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

Artist on the road to Greece

Travel Bags for GreeceGuest post by Richard Sheppard

 In the fall of 2009 I was lucky enough to fulfill a dream and travel to Greece with my dad for two and a half weeks. Greece has always been at the top of my list of places to visit because it’s loaded with ancient ruins, mythology, and most importantly, no shortage of places to draw. My dad is well-versed in Greek history and mythology so it was helpful and educational to have him along. But most importantly, my dad enjoys a good gyro as much as I do.

When I returned from my trip, I combined all my sketches and journal entries into a published book. Below are excerpts from The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece.

Umbrellas in the Rain, Athens
Climbing up the Metro steps at seven-thirty in the morning, I have finally arrived in Athens. At the top of the stairs, I glance back, waiting for my dad to catch up. Bags in hand, we exit the station at Syntagma Square, stepping into a sprinkling of rain from a dark sky promising more. Several hawkers crowd around, hoping to sell us umbrellas, but we politely decline and venture into the damp city.

Karyatids on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

I’m not feeling tired even after so little sleep over the past three nights, and I’m itching to break the ice and get drawing. From our hotel, we step into the city, and without consulting a map, walk towards the Acropolis. The narrow, zigzagging streets resemble pedestrian pathways more than motorways, but motorcycles come zipping through the crowds at surprising speeds. By 10 am, we make our way along the steep path that twists up the side of the Acropolis to the Parthenon. Along the way to the top, we pause to view the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Asklepios, and the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. They would all be perfect subjects to paint, but I choose to hold off as crowds swarm around each site. When I reach the summit, I elect to draw the Erechtheion with the Porch of the Karyatids. Halfway through my drawing a teenaged girl comes near and sits beside me watching me draw. She’s completely silent. After a half hour, she looks at me, smiles and thanks me, then slips away.

Olympian Zeus, Athens

While strolling about the city streets of Athens, I find myself at the nearby Temple of Olympian Zeus. It’s closed this late in the day, but I find a good vantage point from outside the gate. Several tourists mill around also, looking through the fence at the ancient ruins. It’s now or never, I think, as I pull out my watercolor Moleskine sketchbook and begin to draw. Several people approach to watch while I paint. I’m feeling a little nervous, but keep going anyway. The sun’s golden light casts deep, violet shadows for me to paint, but also hints at the urgency to finish before darkness descends. The light is dimming and I splash a few colors around, using a blotchy painting technique that I hope will keep them from running into each other and making a muddy mess. This technique allows me to work more quickly and forms a loosely painted style that I like. Looking back over the finished piece, I see a story developing. I imagine the columns as people, with a crowd huddled together on one side looking back at the others. Especially interesting is the one that has fallen over and lays scattered along the ground spelling out a possible tragedy.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

Early the next morning I’m pleasantly surprised to find the Temple of Olympian Zeus is already open for viewing. I enter the site and look around for the best view of the ancient structure, set up my chair in the grass, and begin to draw. From my vantage point, the Acropolis lies in the background just behind the ruins of the Temple, dominating the landscape. Lightly, in ink, I position the columns on the page, and using a two point perspective, estimate their height relative to one another. Then I dive in with heavier line work. My drawing style is often inconsistent, and my moods can dictate the style of a piece. On some days, like today, I’m looser and not so fussy with detail, which usually means better drawings.

Fish and Wine Dinner, Kifissia (Athens), Greece

Late in the day we board the Metro and head up to a suburb north of Athens called Kifissia. There we meet with Irene, a Greek friend of my dad’s whom he met playing online Scrabble a couple of years ago. She treats us to dinner at one of her favorite Greek tavernas: Greek salata, fish, fried cheese, spanakopita, and of course, Greek white wine. The wine is nicely balanced with grassy and citrus aromas and a touch of oak. I feel lucky to be treated to a delicious dinner and to have made a new friend.

Cafe at Mycenae, Mykines, Greece

Heading east out of Athens along the main highway, we make a few wrong turns and end up in the middle of nowhere. Using our map, we negotiate the back roads and finally make it to Mykines, the town closest to the ruins of Mycenae, late in the afternoon. The sun, having sunk low in the sky, casts lengthy shadows across the town’s deserted streets.

