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

Pour, drink – and sketch!

[Guest post by William Cordero in Cartago and San José, Costa Rica] I love coffee. I love the way it smells and tastes, and all the details and little processes it takes to have a good cup. You pour it, drink it and enjoy it – that's it, so it has become my favorite drink while sketching. I had always wanted to try it as a sketching tool/technique, but the results were always unpleasant as it lacked graphic strength, resulting in boring and "weak" sketches, not going beyond light tones. 

I started experimenting with all sorts of things to find my own way of sketching with coffee. I tried really hot water, really cold water, some strong blends, sugar-free coffee, decaf, sugar-loaded coffee until I used instant coffee. YES, instant coffee, and yes, probably the only thing I would recommend  it for.  But it was not that easy – I also had to do some tests until I was happy with the results.  

Heredia Central Park, Costa Rica (coffee, ink, colored pencil, permanent black marker)

Here are some of my findings (I know it's not the first time someone uses coffee to sketch, but I think it's important to share your own experiences. That's how I learn new things in this great urban sketching community):
Resulting texture after applying many coffee layers.

  • Before doing the actual plein air drawings it's advisable to do some study sketches, meaning getting to know the technique (quantity of water to use, drying times, density, brushes). Of course, it's also great to experiment as you go.
  • It's not very practical to create different "coffee tones." It can get messy, not to mention the extra space you will need with all these little bottles with different tones. 
  • Use a really thick and dark paste that you can dilute as needed. It helps using a small piece of paper to check color before applying it to your sketch.
  • I had a total random discovery while using a small bottle of alcohol gel with a couple of drops left, resulting in faster drying times and preserving the coffee for several days.
  • One of my first tryout sketches got spoiled because it got glued to the page in front when I closed my sketchbook and opened it the next day. Use wax paper or a fixative spray. 
  • I first do some basic line work, then I work with coffee layer by layer, going from light tones to dark tones.
  • The technique works really well with ink and color pencils. You just have to be careful to understand the timing of your sketch. The more coffee layers you use, the more difficult it is to mix it with other media.
  • Using coffee may result in a limited palette, so it helps making thumbnail studies about values to decide where to put more layers of coffee, and also where to put some color sparks. I do use black where I need it, mainly with permanent marker. (Sketch at top of page of Liberia Central Park done with coffee, ink, colored pencil and permanent black marker.) Sometimes it works... sometimes it does not.  Never try to get black color with extra layers of coffee – you'll know why!

Plaza de la Cultura, San Jose, Costa Rica (coffee, ink, colored pencil, permanent black marker)

Coffee sketches may not be permanent, they might decay or lose their vitality within time, but to me that´s the whole point. A sketch is all about the experience, about playing and experimenting. You already gain a lot with the time you and your sketch share together, just like a nice cup of coffee!

William Cordero is an architect based in Cartago, Costa Rica. He is a member of Urban Sketchers Costa Rica. He previously contributed a guest post about domestic landscapes. You can see more of William's sketches on Flickr





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