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

Calais: inside the refugee camp through the eyes of Nick Hayes

[Interview with Nick Hayes by James Hobbs] At Christmas 2015, the British graphic artist Nick Hayes visited the makeshift Jungle refugee camp at Calais, on the north coast of France, which has been home to an estimated 3,000-5,000 refugees at a time trying to reach the UK. The camp is now in the process of being demolished.

How did you come to be drawing in the camp? 
A friend of mine came back last year, and told me about it. There were some details about her experience there that lodged in my head, things I didn’t expect: the disorder, the lack of official aid presence, the numbers of people, the conditions. I think I realised then that this was something of a modern day line, a which-side-are-you-on, like the civil rights movement in America. Either you help, or you’re with the people that call refugees cockroaches.

I took a gap year at 18, so I’m well aware of the syndrome of "whitey-goes-to-help", something to assuage guilt, or give him stories that make him look compassionate, so I’m under no illusions as to whether my going was pure and selfless, but with migration being the next big issue of humanity, I felt I had to be on the right side of the line. I brought my sketchbook with me because I always do.

What drawing materials did you use for the works? 
Black crayons, black ink, dip pen, brushes, and a little jar of water. I should have brought tape for the paper as well, as the wind is so strong in this open wasteland, so close to the sea, that it snatches your drawing from beneath your hands. I spent most of my time trying to keep the paper attached to my sketchbook, positioning my elbows to clamp it down.

What was your working day while you were there — you were working in the kitchens? 
I worked in the kitchens for three weeks, and drew for the last week. I initially went down for a week over Christmas, but stayed until the end of January. I got the van from the warehouse at about nine in the morning, got into the camp, started chopping onions and making huge vats of chai for breakfast. Prep, serving and clean up was about four hours, and then we went to the food distribution queue in the centre of the camp and managed the distribution for another few hours. Then it was the evening meal back at the ashram kitchen. I’d eat in the restaurants with friends, do some writing, and walk home to my little caravan past the lines of French fascists lurking, in all weather, outside the camp.

How did the refugees respond to you drawing at the camp? 
Well, the white-gaze was my problem. I was shy about going up to people and asking to draw them – because of the imbalance of our political polarity, it was hard for me to establish an equal footing between us as humans. I felt awkward about drawing people like they were animals in a media zoo, what with half of the volunteers in the camp taking photos to boost their prestige on Facebook.

But there is something about drawing, I think based mainly on how long it takes, that is less like taking a photo, snatching an image and framing it out of the context of the subject’s life, and something more like honouring the sitter. I was humble going up to ask people if I could draw their camp, or their portrait, but because the process is so intimate, with lots of heavy eye contact, breaking into smiles, almost like flirting, and because putting images on a blank bit of paper is very much a spectator sport, with lots of people crowding round to watch, it was always quite festive. In the end, it felt more like an exchange of gifts, and concluded with tea, or conversation, and the swapping of Facebook details, so I could send on the images.

Were there many children in the camp?
Censuses claimed between 400 and 500 unaccompanied kids were there, the youngest around 10 years old. Either their parents sent them alone, or were split from them along the journey. They would hang out in groups, and were often the ones to start the occasional fights in the camp. In the food lines, they were often the ones skipping the queue, causing the people behind them to shout, and turning the atmosphere nasty. I stepped in to one fight, in a queue I was managing (a queue of about six or seven languages, none of them English), found the protagonist, and ended up squaring up to a 14 year old. It was ludicrous, and sad – me, a foot taller, and him with a rock in his hand. He wouldn't back down, or take his place, and I needed to calm the queue. It was a horrible moment, but in a situation with no professional aid workers in the camp, my lack of experience and training was all that was available. I learnt two things from this encounter: one, a smile works better than aggression, and two, this kid had to cultivate toughness to get where he was.

How did drawing the refugees at the camp change your views about them? 
Not one bit. I’ve travelled a lot, and ten years of that makes you realise how similar we all are. Nationhood is a political construct, and mostly people are all different, wherever you are — that’s the similarity. It depends how sharply you focus the lens – from a distance, everyone is the same. Coming face to face with people, you see that some people are assholes, some people are angels, and most are a blurred mix in between.

So, no, it didn’t change my mind, but it did increase my empathy. What if I'd left my friends and family in London and was sleeping in a freezing camp at some arbitrary border in the mountains of Turkey? I’d be wearing second-hand dungarees from a charity shop bin bag, queuing for two hours in the spitting rain for a plate of curry. I'd feel lonely, and angry and totally under-equipped, with my illustrator hands, to fight off the Jungle mafia, the French police, the security forces and lines of hate-filled fascists, cutting my way through razor wire every night.

What do you think your drawings will achieve? 
The honest answer is sweet fuck all. I lost my faith in political protest on the fifth Iraq war protest I went on, kettled into groups of 50, lines of police taking our photos, horses escorting us along the road. Protest in England seems like an analgesic, administered by a ‘democracy’ that closes its Westminster windows to the whistles and drums and waits for evening. It’s something for the hippies to do on a Saturday. Similarly, when my drawings were published in the Guardian, the responses were predictable. The pro-immigration lot found them beautiful and full of humanity, the anti-immigration saw them to be lefty, hippy propaganda.

So I didn’t hold out for a sea-change in opinion just because some illustrator had done some pictures. It did, however, allow me, on a personal level, to get to know some of the people in the camp that I didn’t encounter through serving food. It allowed me to engage with these people on a level that wasn’t so patronising, doling out aid for the poor misfortunates. I’m still in touch with these guys on Facebook, and some have even made it to England. They are real people and their lives go on, whether the West bothers to notice or not.

More of Nick's drawings can be seen on his website. A longer article, with drawings, about his time at the Calais refugee camp can be found on the Guardian website.  





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