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

How to Draw Trees: A Question and Answer

Not long ago, I was a "Visiting Artist" at a fancy, private school in Connecticut. After a show and tell of my work, I welcomed students to ask questions. The first question was, "How do you draw trees?"

The question knocked me on my heels.  I'm not sure I've recovered yet.

After a short pause, I told the student, "I draw trees the same way I draw everything else. I look at my subject, and then I make marks on the paper that represent what I'm looking at. I translate that which is before me to the page." The girl looked somewhat disappointed by my answer.

Since that time, I've reconsidered my answer. Not because of the student's reaction, and not because my reply was wrong, necessarily. I mean, what I said was true. That is how I draw trees. Kind of. But, maybe I didn't give the best answer. There's more to it.

I certainly understand the disappointment of the questioning student. Non-artists think of drawing as an illusionary skill - a set of tricks - things that artists know and non-artists don't know. If I would simply share with the student the trade secrets, then they too, could draw trees well, like I do. However, unfortunately, my answer didn't reveal a secret. My answer continued to make drawing sound like a sort of mystery. Not purposefully. Actually, my intent was to do the opposite - to reveal an important fact about drawing - that there is no trick to it. There is only looking, and making marks (and making meaning, but more about that later).

We've all seen drawing books which have chapters such as "How to Draw Trees." For years they made me bristle at the thought that they were selling a formula for drawing trees (and everything else). When you study drawing in art school, as I did, you aren't taught a formula for drawing. Rather, you are taught to see. You draw and draw and draw and look and look and look again, critically. A good drawing looks right and a bad drawing looks wrong. There are endless variations of drawing approaches (from cartoony to abstracted), but they all end up looking right or wrong. In the end, the drawings prove that the artist has translated a well-seen truth. I must admit, however, that suplimenting those hours and hours of guided looking and mark-making was the sharing of the real inside stuff - the timeless principles of drawing success: composition, perspective, gesture, value, proportion…etc. Those aren't tricks or formulas, but just looking and drawing wasn't enough for me to succeed. Good teachers sharing good lessons were essential to my future success. Recently, I've come to realize that some of those "How To" books are actually intending to teach people to see trees better, not to draw them a certain way. That I can support.

Perhaps the biggest problem with my answer is that I didn't even mention that drawing is a form of expression. When I draw a tree, that's not all that I'm drawing. I'm also drawing thoughts, feelings and reactions. It's an expression that I'm sharing. How I draw a tree has everything to do with that expression. A drawing of "I love that tree" is different than a drawing of "I hate that tree." I'm not just making marks, I'm trying to make a point. I'm making meaning.

Finally, and most importantly, we should face the fact that the question itself, "How do you draw trees?" is the problem. 

At its best, drawing is not about how. 

How I'm drawing trees, has everthing to do with why I'm drawing trees. 

I draw trees, or anything else, the way I do, as an expression of what I'm enthusiastic about. That's the "why" part. Why I draw is to capture moments of time and place, and light and textures, and shapes, and memories, and more. If I were a natural science illustrator, or an abstract expressionist, I'm sure my drawings would be very different. I'd draw them for different reasons, and with different enthusiasms. Actually, if I were any other artist, my work should be different. Drawing is personal. The fact that my drawings end up looking similar is not a reflection of how, but rather, a reflection of my enthusiasms and intentions, in other words, whys. I start fresh every time, and aim to always make something new. But in the end, I'm a singular person and my work reflects that. 

So, if I'm ever asked, "How do you draw trees?" again. Here's what I'll say next time:

"I draw trees the same way I draw everything. I look at my subject, and try to be conscious of why I want to draw it, and what I want to say. Then I make marks on the paper to represent what I'm looking at, and to reflect what I'm thinking and feeling about it. Through drawing, I try to translate everything to the page as if for the first time, and to share it with others."

Somehow, I can't help thinking that that same student would be no more satisfied with my new answer than the old one. But, at least I'll feel better with it. It's closer to the truth.





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