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

Freedom Cannot Be Imprisoned: Ai Weiwei Exhibition at Alcatraz

 By Jane Wingfield in San Francisco, California

Ai Weiwei wasn't always a dissident, at least not officially. It wasn't until the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, when the Chinese government refused to release the names of over 5000 children who died in the disaster, that Weiwei confronted the government directly. He produced a performance piece that read each child's name continuously and posted it online. Since then the Chinese government has kept him under constant surveillance. Weiwei continues to speak out.

@Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz, a potent and provocative installation at America's most notorious prison-turned-national-park, embodies the idea that freedom of expression cannot be silenced. The seven installations in four separate buildings are integrated into the standard Alcatraz tour. Weiwei's work, however, transforms the crusty prison, confronting visitors with stark contrasts and bringing up questions about freedom and human rights.

Bicycle of Flowers
On April 3rd, 2010, police arrested Weiwei without charge and detained him at an unknown location for 81 days, finally releasing him on June 22nd without explanation - and without his passport. He cannot leave China. A bicycle whose basket of flowers is refreshed daily sits just outside the door of his Beijing studio, beneath several surveillance cameras - a silent statement.

Because he cannot leave China, Weiwei used books, memoirs and photos to study the Alcatraz prison site, mapping its construction and layout while designing the exhibition. Weiwei's staff, park staff and local volunteers assembled the installations.

Weiwei uses the opportunity of the exhibition to speak about what happens when people lose the ability to speak freely, and to bring the conversation to a wider audience. He researched political prisoners throughout the world, and uses this opportunity to bring them, the repression they suffer and their causes to our attention.

The theme of human rights, freedom of expression and the political repression present in many countries - including the United States - runs throughout the exhibition.

THE NEW INDUSTRIES BUILDING is the vast structure where inmates worked doing laundry for military bases and manufacturing goods for government use. The three most visually dramatic installations are in this building.

With Wind
A traditional hand-painted silk Chinese dragon kite seems to burst through the confinement: the head confronts you at the entrance, and the body, consisting of hand-painted discs, winds through tall pillars in contrast to walls with peeling paint and exposed rusty pipes. Some of the silk discs display quotes from political prisoners, including Weiwei.

With Wind

The signature art piece of @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz consists of panels with 176 faces made of millions of Lego blocks, covering the floor in a patchwork of color. Each face is the portrait of a real person who has had some experience of political imprisonment. Some are still imprisoned; some are now free; some are deceased.


Trace (photo)

A massive sculpture sits in the basement of the New Industries Building. It consists of a monstrous wing, the feathers of which are constructed using reflective panels from Tibetan solar ovens, calling to mind Tibet's long struggle with the Chinese government - a wing enclosed, captured even, by the prison walls.



Stay Tuned
Prison cells, empty apart from a stool and headphones, invite viewers to sit inside, getting a sense of imprisonment while listening to the recorded voices of political prisoners - those who have been detained for expressing their beliefs. Isolation and expression.


This installation in the sterile psychiatric observation room resonates with chanting from both Tibetan monks and Native American tribes, drawing a direct correlation between the Chinese and American governments' oppression of native people.

In 1957 Chairman Mao initiated the Hundred Flowers Campaign, inviting the population to free expression of their ideas about the governing of China.

"The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is 
designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science." (Wikipedia)

As criticism of Mao increased, he changed course, with what is known as the Cultural Revolution. Dissidents - now easily identified from their free expression - were publicly humiliated, arrested, tortured, sent to labor camps and even executed. 


Weiwei's family was sent to Xinjiang Province, a remote area of Western China. His father Ai Qing, once a lauded poet and scholar, was forced to work daily cleaning communal toilets; their family ate seeds to survive. Knowing a little of what Ai Weiwei's family experienced gives deeper understanding of his crusade for free expression and human rights. 

Blossom transforms fixtures - toilets, bathtubs and sinks - with the installation of fragile porcelain flowers alluding to the Hundred Flowers Campaign and the possibility of transformation through free expression.

Yours Truly 
Again, a memory of Ai Qing, Weiwei's father, informed the last installation. While the family was still in the labor camps, Weiwei's father received an anonymous postcard announcing the 30 year anniversary of one of his poems. His father was deeply touched to know that he was remembered. 

Yours Truly encourages viewers to participate in a global conversation and to act to let individual prisoners know they haven't been forgotten. You can choose from any number of postcards, each addressed to a specific prisoner, with a symbol of the country where that prisoner is detained. The cards are mailed to the individuals to let them know that they are indeed remembered.

"The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case.
When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill." Ai Weiwei

 @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz will run until April 26th 2015.

Jane Wingfield is a Correspondent from Seattle. This article was originally posted in Seattle Urban Sketchers.





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