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

The Sweaty Flâneur

I was at a meeting, not long ago, when the term "flâneur" came up. I had never heard it before. A fellow art professor said, in essence, "I want to receive a grant so I can be a flâneur for an extended period of time.” Another professor, reacting, chimed in that she fully understood that desire, because she was investigating the effect of boredom on creativity. I was confused and, frankly, a bit put off. It all sounded self indulgent to me, and so foreign. Investigating the term online, later, only made me feel even more uncomfortable. Even the little hat on the letter "a" was off-putting. 

Flâneur is a French term which doesn't have a direct English translation. Created by Charles Baudelaire (182-67), it is a noun, meaning: a stroller, a saunterer, one who wanders around aimlessly and soaks up the goings-on of the streets. A flâneur is part of the crowd—yet apart. A flâneur is in no hurry. The term isn't used much now, and it retains its Parisian associations. Looking for visual references on the Internet leads to images of well-dressed men in top hats—dandies. The word seems to have a suggestion of wealth and careless bliss. Honore de Balzac said, "What an adorable and delectable existance is that! Flâneurie is a form of science, it is the gastronomy of the eye!"

Paul Gavarni, Le Flâneur1842
From Louis Huart, Physiologie du flâneur (1841)
What could be more foreign, I wondered, in the modern world we live in, than someone who's just wandering around looking? I can't picture many people sauntering anymore. Except dog walkers and joggers. Everyone is kept busy nowadays. When I was a kid, we had lots of free time. My friends and I walked in the woods, and to the store, and made many stops along the way. Puddles, streams, construction sites, trash trucks, animals—they all slowed us down. We stopped and looked. Old folks, too, would watch on the streets. We used to hear the term "sidewalk supervisor" for men who hung around at construction sites. Now we have camps and play groups and lessons for kids. We have Senior Centers for the retired. Everyone is kept busy. Everyone in America is off the streets. 

Which leads me to the subject of sketching. The more I think about it, the more I think the sketcher is the modern day flânuer. That makes me a flâneur? Not all the time, and not with a top hat, but still, I (and my fellow sketchers) may very well be part of an international flâneur resurgence. Sketchers wander, and watch, and wonder on the streets. How else to describe the fact that I'm prone to walking around for hours—then sitting and observing closely, the light of a sunset as it crosses a car, on a small back street in Italy? 

Yet, I don't feel like I fully match the flâneur profile. It's not a comfortable fit. When I'm wandering, I’m busy wandering. Like others, I have a job to do, and a family to attend to. I have commitments to keep. So, in a thoroughly modern way, my flânerie (the act of being a flâneur) is a scheduled activity. To see me wandering, or sketching, is to see me working. I'm a sweaty flâneur.

Being a flâneur is my favorite job, flânerie my most treasured time—a perfect antidote to a fast-paced world. A dandy indulgence.





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