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

Cold Weather Urban Sketching: Tips from the Pros

[By Urban Sketchers in the far north] Have you sat home through many months of the year waiting for 'urban sketching weather' to reappear? Or maybe you live in a part of the world that just never gets really cold? Or you're in the Southern Hemisphere and the timing on this post makes you grin smugly? Whichever way, surely you've wondered how all those snow-filled urban sketches are made? I've wondered for sure, so I asked some of my favorite cold-weather sketchers to share their best tips on how it's done. Here they are. If you've got more tips to share, add a comment, we'd love to hear from you! 
- Suhita (sketch above by Shari Blaukopf)

Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal

Boots on the Ground: Your boots are the #1 most important piece of gear. A pair of winter boots you're comfortable walking in will not be good enough. Standing still for any length of time sucks the heat through your soles. Look for boots that are too heavy to be comfortable. They should look ridiculous. That's what you want. Sorrel or Baffin are good brands.

If it gets to be -20C I have an ancient pair of Baffin Vanguards inherited from my father. My 30-year-old pair are not as uber as the current model, but hey - free is free. It's overkill for me to own a pair of arctic exploration grade boots I might only wear two or three times a year- but if you want to be out all day and have absolutely no reason to complain - this is the only answer.

Pry my Brush from my Cold Dead Fingers: I find a bulky glove really interferes with my painting. Sometimes that means I'll just try to tough it out and let my fingers freeze. But you can only do that for a few minutes at a time, so it's not a real solution.

Therefore - a new option I'm trying this winter: Freehands Thinsulate gloves. They're not the warmest, but they're snug fitting and flexible - and have a fore-finger and thumb that flips back, with a little magnetic catch to keep the finger-end tucked away. It's impressive how much just that finger and thumb help with brush dexterity. I've been told, when it gets too cold for even these, to put a knitted mitten or sock over your entire gloved hand, and push the brush handle through the knit. I'll report back on the validity of that suggestion in a few weeks.


Marcia Milner-Brage in Cedar Falls

You don’t have to be out in the cold to sketch the winter outside. In the past, I sketched winter from my unheated, parked car. Or I stood on street corners wearing thick-soled boots, wool socks, long underwear, and a down coat, gripping my 5B pencil and pocket-size Moleskine with fingerless gloves. Then about ten years ago, I realized this wasn’t fun.

Now, I draw winter from inside, looking out. Here, a snowman in my neighbor’s backyard as seen from an upstairs bedroom window.

The only thing that limits me is when it gets so cold that the windows frost over and I can’t see out.

Me dressed for a walk in my northeast Iowa neighborhood on a gloriously sunny, sub-zero Fahrenheit day. 


Fred Lynch in New Hampshire

As a native New Englander, you'd think that I'd be well-versed in winter sketching, but only lately have I dealt with the cold in my work.

For winter drawing, I switch from usual medium of ink to pencil because it's more portable and doesn't invite issues of freezing liquids.
I used Faber-Castell Polychrome Schwartz Black pencil in the drawing below. I like it because it's not very smudgy and gives a nice range of values.

After trying fingerless gloves, I found it's better for me to simply draw bare-handed - even in sub-zero temperatures. When I hold the pencil with fingerless gloves, it feels unfamiliar - at the wrong angle - slightly off. The odd angle hinders my familiar control of the pencil. Instead, my winter glove is put on and taken off, as needed for warmth.

Center Harbor, New Hampshire

This drawing was worked on first outside and then inside my car. I don't like starting a work in the car, because the perspective is so limiting. I like to walk around and look wider to select and frame a picture. However, when the cold is as bitter as it was the day of this drawing, a warm car was necessary for success for a sketcher like me, who works a long time on an image. It was probably necessary for survival as well.

Shari Blaukopf in Montreal

Sketching in Montreal in winter is not always the easiest thing to do. I love to paint the outdoors, but I can't paint outdoors, so I do the next best thing: I paint from my car. I am sometimes asked if I sit in the driver’s or the passenger’s seat. Well, as you can see, it’s the former, for two reasons. One is that I use the steering wheel as a support for my sketchbook. Secondly, I am right handed and that gives me easy access to the palette (which is on the passenger seat) and water container (which is in the car's cup holder).

A few tips for painting in your car in the winter:

1. Warm your car up well before you go out. If I do that, even after I turn the engine off, the car stays warm for a long time, allowing me to complete my sketch.

2. Dress for the occasion: warm boots and socks, long underwear, a hat. Keep the jacket thin and not too bulky.

3. Turn on the engine occasionally to dry the sketch (with the car heater) and warm yourself up.

4. Most importantly, don't leave anything electrical on in the car. I have drained the battery on more than one occasion from leaving the wipers or the seat heaters on.

There are some days that I can’t paint in the car, but those are infrequent. When the thermometer goes too low (-20C), the washes crystallize on the palette even in a preheated car, and then I have to paint indoors. And on days when it’s raining so hard I can’t see out the front window, I find a nice café and sketch from there.

So that’s my setup. Nothing complicated, really, but good enough to allow to me sketch year round.


Nina Johansson in Stockholm

I mix my watercolor water with vodka when the temperature is below freezing. I use the cheapest kind of vodka. It's important to use spirits with no colour or spices, since it might otherwise get sticky on the pages. Clean vodka just evaporates, doesn't even smell strange once it's gone from the paper. The colder the weather, the more vodka in the mix, usually at least 50/50. I bring a little bottle of this with me, and fill up a waterbrush with it. I don't use my good paintbrushes, the liquor isn't good for my brushes.

Watercolors act a little bit different than usual with this: they sometimes half freeze, and then I get a little crystal pattern in large washes (you can see a little of that in the sky in the cityscape above) - that's when I know I have to add more vodka to the mix. If the mix contains too much water, the paints will freeze, or make some kind of slush on both palette (see photo below) and paper, but once you get inside again, it´s fine, it just dries up pretty quickly. I don´t mind the funny crystal patterns going on, really, it is an interesting feature in the sketch. 

I switch from ink pens to pencil. Pencil is really the only thing that works when it gets really cold and the fineliners freeze. A pencil, thick mittens, and then the watercolors. That's what works for me. Which makes for sloppier sketches, less details, which is usually a good thing anyway. I love sketching in the cold. It's a good challenge. Just a pity that my fingers freeze so quickly, in spite of gloves, mittens and whatnot, so I can't stay out for very long at a time.


Amber Sausen in Minneapolis

I really enjoy winter sketching as a way to challenge the notion that one must be skiing, sledding or snowshoeing if you're outside.

Vodka in brush pen: I've tried various ratios of alcohol to water, but when it's -10F (-23C) any water just creates a slush in the brush bristles. I load the brush with straight vodka. It will still get slushy, but the alcohol buys you a little more time before you get iced out.

Fat tools: Sometimes the hassle of trying to hold onto a sketchbook and palette gets to be too much. Then I skip the paints and instead use a dry media or alcohol-based marker. Bonus: A thick tool is easier to hold in mittened hands.

Attire: Keep your hands protected! On subzero sketching adventures I always keep my stretchy gloves (the cheap dollar store kind) on and take frequent breaks to stick my sketching hand back into a bigger mitten with a chemical warmer inside.

Subjects: be realistic about the amount of time you can sketch before your hand (and the rest of you) gets cold. Stay safe. Frostbite is no fun.

Keep a thermos of hot cocoa with you to warm you up and celebrate your successful winter sketching adventure!


If you'd like to see even more examples of winter sketching by these artists and others go here.





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