After settling into our room we decide to head out to a taverna. As we exit the hotel, the evening sunset splashes brilliant orange across the sky and paints the landscape in a warm glow. Up ahead we see two groups of diners on the patio of a restaurant. We walk through an archway and a host seats us near the other patrons. We enjoy an Italian dinner of pasta, salad, and crusty bread while discussing our travel plans.

espresso to Stay in Thebes, Greece

The museum in Thebes has been, from the beginning, one of our primary destinations. But Thebes, contrary to my dad’s memory of the place, is a crowded, traffic-clogged little city on a hill with no place to park. Once we do find a space for our rental car, we weave through parked cars, then walk across a park and towards the museum. But the intoxicating smell of fresh pastries lures us into a nearby bakery where our taste buds find cinnamon buns.

When we reach the museum, we’re met with a sign on its gate that reads “Closed for Renovations.” This is one problem with traveling Greece in the off-season. We never know for sure what we’ll encounter at a given destination until we actually get there. Once again, we’ve traveled a good distance by car, my dad is disappointed, and I’m unable to produce any sketches.

As we walk away from the museum, I see a nearby coffee shop with an older man in the back and a young girl working the counter. I could use a cup of coffee to go with my last few bites of cinnamon bun. As we enter the shop, I nod to a couple of Greek men drinking coffee and chatting it up on a couch in the corner. I order a delicious espresso with an almost sweet, nutty flavor, with a glass of water and a little piece of chocolate on the side. This break offers a moment to pause during this busy day, stay off the crowded streets, and slow down enough to enjoy the moment with a luscious, rich, and foamy espresso.

Donkey Caravan on Santorini, Greece

After many hours on the ferry, my excitement builds as the island Santorini comes into view. Passengers with cameras gather in anticipation on the port side of the ferry. We also ready our cameras and find a good spot along the railing. At first, Santorini looks like many other shallow islands we’ve seen pushing up from the sea. But when we get closer, I see a mountain looming large on the far side. Where the land meets the sea, sharp cliffs rise up a thousand feet into the blue sky. This is the caldera, where the central part of the volcano broke off and collapsed into the Aegean. Striations of colored rock, stone, sediment, and lava make the island a lopsided layer cake. As we ferry closer, the white city of Oia covers the top like frosting. The city contains no storied buildings and gathers close to the earth to avoid slipping off the caldera.

As we sail into the center of the five volcanic islands that make up Santorini, the top of the caldera rises above us. Quarter-moon shaped Thera is the largest of the islands. The city of Fira comes into view and I’m amazed that it’s so high up. The famous switchback trail, which takes travelers by donkey to and from the port below, is visible snaking along the cliff.

House along the Caldera, Santorini, Greece

Seeing Fira from the top of the caldera, and looking down at the Aegean far below, is an even more powerful experience than was looking up at it from the ferry. Most of the small city streets are free of cars and barely wide enough to handle two-way pedestrian traffic. My favorite street, which is narrow enough to be called a path, traces along the edge of the caldera for several kilometers. Homes, restaurants, and hotels line this street, and all have extraordinary views. Fira’s white buildings, brightly painted doors, and overflowing baskets of flowers make this a unique spot to paint.

Blue Domed Church on the Caldera, Santorini, Greece

Walking along a courtyard located on the ridge of the caldera, I find several brightly colored, free-standing doors that have a surreal presence. At first glance, they look like gateways opening up to the sea far below. Each door is uniquely designed and painted. I enter through one and see steps descending to a terraced restaurant below. A menu listing mouth-watering entrees catches my eye, but the prices make me step back.

While painting on Santorini, I’ve discovered a good way to capture the island’s unique quality of light. By focusing on the shapes of shadows, I’ve made use of the white of the page and defined the composition with washes of color. If I had used black lines to describe the buildings, I would have lost the uniqueness of Santorini.

Akrotiri Ceramic Vessels, Santorini, Greece

I want to draw something, anything, but with the windy weather, it’ll be impossible to draw outside. Yet in the hope of finding a sheltered spot, I go out with my sketchbook. I draw while eating a gyro at an outdoor taverna, but shortly after, the wind blows me back to the pension. Discussing alternatives to outdoor activities, my dad and I decide today is a good museum day and choose to hide inside the Archeological Museum. As I had hoped, I see the wall paintings, vases and other painted artifacts from Akrotiri.


Richard Sheppard is a freelance illustrator and fine artist based in Healdsburg, California. His book, "The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece," is available on Amazon. An e-book edition will also be available in July of 2011. Follow Richard's work on his blog, The Artist On The Road, and flickr.

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