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

Feel the Fear...and Sketch It Anyway

[By Róisín Curé in Galway] A few years ago, I made my first few forays into urban sketching on the island of Mauritius. I'd just arrived, and I didn't know my way around, never mind what the big scary public would DO to a lone woman sketching. I was terrified about drawing out on the streets. I hadn't actually imagined any of the awful things that could happen - it was just general fear. Nonetheless, just two weeks after being given a book on urban sketching, I found myself looking for somewhere to sit across the street from a market stall in the crazy, noisy, chaotic Mauritian country town of Triolet, in sweltering heat. I had a huge straw hat on and enormous dark glasses, and I was listening to a local radio station via earphones - my feeble attempt at armour.

There was a blue kiosk to my right covered in a Pepsi-Cola logo, selling fast food of some sort. I could make out the top of the head of the vendor sitting inside. I avoided eye contact as I passed and took up position. Boy, was I hostile. I got the sketch underway and ignored everyone. 

After a few minutes the vendor came out from his kiosk. He was tiny - smaller than he'd seemed behind the counter. He was quite plump and had black spiky gelled hair (male Mauritians take their appearance very seriously). Without a word he put a sign in front of me. I couldn't see what it said and continued to ignore him. He turned the sign around to show me. It read "NO PARKING".
"Now no one will block your view," he said.
Well, that took me by surprise.
"Thank you," I said. "That's so kind of you."
On I sketched. You can see the back of the sign in the drawing. When I finished I showed the vendor my sketch. He was delighted.
"You should draw the temple," he said. "It's one of the most beautiful in Mauritius."
"The Tamil temple?" I asked. He looked annoyed.
"No, the Hindu temple. I live just opposite." He drew me a rudimentary map, and he told me that his brother was a big cheese of some sort (I didn't understand what) within the temple. He clearly felt a sense of ownership over it.

(After some time in Mauritius, a country with nineteen official languages and five or six official religions, I learned that everyone's identity is closely bound up with their religion. And so when the rôti seller in Port Louis told me I should draw the mosque, when my friend Ragani, in my favourite shop selling furniture from Rajasthan suggested I should draw the buddha on the street near her shop, when the guy who rented us our car said he would love to see a sketch of the Tamil temple near his home, I knew what religion each of them practiced.)

Anyway, Niteen (the fast food vendor in the blue kiosk) and I started chatting. We talked about the holy lake of Grand Bassin, a site of pilgrimage for Hindus, and he told me about his wife and two children.
"When it comes to children, I believe in quality, not quantity," he said, and shared some of his uncompromising views on divorced ladies having children they couldn't afford, which I challenged. But he was generally very good-natured, and before I left, he insisted on giving me a huge bag of his wife's samosas and gâteaux piments. I refused, because I was frightened of eating street food. Niteen demanded to know why I wouldn't take the food, and was starting to take offence. I could hardly accuse him - and by extension, his wife - of selling bad food, so in the end I took it, starting a terrible addiction to the delicious, cheap and perfectly safe Mauritian street food.

I did sketch the Hindu temple of which Niteen was so proud. He wasn't there the day I drew it, so I came and went unnoticed. But the samosas and gâteaux piments Niteen had given me were so good that I went back for more, taking my husband with me to meet Niteen. I showed Niteen the drawing I'd done of the temple. He was thrilled.
"Your wife has a gift!" he said to my husband. "You must protect her, and God will reward you."
When we got back to the car, it was all I could do to keep a straight face.
"I have a gift, and you must protect me," I said.

I got to know Niteen better over the next few months. I gave him a copy of the sketch of the temple and he always insisted on giving me those delicious samosas for a few pence. I'd question the amount, but he would never take any more. When my mother came to visit, he welcomed her warmly.
"You must bring Maman to hear the birds," he said. 
There is an enormous banyan tree at the entrance to the temple, and at sundown every evening the cacophony of mynah birds roosting in the banyan for the night has to be heard to be believed. That evening, when I brought my mother and the rest of the family to hear the birds, we visited the temple with all its resplendent gods. After it closed for the night we walked around the grounds in the warm night, the air cloying with the sickly-sweet smell of incense. Niteen sat on a bench, proud as punch, his legs swinging underneath him, too short to reach the ground. We met his brother - the one with the important position within the temple - as he locked doors behind us. He was tall, quiet and serious, as different as it was possible to be from his brother. 
A month or so later, we went en famille to Niteen's house to thank him and his wife and say good-bye, as we were leaving in a few days.
"I have laminated the sketch you gave me," he said, "and it is on my wall." 
His quiet, pretty wife gave me a bag of samosas - a really big one this time, for which she wouldn't take a penny - I cooed over his adorable children and off we went.

I returned to Mauritius the following year. I'd wanted to draw the beautiful banyan trees outside the temple and so off I set for the temple in Triolet. I was happily drawing away when I saw a short, plump man heading towards the entrance gates, beside which I was sitting. It was Niteen. Quick as a flash I drew him in. When he saw me, he did a double-take of surprise and gave me a warm greeting. He laughed heartily to see himself in the sketch.
"Will you draw my mother-in-law?" he asked. "She's just here at home. I'll go and get her." He literally lived opposite the entrance gates.
I said I would and a few minutes later Niteen emerged from his house, barely able to breathe for laughter. I eventually made out that his mother-in-law had taken the proposition very seriously, and was standing in the middle of the floor, wrapping her best sari around her for her portrait. Then Niteen went back to work and said the good lady would be out shortly.
A few minutes later a stern-looking lady came through the gates, glanced at what I was doing and walked on. I drew her in - that's her in the pink and red - but I can't be sure whether that was Niteen's mother-in-law. I like to think that it was.

That was the last time I saw Niteen. To think that I nearly didn't get to know him, just because I was scared of strangers.

Strangers? Friends I haven't met yet.





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