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

Smoke and Mirrors : Big Tobacco on Trial

By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, QC, CA

As an Urban Sketcher, I've always been curious about the practice of courtroom sketching. Now that cameras are permitted in much of the US, the profession seems to be dying out.

Luckily for Canadians, the decision here whether to allow photography is decided on a case-by-case basis, and is pretty much reserved for public inquiries with a significant social or humanitarian issue. So, in criminal cases and corporate law, if anyone wants a visual record of events, there is still a need for someone scribbling away with pencil and paper.

Suzanne Côté, recently appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, (standing) and Deborah Glendinning (seated, right). Representing Imperial Tobacco.

I was surprised to learn no special permission is required to sketch. Any member of the public is free to attend and stay as long as they like.

However, no liquids are allowed in the courtroom. This is probably more about spilled coffee than watercolours, but it meant I had to draw in the moment, and paint later.

I ended up spending four days making small sketches in pencil, and taking them back to the studio to assemble into digital collages. These were printed onto Fabriano 140 pound paper and painted in watercolour, allowing the drawing to show through. My typical solution when I can't paint on the spot.

Cynthia Callard and colleague blogging the proceedings

So, you might ask, how did I choose this particular trial to sketch?

Initially I was interested in a high profile murder case, but thinking it over I decided the killer didn't need any more publicity.

Fortunately, while asking around about the regulations, I met journalist Cynthia Callard. Cynthia has spent the last three years (250+ days in court) observing a set of class actions brought against cigarette manufacturers Rothmans Benson and Hedges, Imperial Tobacco Ltd., and JTI-Macdonald.

She has collected everything into a detailed day-by-day narrative on her blog: Eye on the Trials.

It makes fascinating reading. It's hard to tear yourself away from this epic tale of people unable to limit their addictions. To cigarettes on one hand, and to making money on the other.

Simon Potter representing Rothmans Benson and Hedges

At stake is a record breaking $27 billion figure that would pay restitution for anyone in Quebec, going back 50 years, who suffered damage to their health from smoking.

This is only the first of these Canadian suits to come to trial. They were filed in 1998 and have taken 13 years to work their way through the system. Other attempts are underway in various provinces, and will likely proceed no matter what is decided here.

The validity of these suits seems pretty clear. On the face of it, things look pretty dark. The plaintiffs assert that:

  • Tobacco companies planned massive advertising campaigns designed to hook people on their products, even after it was understood that cigarettes were dangerous. They knew people would die, yet they carried on making money.
  • There is written proof in their own words that instead of choosing to stop killing folks, manufacturers did their best to hide the facts. Including destroying documents containing too much hard truth, and enriching a select group of experts, paid to obfuscate the science for as long as possible.
  • Worse than that, manufacturers doubled down, focusing new marketing on teens, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction, planning on making profits at the expense of public health for an entire generation.

To say that version of events describes a failure of corporate citizenship seems to be putting it lightly.

However - I only know this second hand. I've come in at the very end of this long affair and I didn't see any of that evidence myself.

All I was actually able to observe, was the summation by the defence team. And I have to say, they are very convincing speakers.

Here is the tobacco companies version as best as I can recall:

Potter, Pratte and Côté, (studio portraits, from publicity photos)

  • Ok, we admit now scientists have proven that smoking is addictive and dangerous. But, we couldn't have known that back when we started this business.
  • The government said Health Canada would take care of spreading the bad news to smokers. So that wasn't our job - and in fact, we were initially ordered to stay quiet on the subject of risk, so the message would come from reliable sources.
  • Also, there are plenty of dangerous products, (like say, motorcycles or ice climbing gear), so that's why we have a consumer protection act. It wasn't our decision to give tobacco an exemption under that act - that was the government's choice. So, it's democracy to blame, and anyway, if we didn't sell it, others would.
  • Besides, tobacco manufacturers operate under federal license, and as a requirement of that, for years now we have put big, scary, un-missable health warnings on every package - making it very clear you should not buy our products.
  • Plus, we don't do any of those evil ads any more! Haven't for years. Kids shouldn't smoke, this is a problem with schools not being strict enough in the 70's and 80's, not with us targeting youth.

RBH council Simon Potter argues - why should smokers, who have accepted the risks, be compensated when the risks materialize? People who chose to smoke don’t deserve compensation just as “I don’t deserve compensation because I am overweight.”

I personalty felt this argument is tarnished by the uncharitable conclusion it offers. To whit: If you didn't quit smoking and died from it, it's your own fault buddy. Everyone else knew, why not you?

Guy Pratte speaking for Imperial Tobacco Ltd

Honestly, I can't see how the tobacco companies could lose in the short run here. I am just a layman - but it seems, no matter where you fall on the morality of selling tobacco, they are selling a legal product, in a legal way.

Yet - Even if the companies are released from legal responsibility, doesn't that mean we are all left with the larger questions?

How can our government continue to license the sale of a product that kills people?

How can the shareholders, managers and owners of these companies continue to turn a blind eye to the cost of profit?

If the best defense is that we all agreed in the 70's that smoking deaths were an acceptable risk - well - how much longer do we have to put up with that poor choice?

Judge Riordan's final decision will likely take weeks or even months. And after this, there are certain to be appeals. But I am waiting with great interest to see what develops. Is it possible that this is the first step towards a smoke-free Canada?





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