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

Creating an Urban Nature Sanctuary

[By Cathy Johnson in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, USA] I am delighted that after some years of work and thought, we’ve managed to create a tiny nature sanctuary right here in our old neighborhood. Our sanctuary is not public land, it's the lot I bought next door when the house burned down years ago. Adjacent is the alley, abandoned by the City, for which we also take responsibility, and the young forest across the alley that the neighbor (to which it belongs) ignores. I keep it picked up and clean.

We attract many species of birds, as well as raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and the very occasional white tail deer and fox. We plant flowers to attract butterflies and bees, and there are many species of wildflowers and useful wild plants on our little lot.

Plus WONDERFUL sketching opportunities! There is much more to our urban environment than buildings and people.

I do quick on-the-spot gesture sketches and often add color as the birds stay around.

I make my own art supplies from things that grow in my little sanctuary...note the more practical dip pens on the right! I love accepting nature's gifts and incorporating them into my art.

My feeders are usually busier than this!

I learn a lot about my environment by sketching what I this case, a woodpecker's burrow caused the limb to break off so I could see how the nest was made.

Birds DO move fast, but we can sketch their basic shapes, just like people in a cafe or airport terminal, and add color as we have the chance. I like to list the birds I see on any given day...

And record special events like this! A white tail deer chasing my cat through the woods. I was able to dash down their shapes as I watched, then added my familiar trees once they'd boogied on out of there...

Pileated woodpeckers are making a comeback! I've sketched him several times...even on my feeder, though I've been told this big bird doesn't come to feeders.

These guys are ALWAYS good for a laugh, as well as fast sketching practice. Here, mostly a Prismacolor dark grey pencil with washes added...

If you're interested in creating your own urban nature sanctuary, here are the basics you'll need:
  • Feeders of several kinds (different birds feed differently, so platform, hanging, and covered feeders, etc.)
  • Birdseed and feed of different kinds (most birds like black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, and suet blocks. Hummingbirds need sugar water.)
  • Birdhouses of various types
  • Nuts or corn for squirrels
  • Water source (we have a heated water bowl in winter)
  • Cover (bushes, brush pile for birds and small mammals)
The kind of peanut feeder, above, attracts a lot of birds.

The plants that occur in our urban environments are a vitally important part of the concept. An urban nature sanctuary provides food, seed, and nectar for hummingbirds, goldfinches and other birds as well as butterflies, bees, and other insects.

Many plants are useful for humans as well and make them an essential part of any backyard nature sanctuary. This past year, I collected wild violet leaves, gill-over-the-ground (ground ivy), dandelions and other wild flowers for teas and tinctures, and additions to our wild salads. As the land is allowed to become more wild and less controlled, I have explored the many volunteer plants and have incorporated the work into my sketches, adding the plants to my journal with their common and Latin names along with uses from folklore and modern herbalists. I use family memories and remedies as well as a 3-foot-tall stack of books on the subject. The project has grown into a useful Materia Medica of the wild medicinals of my tiny wildlife refuge.

What nature can you find in YOUR urban environment? It’s precious, and we are nourished by it.

There is a program in the United States that gives certification for this kind of effort from the National Wildlife Federation, well worth looking into if you are interested.

And enjoy this site, The Urban Wilderness, for more inspiration—one man’s effort in Kansas City’s populous Brookside area.

Cathy Johnson is a writer, naturalist, illustrator, teacher who was also one of the very first Urban Sketchers international correspondents for this blog. She has written and illustrated 35 books, 9 on natural history, and she served as Staff Naturalist for Country Living Magazine for 11 years. She has written countless articles on wild plants and their uses. Her work can be seen at; her blog, "Cathy Johnson; Art Life & Other Oddities"; or in her Etsy shopA variation of this post originally appeared on the USk Midwest Blog





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