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

A Poet's Paradise: Yeats' Tower re-opens in Galway

"Everything is so beautiful that to go elsewhere is to leave beauty behind."

Those are the words of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, referring to his summer home in the gentle countryside near Gort in Co. Galway. I went there recently to take part in the celebrations to re-open the tower to the public, timed to coincide with Yeats' 150th birthday. I think Yeats summed it up perfectly with those words - the beauty of the tower and its setting is breathtaking at this time of year. 

All Irish schoolkids learn the poetry of William Butler Yeats (pronounced "Yates"). My classmates and I thought it was brilliant. We wished we could have made Maud Gonne return Yeats' unrequited love, although all we had to do was think of some poor boy who had similar feelings for one of us, and we understood how Maud must have felt. Yeats wrote The Cloths of Heaven for her: 

"Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

By the time we got to university, in the throes of some unrequited passion of our own, it somehow helped to quote the last two lines to our girlfriends over a drink in the College Bar. This happened a lot...and I did science. I can only imagine what it must have been like on the Arts campus.

William Butler Yeats would have turned 150 years old on Saturday. He spent twelve summers at Thoor Ballylee, near Gort in Co. Galway, until 1929. "Thoor" is a sort of anglicised version of the Irish for tower, which is Túr. The tower has been subject to the vicissitudes of the weather over the years, such as flooding of the Streamstown River which flows alongside the base of the tower. The damage the floods wreaked forced the tower to close to the public in 2009. In 2013 a local group got together to have the tower renovated, and the re-opening of Thoor Ballylee finally came about on 13th June 2015. I was lucky enough to be there, and I made a few sketches.

I knew the countryside around Gort was lovely in June, but once my children and I had left the main Limerick road the landscape became truly gentle. The narrow road twisted and turned, rose and fell, and was flanked on either side by fields, some yellow with the stubble of recently-cut grass, some still bright green. A farmer next to his tractor gave directions to the woman in front of me with a friendly smile. My kids - who had tried hard to be cynical and funny about the event on the journey down - were soothed into silence.

After a few more twists and turns, Thoor Ballylee appeared through the trees, rising to our right on the edge of the road. Streamstown River, barely more than a stream in the dry summer weather, runs at the foot of the tower. Soft afternoon light filtered through the trees all around the tower and the thatched cottage built on the far side of the tower. Later, I overheard someone say that the river in flood could rise to the roof level of the thatch, but it was hard to picture on the summer day of our visit. What I could picture, however, was John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara crossing the river in John Ford's The Quiet Man, for a scene which was filmed here at Thoor Ballylee.

There's a clearing in the trees just opposite the cottage and the tower, and the celebrations kicked off with traditional music. Máirín Fahy on fiddle, Enda Dempsey on guitar and Carmel Dempsey on keyboard kicked things off, and soon they were joined by Mary Murray on tin whistle, their tunes building in intensity, whirling and rising in the joyous atmosphere.

The usual band of onlookers watched me sketch, and as the crowds started to arrive in force I was left peering through gaps and around jackets and between legs from my low perch on my stool. I started the sketch before the multitudes arrived, which explains why there's no one but musicians in the drawing. 
I always enjoy the comments I overhear, particularly those of children. 
"Mummy, that lady is face-painting," said a little girl to her mother. 
The woman turned to me. "Is that all that art has been reduced to," she said ruefully. "Face-painting." 
"I was just thinking the same thing," I answered. Other children got the idea more quickly. I was particularly taken by two very pretty girls with long black hair next to me who were interested and respectful, asking intelligent questions about my materials. 
After the music, there were some speeches by members of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, the group formed to make the re-opening of the Tower a reality. There were thanks to the various people who had contributed to the restoration of the tower - some extremely generously. The clearing was stuffed to capacity by this stage. It was my moment to draw the crowd listening, as they formed the sketcher's favourite human subject - the captive audience.

A few people had arrived in period costume, adding to the festive atmosphere. My daughter pointed out a lady in crushed brown velvet whom she wanted me to draw. That's her on the far left. Then Fidelma Healy Eames, the chairperson of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, made an announcement from the stage.

"Can you keep the road clear, please," she said. "There's a horse coming."
We looked to our left. The sound of clopping hooves could be heard above the hum of the crowd. A man on a fine white horse halted just outside the tower. He was dressed as Yeats, complete with distinctive glasses, bow tie and floppy white hair.
The crowd hushed and "Yeats" (the actor and auctioneer Colm Farrell) began to declaim a poem. It was The Song of Wandering Aengus.

