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

Three Pointed Questions for Reportage Artist Richard Johnson

By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, QC

I interviewed reportage artist Richard Johnson back in 2013, talking about his work sketching on location with various military elements in Afghanistan. He has since moved from Toronto’s National Post onto the Washington Post in Washington DC, where he continues to be a fascinating sketcher, taking on the hardest of topics.

Having spent the spring drawing an in-depth reportage of the trial of Tsarnaev Dzhokar (Boston marathon bomber), he has recently returned home with his sketchbook to address the issue of homelessness in DC.

This is a social problem that’s clearly familiar to any urban dweller. But one we are conditioned to ignore. There are so many perfectly good reasons to pass by a homeless person with eyes averted. Everything from shared embarrassment to reasonable caution. We don’t know these people. We’re worried about their mental state. Few of us want to engage face to face. As an introvert myself, I hardly ever talk to any strangers – never mind people who are in quiet crisis.

As always, Johnson pushes himself past these reasonable concerns. He has a compulsion to get up close and personal. Giving us his keenly observed portraits, accompanied by the subject's own words.

As a location sketcher myself, but not someone who has faced these kinds of raw stories, I’m fascinated with his work. It’s the kind of drawing challenge that many artists think about taking on. So I took a chance to ask him three pointed questions that might help those of us who are thinking about doing this kind of work. His answers were of course on point, and revealing.

MTH: Richard, thanks for sharing your reportage on the homeless in DC. I like the fact you talk about how difficult it was to engage with people. That they're not necessarily willing to be drawn. It's an interesting topic for a sketcher.You start the project by sketching people at a distance - would it be fair to say you were dodging the issue of getting permission at first, before eventually finding a way into the story?

R.J.: I think what we do as urban sketchers is by its very nature a kind of documentary voyeurism. We draw our own worlds because we want to show them to others, but do it long enough and eventually you end up in some gritty corner drawing graffiti scrawled on some decayed building. You are sketching it not because this is something that you would choose to show others, but because it is something that needs to be shown. That is how I got to the point where I was surreptitiously drawing the homeless.

MTH: Do you have any thoughts on the ethics of drawing without consent? Is it a dicey thing - or do you feel you're on the moral high ground making these drawings? Do you feel it's any different ethically for a reporter than for a hobby-sketcher?

R.J.: This is always a thorny question and one that many of us grapple with especially in this changing privacy conscious world. As a visual documentarian though, I consider it my responsibility to capture life in its purest and most natural state. That is why we urban sketchers draw what we see - not what we’d like to see, or what we have staged, or what we took a photo of. The capturing of life while immersed in the same moment as the subjects we draw raises the art we create beyond anything created from a photograph. So in my opinion, if your intentions are pure and your mind is set only on the need to draw what you see, then it makes no difference whether you are drawing buildings or people. You are capturing your world.

MTH: Have you ever faced questions about using people's difficult situations to promote yourself? (Bear in mind, I'm on your side!) - but I'm curious about the issues around a reportage artist drawing public attention to their sketches while working with people's true-life stories.

R.J.: As much as I love our Urban Sketchers group, I believe that there is much more we could all be doing with our skills. We have an organization that stretches all around the planet and an artistic device that affects people deeply. I think that we should all be looking for opportunities to tell the hard stories. I think we are beginning to see this happen. Some of the artwork, of devastation inside Syria, and of refugees across Europe in the last year has been particularly telling in changing public attitudes.

But more to your question, personally, journalistically I never want to be even vaguely perceived as taking from someone in pain in order to promote myself. I am the lens only. There are of course situations where I would not be able to draw without requesting permission first. My work with wounded warriors over the last decade depended on a high degree of trust and acceptance. And sometimes written permission was even necessary in order that there is a clear understanding. But regardless of the paperwork or trust gaining, my own motivation remains the same. I want to tell stories and change minds using pictures and words.

This is a power that we all have IF we choose to use it.


To read Richards full story and see the rest of the drawings, please head over to his Washington Post article Drawing the Invisible. You can also follow his blog at, or follow Richard on twitter.





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