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

Four days in Varanasi, India

On the Ghats, Benaras, India

By Suhita Shirodkar

I spent five weeks in India at the end of 2010, visiting family, travelling, and sketching. It’s always exciting to sketch in India: the colors, the crowds, the chaos... an urban sketcher dream come true.

These sketches are from my four-day trip to Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganges. Varanasi is the holiest city of the Hindus, who make up about 80 percent of the population of India. Devout Hindus believe that a dip in the river Ganges, especially at Varanasi, will cleanse them of all sins. This makes Varanasi a destination that they come to from all parts of the country — and a perfect place to sketch.

The “ghats” in this city refer to miles and miles of steep steps that descend from the city to the river. This is where both locals and travellers gather: to wash their clothes, pray, fly kites, sit around and watch the sunset, bathe, and to cremate the dead.

Temples everywhere,Benaras, India
Almost anywhere in India, you can’t walk more than a few minutes without spotting a temple: from gigantic South India temples that are at least a block in size to tiny roadside shrines tucked under trees. But Varanasi beats out the rest of India in the number of temples it packs per square mile. They glow in shades of ochre and gold in the afternoon sun and are draped in saffron and red flags.

Morning on the Ghats, Benaras, India
I sketched this scene by the municipal water tower early in the morning. Bathers and worshippers dip themselves in the river and perform their morning prayers, while a man, wrapped in a shawl against the chill, stands by and watches.

Lady dressing after a dip in the Ganges
Another morning sketch. This time, a lady, who has just bathed in the river, carefully pleats and drapes her sari. The ghats are lined with holy men who sit under large umbrellas and perform rituals for pilgrims. In the distance, in stark contrast to the tranquility of the scene, are machine-gun toting cops. I visited Varanasi a few days after a terrorist attack on the city, which involved a bomb blast, and there were cops everywhere.

Burning Ghat, Benaras, India.
The Burning Ghats are two ghats within the city where Hindus cremate their dead. The bodies are shrouded in cloth when they arrive. The last rites involve one final dip in the river before the body is cremated on one of several pyres that are all kept alive by an ‘eternal flame’, a fire that has been tended to and kept burning for generations. In the background is an electric crematorium that the government built in the hoping to replace some of the wood-burning pyres with a system that causes less environmental damage, but people have been reluctant to abandon age-old traditions.

Chaat Seller, Benaras, India.
No trip in India is complete without tasting the local street food, known in North India as ‘chaat’. This fellow fried spiced potato dumplings and lined them up around the periphery of a large cooking vessel. When a customer appeared, he smashed one of these golden balls of potato into a plate, topped it with spiced garbanzo and garnished it with grated radish. You can see that his ‘food stand’ is a movable cart that holds everything: the food, his supply of cooking gas, and condiments.

Boatman on the Ghats, Benaras, India
One last peaceful sketch. A boatman awaits his first customer of the day. And while he waits, he fishes — or, at least, he attempts to. I never saw him catch anything all the time that I sat there and drew him, but he seemed so at peace. A mongrel dog wandered into the scene. These dogs are everywhere. They’re as prevalent as the electric wires that dangle anywhere you look. Or the crowds of people you can never get away from. Or the temples. I love the madness that is India.

Suhita Shirodkar is a graphic designer based in San Jose, California. She blogs at and is a member of the San Francisco/Bay Area Urban Sketchers. To see the more than 80 drawings from her trip to India, visit this flickr set.

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