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

Volterra’s Roman Amphitheater: Ancient History with a Bizzare Restoration

By Marc Taro Holmes in Volterra, Italy

This is my personal favorite sketch from our time in Volterra. It is perhaps not the most pictorially beautiful painting. It could even be called confusing.

You are looking down at the partially reconstructed ruins of a Roman theater, with scabby grass growing between the rocks. It was hot and dry, baking the moisture out of the painting almost immediately. This was actually helpful getting this completed in the short time I had these interesting shadows.

This might not be the sketch you would choose to hang on the wall - but in my mind it holds an interesting story. Which in all honesty, we would never have heard about, if not for our friend Simo showing us around.

These ruins had been lost for many years. But apparently it was obvious to those who understand these things, that there was a Roman theater hidden here. The shape of the terrain is distinctive - and there were probably records - old maps and manuscripts with drawings of the place, or people's diary writing. So, while most people had forgotten, someone always knew there had been a grand structure here .

In the years between the Romans and the 1970's this piece of history might have fallen naturally - or been scavenged for stone used to build the town. But there was also a kind of willful ignorance humans will always employ. Because of the high 13th century era wall, and the location at the edge of the city center, it was somehow considered a great spot for tossing garbage. Eventually the ruins were completely buried below the city dump. I guess if you have a surplus of stone ruins in your area, you don't care about burying a few rocks under your midden heap.

The town of Volterra, which goes back to the Etruscan times, had two modern industries before today's reliance on tourism. At first it was the heart of an Alabaster carving empire. We heard about at least two great families who made their fortunes exporting treasures in Alabaster. During our week painting, we stayed in a beautiful villa that had been the country home of one of these art-barons. Today it is an artist retreat/bed and breakfast run by artists Klaudia Ruschkowski and Wolfgang Storch.

But the most recent economic engine of the city was an entirely different thing. A huge mental asylum.

Sometime before its decommission in the 1970's, the ever expanding complex had a population of 6000 patients. I can only imagine it must have been a Dantean warehouse for the mentally ill - along with any number of unfortunates who were simply tossed in there, never to return. A few internet searches about the asylum raise up grim stories such as 200 patients sharing a bathroom. Modern day Urbex photographers have infiltrated and brought back photos like these.

(Photo: Fabrizio Costa)

We are told that at one point everyone in the town worked for this hospital in some capacity. If not actually guarding the inmates, they were probably washing the sheets, cooking the food, or whatever support was necessary. Perhaps this came naturally, as the town has, since the middle ages, also had a stone fortress with a dungeon, which is still used today as a prison. Presumably the medieval cells have been modernized. (I hope). Coming into town by bus from Florence, we met an artist/actress who was on the way to a theater project in which they perform inside the prison. Somehow in collaboration with the prisoners? I didn't get the details.

In any case - at some point in the 50's, a local man named Enrico Fiumi who had been educated as an economist was working at the Guarnacci Museum and Library in some capacity. He became an expert in local history and became aware of the buried Roman theater.

In an incredibly Italian story, he achieved two things. He convinced the asylum to *lend him mental patients*, to carry out the excavation. Presumably as volunteers who would do anything to get out of that place for a short time, and presumably working entirely with hand tools, and without any real training or supervision in Archaeology.

As well - as the excavation took shape - he conducted a many year long campaign to relocate a modern day soccer field that had sprung up next to the old dump - finally allowing them to fully uncover the theater. It was probably harder to evict the soccer players that it was to borrow the mental patients.

Today, you can look down while passing from one gelato shop to the next espresso stand, and snap a picture of the ruins without ever becoming aware of this strange history. This is the kind of thing that I find fascinating, and what leads me to spend an hour in the blazing sun, making this painting.

For the artists still reading to the end: the sketch itself was drawn in pencil to capture the complexity of the floor plan. Then, working very quickly, I painted the dry grass with a marbled mix of Sap Green and Goethite, working left to right systematically in little patches of wet on dry. The pigment Goethite (brown ocher) from Daniel Smith is quite similar to the commonplace Yellow Ocher - but I enjoy it for its opacity and extreme granulation. Effects like this patchy grass can be easily implied by the natural sedimentation of the earth tone. The shadows are mostly mixes with DS Moonglow. A cheater's color for shadow if there ever was one.






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