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

Chicago cabbie Dmitry Samarov draws around the Windy City

O'Hare #6

Interview by Matthew Cencich
USk Victoria (Canada) correspondent [flickr]

Dmitry Samarov was born in Moscow in 1970 and has lived in the U.S. since 1978. He attended several art institutions between 1989 and 1994 including Parsons School of Design and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He currently works as a cab driver in Chicago.

I've noticed your drawings and paintings on your flickr site and enjoy them very much. How did you get started as an artist? How long have you been drawing and painting?

I don't remember a time when I wasn't making marks of one sort or another on a flat surface. At 13 or 14 my parents started to take me to private art classes with a theatrical set designer named Alexander Okun. He taught me a lot though it wasn't for any lack of effort on my part not to listen or cooperate. At 16 I started going to life-drawing classes and count that as the true beginning of a serious involvement with art. For whatever reason, drawing the nude model was transformative, it taught me that engagement with the seen world was going to be my path. Those charcoal drawings got me into art school, though I was still doing awful teen-angst expressionist pictures at the same time.

After an awful semester at Parsons School of Design in New York, where a professor pronounced me 'unteachable', I transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Most of my time there was spent in figure painting and drawing classes; this rendered me second-rate in the eyes of the tastemakers there, who'd typically praise technique then ask when I'd paint something meaningful. I always thought that there'd be a lifetime to paint pictures of deep, dark content and that school was a time to attempt to actually learn something. The governing spirit there indicated that we were already artists and that the school's job was to nurture our fragile egos enroute to success in the Art World. I knew this was ludicrous and wasn't surprised or disappointed at what followed graduation.

The past 16 years have been filled with meaningless day-jobs taken in order to continue painting. Nine of these years have been spent driving a taxi, first in Boston, now in Chicago. It's provided me with a way to look at the city and it's people unattainable from other vantage points. The flexibility of the working hours has allowed me to get pictures painted. The latest series of pictures has actually been of taxis, painted out at the airport and the cab garage; their natural habitat, so to speak.


The strong connection your sketches have with your work as a cabbie is very noticeable, and there is an immediacy in most of your work. As viewers, it feels like we’re right there with you. It seems that you have a sketch pad and pen as well as paper and paints beside you at all times, is this the case?

Well, you certainly are there as much as a viewer can be, or that's the intent anyway. I always have a sketchbook with me at least and lately, with the cab paintings, it's been a box of paints and a watercolor pad as well. What always draws me in is the interaction with what's seen; without that tension there's little excitement and decisions start to feel random and inconsequential. Comparing what's before the eyes to what's on the paper is like a built-in bullshit detector; the view will not allow lies or excessive flights of fancy, it demands acknowledgment and response. I don't mean to suggest that slavish attempts to reproduce every detail is called for; marks on paper are necessarily an abstraction. All that can be created is a sort-of visual shorthand that allows a viewer to be reminded of some small aspect of the world they themselves know.


I’m aware of your sketching, watercolour, and ink wash paintings. Do you do any other type of creative work? Also, are there any artists that you particularly admire or that perhaps influenced your own approach?

In terms of visual art, I also use charcoal, pencil, gouache, and oil paint. There are two illustrated series of stories that are ongoing: Hack, which is about cab life, and Dive, which is about my year of bartending. There's also my website, which has taught me what little I know about computers, mostly during the many times I've wrecked it and banged my head against the wall before finding whatever little coding mistake that made the whole thing collapse.

As far as influences, it's always difficult to narrow it down, so I'll mention some painters that've come to mind lately. Robert De Niro Sr. whose brushstrokes simultaneously described and existed as their own thing. Without painting every shingle on a roof or every eyelash on a woman's eye, he'd put the you by that house, looking right at her. Giorgio Morandi for doing so much with such a limited vocabulary, showing how a sustained concentration and attention to very slight variation can open a whole world while barely leaving one's room. Euan Uglow for the way he obsessively stared at and measured all those models for all those years, paradoxically coming up with pictures so unlike photography and so uniquely skewed yet recognizable. Philip Guston for making flesh the monsters that live inside us and for doing it with marks that look like they were just put down, barely finished before we saw them...There's many, many more but I won't bore you any longer…


Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. In parting, do you have any advice or thoughts to share with other artists or urban sketchers out there?

Not sure what to say here except that, to me, the seen world has provided more subject-matter and inspiration than I could've made up in three lifetimes. So, if you put in the time actually looking at your surroundings you'll be amply rewarded.

• Dmitry Samarov's website.
• Dmitry Samarov's blog Hack.
• Dmitry Samarov's art on Flickr.

Would you like to contribute an interview or article to the blog? We want to hear from you. Interview a favorite artist you admire, review a book about sketching with watercolors or tell the story of a memorable sketching trip. Contact us at urbansketchers at gmail dot com.





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