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

Keeping the floodwater out

[By Marcia Milner-Brage, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA]  

 Perhaps you saw on the news that the Cedar River in eastern Iowa flooded my town of Cedar Falls. It crested on Saturday, September 24th, at 98.8 feet, almost 11 feet above flood stage. It was the second highest flood on record, after the one in June 2008 which crested at 102.1 feet.

The 2008 flood was deemed a "500 Year Flood". It was supposed to be an infrequent occurrence. Guess not. Global warming and poor floodplain management policies are thought to be contributing causes. In 2008, there was extensive flood damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure. But in the years since, much has been done citywide to be better prepared. Earthen dikes were erected around downtown, the Cedar Falls Utilities coal burning facility, and the sewage treatment plant. Concrete flood walls with movable floodgates were added in strategic areas on the south side of the river.

On Friday, the river rose rapidly. There had been heavy rains in the days and weeks before, even heavier upriver. Nobody knew how much the river would swell beyond its banks. The floodgates were closed. In the drawing above, see the right diagonal supports, bracing the floodgate near the railroad tracks that lead to the coal yard. Washington Park, a riverfront green space,  is on the other side of the rail cars beyond the floodgate. On Saturday when I drew this, water had seeped under, covering some tracks and the bike trail. But that was minimal compared to the water that had inundated the park.

The park entrance is beyond where the low and high concrete walls come together in the above drawing. That floodgate was also closed on the Friday before the crest. But that was not enough: bulldozers mounded earth against the flood walls and gate. And to further protect the nursing home that is unseen to the left, a huge, blue plastic, water bladder dam was placed. Night and day, Friday and Saturday and Sunday, city workers monitored the rising water at this and other strategic points along the river's raging path through the city.

The sewage treatment plant is along the Cedar River near downtown (see the covered, domed structures, right). There, too, is a permanent earthen dike, grassy green at this time of year. But taking no chances as the water rose higher and higher,  swamping the grove of trees on the river-side of the dike, City officials put out the call for citizens to fill and place sandbags here and at other vulnerable places. As it happened in 2008, the volunteer turnout was huge.

It is days after the crest. The river has receded. The floodwater moved downriver to Cedar Rapids and beyond.  Most of the sandbags have been removed. The floodgates are still closed. I don't think I'll be walking or biking in Washington Park any time soon. Homes, businesses and parks on the north side of the river, unable to be protected by dikes and flood walls, did suffer similar destruction as in 2008. There is a huge cleanup job to do. Though many feel Cedar Falls dodged the worst this time, compared to 2008. All the endeavors I've described worked, minimizing the flood damage. Keeping the floodwater out was a heroic effort.





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