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

Hooked on handbound sketchbooks

When I’m making the covers, I like to look through the sketches
in the volume I’m binding and choose two to reproduce on the front
and back. With one glance, I can recall the weather, events or travels
 I experienced while sketching during that period.
By Tina Koyama

Here I am sketching in an unbound signature of watercolor paper.
The signature is supported by a leather sketchbook cover.
A simple piece of elastic cord holds the signature in place.
One reason I use the ancient Coptic bookbinding stitch is that
 I really love the way the exposed stitching looks on the spines.
When I started urban sketching about three years ago, I had idealistically decided that I would make all of my own sketchbooks for the rest of my sketching life. It seemed like the perfect integration of medium and message: hand-drawn images kept in handbound books. Wanting book pages that opened flat so that I could sketch across the gutter, I learned the ancient Coptic bookbinding technique that creates a beautiful stitched spine.

The problem was that any sketchbook I use has to withstand being carried in my bag day to day. I was concerned that the exposed stitching wouldn’t hold up to daily wear and tear. Regretfully, I decided I’d be better off using conventional purchased sketchbooks after all.

Then last summer as I was preparing to travel, I needed to streamline my sketch kit. I started thinking about how the basis of nearly all handmade books are small stacks of paper (known as “signatures”) stitched together. Why do I need to carry a whole sketchbook when I really only need one small signature at a time?

I fold three 9” x 12” sheets of watercolor paper in half, making one signature, and stitch them together with the pamphlet stitch (instructions for this very easy stitch are available online). To give the signature some support, I place it in a leather cover purchased from leatherworker Stefano Bramato, who is an urban sketcher himself. A simple piece of elastic holds the signature in place. I put one signature into the leather cover at a time – much less bulky to carry than a whole sketchbook. When five or six signatures are filled with sketches, I bind them together.

Since last summer, I’ve bound 10 sketchbooks, and I’m hooked on the bookbinding process. It gives me the satisfaction of handbinding my own sketchbooks without having to carry around delicate books. Other benefits I’ve discovered:

  • The thin, flat, stitched signatures are much easier to scan than hardbound sketchbooks.
  • Since the content is complete by the time I bind the book, I can incorporate any themes (such as travel locations or the season) on the cover, including reproductions of the sketches themselves or ephemera collected while traveling.
  • I can use different types of paper any time I want without having to use multiple sketchbooks.
  • If I ever lose my bag, I’d be sad to lose whatever sketches were in the signature I was carrying – but not nearly as sad as I’d be if I lost a whole sketchbook!

Like I said: It’s the perfect integration of medium and message – hand-drawn images kept in handbound books.

Tina Koyama is an urban sketcher, Seattle native and active member of Seattle Urban Sketchers. After a lifetime of believing she couldn’t draw, in 2011 she decided to change that belief. She has been urban sketching almost daily ever since.
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