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

Pictures of Pictures

By Fred Lynch near Boston, Massachusetts

Twin Staircases in Vitorchiano

Why do we draw what we draw?  Does it matter?
When you set out to draw, where do you go? Do you have a destination in mind already? Do you wander to find inspiration? Do you prefer to go to famous places - well known for their scenery?

A short time ago, I brought a large batch of my Italy drawings into my class for a critique (I'm a college professor of illustration). It was a good role reversal for everyone. I covered a long wall with drawings. Like most critique recipients, I was anxious. But, I encouraged honesty from my students and they delivered. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly before them.

What was most interesting to me, was the clear lack of enthusiasm for drawings that I had made of the most famous sites (like, "Piazza Plebiscito")*. These beautiful, historic places were of less interest to viewers, not more! Using the same skills, materials and time, I was unable to generate enthusiasm in my viewers. They admired the drawings of famous things less. Why?

One student stated in a matter of fact way,  "because they are two kinds of drawings, altogether". She explained that one kind of drawing was of what I, the artist had found to be interesting. The other kind were drawings of subjects that others have found interesting. She was right. I had decided differently why to draw these subjects. 

Artists can either follow their muse, or they can follow the crowd. 

It reminded me of a passage from Don DeLillo's classic novel, White Noise:

"Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America.  We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington.  There were meadows and apple orchards.  White fences trailed through the rolling fields.  Soon the sign started appearing.  THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA.  We counted five signs before we reached the site.  There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot.  We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing.  All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits.  A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot.  We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers.  Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. 

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more.  People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura.  Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence.  The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender.  We see only what the others see.  The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future.  We've agreed to be part of a collective perception.  It literally colors our vision.  A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.

He did not speak for a while.  We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

"What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said.  "What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?" "

 -from White Noise by Don DeLillo

Piazza Plebiscito
When we draw famous places, we are consciously or unconsciously burdened by others' perceptions of the place. We see the place in a shared way. We look through our own eyes at the subject, but also through the eyes of all the other viewers of this subject. Many of us are also looking through the eyes of other artists who have drawn this subject, or subjects like it.

In other words, we may compromise our enthusiasms to serve the expected - a pre-pictured image.

In the case of my work, the drawings of famous sites were serving as a "substitute image" of the thing - a symbol - a postcard. I made decisions of how to show the subjects clearly and recognizably and perhaps, too typically. They looked like what drawings of that place usually look like. The other drawings (like, "Twin Staircases in Vitorchiano") were more personal, and thus, more new and interesting.

If we don't follow our own interests, but rather, do what's expected, or familiar,  we end up creating drawings of drawings or pictures of pictures.*

That's why we see so much similarity in artists' styles, or more commonly, so much similarity of subjects. We sometimes draw what other artists draw, rather than what we individually would like to draw. I see it in my students all the time, and try to push them out of it. I push them to create something more personal.

Bringing it back to my work - my students could feel the enthusiasm for my personal interests. They could also feel the compromise of my postcard-like works of famous places. Despite my skills of hand, my lack of heart tripped me up and dampening my enthusiasms. I compromised my muse. I need to watch out for that, because enthusiasm is the difference between a competent drawing and an interesting one. Sure, we can draw famous things - they're famous for a reason- but we should try to add something new to what is said about it - something personal, and thus, memorable. We can't just show things, we have to say things.

Try to stand apart from the crowd.

*I did get credit, and interest for the water-bottle in the drawing.

**Postmodern thinkers are very cognizant of this stuff, but I'll not delve into those deep waters today, I'll soon be over my head.





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