"I went out to the hazel wood,  
Because a fire was in my head,  
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,  
And hooked a berry to a thread;  
And when white moths were on the wing,          
And moth-like stars were flickering out,  
I dropped the berry in a stream  
And caught a little silver trout.  
When I had laid it on the floor  
I went to blow the fire a-flame,  
But something rustled on the floor,  
And someone called me by my name:  
It had become a glimmering girl  
With apple blossom in her hair  
Who called me by my name and ran  
And faded through the brightening air.  
Though I am old with wandering  
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,  
I will find out where she has gone,  
And kiss her lips and take her hands,
And walk among long dappled grass,  
And pluck till time and times are done,  
The silver apples of the moon,  
The golden apples of the sun."

The first time I heard this was on the album Ride On by Christy Moore, when I was in my early twenties. I didn't know at the time that it was a poem by W.B.Yeats. I just knew I had to listen to it over and over again. It's very likely I was feeling unrequited love for someone - pretty much my default state at the time.

After Colm's poetry reading, I heard the sound of children laughing, and peeked into the thatched cottage to have a look. There was the Galway storyteller Niall de Búrca, with a sea of children at his feet, paying rapt attention, spellbound by his animated storytelling style. After the stories, I wanted to see the inside of Thoor Ballylee, but my children were getting restless - I guess their serenity was shortlived. So I went back the next day to explore the tower itself, and to make a couple more sketches. The tower is just as you would want it to be: a winding stone staircase leads you from level to level, with arrow-slits so narrow that you wonder why they bothered, and ante-rooms and side-rooms, dead ends and blank passages, making the journey to the top a vertical maze. The stone staircase inspired Yeats' poem "The Winding Stair". A new, unvarnished pine bed occupies the last room before the roof, the better to help us picture it as a bedroom. I overheard a boy of about ten say to his slightly older, taller friend, "That's his actual bed, you know. It looks brand new but it's his actual bed." Both boys wore wellies and I realised they were local - this was their new stomping ground, as the last time the tower was open they were just toddlers, too young to have wandered unsupervised.

I climbed to the roof and went through the arched doorway at the end of the last stretch of stone staircase, which is very low, and a bit scary. Looking over the parapets there is patchwork countryside in all shades of yellow and green as far as the eye can see. I wanted to draw it, but as soon as I sat down I couldn't see it any more. I should have put Art before Comfort and stood to sketch, but I did not, and I apologise. I will do so next time. But at the time, I told myself that you could still get the feeling of being in the eagles' nest by the vista of clouds that I sketched...I hope you agree, and can picture rolling fields and green trees all around at the bottom...

As I painted the tower from the road - the sketch at the top of this article - visitors to and from the tower passed by. One of the boys in wellies from the top bedroom in the tower passed me...on a horse. He was only about twelve, and he was having the time of Reilly, making the horse splash through the river and trot along the quiet road. A man in a white shirt, with all the time in the world, leant on the bridge overlooking the river. He's next to the man in the striped blue shirt in my sketch. A couple arrived, and began to explore the grounds around the tower. The man of the couple called across the river to the man in the white shirt. 
"What year was the tower built?" he asked.
"About five hundred years ago," said the man in the white shirt.
"Was it the de Burgos who built it?" asked the first man.
"That's it," said the man in the white shirt. 
Their conversation developed and soon they were discussing history, politics and the locality in that highly-informed but unpreposessing way that so impresses visitors to Ireland.

Then the the quiet evening air was rent by the screams of a very small boy having a tantrum. He was about two years old, bright purple in the face, and he seemed about to burst his lungs with his screaming and crying. His mother remained calm and walked on, heading away from the tower and back towards the car park. Eventually I managed to make out the words of the little boy.
"I don't want to go home!" he screamed. "MUMMY! I want to go back! I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME!"

I'm with the little boy. I want to go back. Thoor Ballylee has a curiously magnetic effect on me and I can't believe that it's only ten minute's drive from my home. There'll be more sketches of hazel woods and winding stairs yet.

More on my website here. You'll also find a rendition of Christy Moore singing The Song of Wandering Aengus....treat yourself, it's beautiful.





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