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

Japan, this time with sketchbook

By Tina Koyama, from Japan
east bank of Kamo river and Shichijo bridge, Kyoto.jpg
East bank of Kamo river and Shichijo bridge, Kyoto

Although my husband Greg and I have visited Japan four times, everything about the trip we just returned from felt new to me: It was the first time I took a sketchbook. It all seemed a little familiar, and yet somehow fresh.

The first half of our trip was spent in Tokyo, Japan’s largest city and the place most first-time visitors see. Ironically, despite our multiple visits, we’d hardly spent any time in Tokyo previously, so this was our first opportunity to become better acquainted with this world-class city.

The highlight of our Tokyo stay was meeting up with Urban Sketchers Japan for an afternoon of sketching in the Yanaka neighborhood and its historic cemetery. We followed up with more sketching over ice cream and tea, and eventually made an evening visit to Tokyo Tower and then an izakaya (pub style) dinner – all while sketching, of course! One of the very best things about being part of Urban Sketchers is being able to connect easily with other sketchers anywhere on the globe! My thanks to Kumi Matsukawa for organizing a fun day of sketching and eating, and to all the Tokyo sketchers for their warm welcome and USk camaraderie.

Yanaka cemetery, Tokyo.jpg
Yanaka cemetery, Tokyo
Yanaka neighborhood in Tokyo.jpg
Yanaka neighborhood street, Tokyo

Tokyo Tower.jpg
Tokyo Tower at night
Tokyo sketchers.jpg
Tina (left) sketching with Maki, Junel, Atsuko, Kumi and Chris

Tokyo sketchers at Yanaka cemetery.jpg
Tokyo sketchers at Yanaka cemetery
Tokyo urban sketchers at tea cafe.jpg
Tokyo urban sketchers

Ueno Park was a favorite Tokyo spot for both Greg (a photographer) and me. One reason is that the spacious park gave everyone plenty of space to play. Although we weren’t feeling particularly oppressed by Tokyo’s crowds, I imagine that the city’s residents use Ueno Park as a much-needed respite from the daily crush of people. Another reason is that I found buskers! While I didn’t generally see musicians or other performers on Tokyo’s sidewalks as I often do in Seattle, Ueno Park is obviously a popular place for them.

Ueno Park, Tokyo.jpg
Accordion player performs at Ueno Park, Tokyo

Sky Tree Tower behind statue at Sensoji Temple, Tokyo.jpg
Tokyo Sky Tree Tower behind statue at Sensoji Temple
A castle on our must-see list was Himeji. On one gorgeous day that looked and felt like spring (the temperature in the afternoon got up to 70 F!), we made a day trip to Himeji-jo, which had been unveiled only recently after five years of restoration. In fact, on our last Japan visit, we had made a stop at Himeji only to discover it covered in tarps and scaffolding. It was fully worth the return trip to see the 800-year-old castle in all its splendor. Although I sketched it twice (the first time with a fine-point fountain pen), I prefer the second sketch shown here made with a brush pen that wouldn’t allow me to get into all the details. I think it conveys more of the joy and awe we felt that day viewing Himeji-jo’s beauty.

Himeji Castle.jpg
Himeji Castle

A major goal for this trip was to see (and, for me, to sketch) Mt. Fuji. We spent one night at Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Fuji-san, hoping to see its elusive peak. It appeared only for a few minutes before ducking behind clouds again. Greg managed to photograph it a few times, but alas, I didn’t sketch it. (We were both soaking in a mineral bath at the time of its sighting!) I did, however, try to capture some of the hillside color.

hillside surrounding Lake Kawaguchi.jpg
Hillside surrounding Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Mt. Fuji
The second leg of our trip was spent in Kyoto. Cosmopolitan while also retaining old-world charm, the former capital of Japan is one of few places in the country where you can still occasionally see women dressed in traditional kimono (either because that’s the way they dress or because they’ve rented an outfit for the day to enhance their selfie-snapping as they shop). In Kyoto, I had fun making my share of sketches of pagodas, shrines, temples and statues of the Buddha as I had expected to. But sometimes I need a reminder that while I’m always tempted to experience the “big” things when I travel, the smallest moments often turn out to be the most enjoyable.
Shinbashi-dori, Gion.jpg
Shinbashi-dori, Gion neighborhood
Yasaka Shrine entrance, Kyoto.jpg
Entrance to Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

statue of Buddha at National Museum of Kyoto.jpg
Statue of the Buddha at Kyoto National Museum

pagoda at Sanjusangen-do, Kyoto.jpg
Pagoda at Sanjusangen-do, Kyoto
Walking to the Kamo river a short distance from our rented townhouse, we discovered an oasis of solitude. Even on a warm weekend afternoon, the riverbank was nearly deserted – only a few strollers, bike riders and one or two residents reading or picnicking. The busiest residents were the many egrets and herons fishing in the shallow water. Filling several sketchbook pages with those birds, I decided that day on the river was my favorite in Kyoto.
egret and heron on the Kamo river, Kyoto.jpg
Egret and heron fishing on the Kamo river.

Another example was when we had taken Kyoto’s well-known Philosopher’s Walk. A tree-lined footpath that takes about a half-hour to finish at a leisurely pace, it’s most popular in spring when all the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but November was also beautiful on the sunny afternoon that we were there. The icing on the cake was unexpectedly finding a busker on the path playing an unusual lute-like instrument. After several days of day-tripping and rushing through crowds, plunking myself down on a bench to sketch that busker seemed like the ideal, relaxing treat.

busker on the Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto.jpg
Busker on the Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto
sketching a busker on the Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto.jpg

Our fourth visit since 2001, this trip brought different experiences than the first three, but it ended the same way: Whenever I leave Japan, it’s with a certain bittersweetness that I am leaving some part of myself behind. It’s not that I feel I belong there; as a Japanese American, the U.S. will always be my home. It’s not that the people there are “my tribe”; I actually have very little in common with Japanese culture and habits. It must be that my genes stir from recognition of all those people who vaguely resemble me. My roots don’t necessarily take hold in that foreign soil, yet they sense the ancestral familiarity that my consciousness can’t quite grasp.

As always, I left without understanding those feelings, but two things were clear: One is that I know I will continue to visit Japan, again and again, to reconnect with whatever part of myself I leave behind there. The other is that preserving Japan in my sketchbook enables me to stay in touch with that part long after I’m back in Seattle. Page after page, I still feel it – the home of my ancestors.

Tina is a Regional Correspondent from Seattle. To read her full travelogue and view more sketches, please visit her personal blog or  Flickr album.





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