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

Recovering Chocoholics, Step Away From The Post

[by Róisín Curé] Drive through Galway, head south towards the Burren, look around you and breathe it all in. The Burren is one of those World Heritage places that blow you away. It's a karstic limestone pavement and remains sub-horizontal, meaning the ravages of time never threw the bedrock on its side, as is the case with most of Ireland. This means that when you look into the hills, you're hit with the impression of a pile of slumped blue-grey pancakes in the thickening atmosphere. The Irish tourism board wouldn't thank me for that description but hey, I think I'm in credit with them as far as showing the world my beautiful country through my watercolour sketches is concerned...

The Burren is a truly wild place, with lots of wildlife in the form of huge hairy goats, swift little stoats and suchlike, and rare flora, such as the Bee Orchid. I will tell you all about it later on in the spring. But National Parks aren't a hotbed of industry as a rule. You can't eat scenery, as they say, which brings me onto the theme of this post, a real success story. 

My friend Lorraine brought me out for lunch the other day. She had a surprise up her sleeve: the restaurant at Hazel Mountain, just inside the Burren National Park. The restaurant is in a tiny, 1950s Irish bungalow, and offers an incredible gluten and dairy free menu. I had no idea this was the case until my second visit, and I have to admit I was surprised - even though I love healthy food, I didn't know it could taste THAT indulgent.

After our gorgeous lunch, Lorraine and I weren't in any particular hurry.
"Let's pop into the chocolate factory," said Lorraine.
Chocolate factory? Huh?
Around the back, in three tiny rooms, was an actual chocolate factory. In an ante-room, behind a large window, a beautiful young woman in white chef's gear melted chocolate in vats and poured it into moulds to make truffles and bars of all description. She is a chocolatier, which is different, I'm told, from a chocolate maker. When we walked into the second room we saw sacks of cocoa beans stacked on the floor. A tall, rangy young man - the chocolate maker himself - told us what went on in there.

"We buy beans directly from the growers in Cuba, Venezuela and Madagsacar," he said, "and turn them directly into bars. We roast them, crack them and then the winnower removes the husks. Then we melt the cocoa and add sugar - and milk for the milk chocolate. And that's it. It is a very different, and much simpler, process than the industrially-produced chocolate you are used to eating."
Yeah, I thought, sales patter, looks nice, whatever.
"Would you like to try a sample?" said the chocolate maker, who turned out to be called Darragh. He passed around a pretty white bowl.
I only took it out of politeness - I had had my fill next door. But what I tried was a whole new taste sensation, to use a hackneyed phrase. The texture - smooth, yet with interest. The bite - an indescribably satisfying break in the mouth. The taste - smoky, warm, rich, sweet but not too sweet...

I didn't buy that day, but returned a week later with family visiting from abroad. I bought a bar or two, which is quite something since I am a bit of a tightwad and it's jolly expensive (about the price of a pint of Guinness or a cheap bottle of wine, neither of which don't come cheap in Ireland either).
"I assume you find it hard to eat any other type of chocolate now," I said to John, who was on the (vintage, gold and heavily-embossed) till that day.
"Yeah," he said, which was a bit vague. I'm sure he fields comments like that all day, every day. There is a steady stream of visitors to the place and the tills constantly ring with people buying chocolate. One nibble from that white bowl of chocolate samples and you're under a spell - one taste and you're theirs. Awards? They've had a few, and they've only been open since 2014. 

For Easter I bought two fancy eggs from Hazel Mountain Chocolate. We split one between us on Easter morning to make it last. That went well...although we were only a hair's breadth from resorting to weighing each portion.
I'll be back to draw more beautiful sights in Hazel Mountain. Keep an eye on my blog for more chocolate fabulousness over the coming days.
Update : off to Bray to see my parents.  
"Give them the other egg, " said my husband. 
"Great idea!" I said. 
"Actually, that was hasty," said Marcel. "Let's keep it."
"No, it's perfect," I said, "I'll bring it to them. "
"They might not be here next year!"
"I can't argue with that now!"
I brought it to Bray,  secretly hoping I'd get a bit of the egg.  
"For the record, I'm not eating it until you lot go back to Galway, " said Dad. "That way I won't have to share it." 





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