likely to move before you've finished. Then I draw in pen. With a pencil in your hand, it's obvious that you are drawing, and everyone wants to see what you're doing. With a pen, it looks as if you are writing, and no one wants to come and read. Finally, I get the paints out. Now everyone wants to see what you're doing, but I always try to finish the painting on the spot. I don't like to add colour later away from the scene —the important thing is recording the experience of being in a place for half an hour; not trying to do "a nice painting."

Havana, Cuba

Havana — Memorial bench in the Parque John Lennon. The park-keeper tells us that he has to remove the spectacles at the end of every day, otherwise they get stolen in the night. The writing engraved on the ground is a line from "Imagine": "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."


• Michael Gage's website.
• Michael Gage's Cuba 2007 Flickr set.
• Besides sketching, Gage is also currently working on his first illustrated book for children, the early stages of which are on his Floating Rabbit blog.

Have you ever sketched in Cuba or any other unusual locations?
Share your drawings in our Flickr group. We're always looking for artists to feature.





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