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

Kattaikkuttu dancing through the night

[Guest post by Cal Brackin in Kanchipuram, India]

I work and live at the Kattaikkuttu Sangam, which is a school that provides formal education while professionally training students (ages 8-18) to perform in a regional theater form known as Kattaikkuttu. The school is in southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was founded by Kattaikkuttu actor P. Rajagopal who was taken out of school at the age of 10 to act, but later realized the value of the formal education he was missing. He has since worked to realize his dream of transmitting the skills of Kattaikkuttu theater arts and formal education to girls and boys at a single school.

Kattaikkuttu is a full-theater production with costumed actors. Dialogue, song and dance are an integral part of it. There is also a full chorus who sing and play instruments. Performances run all night long in this traditional form of storytelling from the Mahabharata.  The Mahabharata is the longest poem ever written with about 1.8 million words. The stories being so long and performances so elaborate make Kattaikkuttu performances last a whole night.

Five-months ago, I arrived by train in Chennai, took a bus to Kanchipuram, then took an auto-rickshaw to arrive at the Kattaikkuttu Sangam for dinner at 7 p.m. While scooping up stewed potatoes and rice with my hand, I was asked, “Are you going to come to the all-night Kuttu performance?” I replied, “absolutely.”

Before the children began their all-night Kattaikkuttu performance, they held a ceremony inside the performers canopy tent to bless their costume items. Candles were burned while several adults led the children through prayers with their hands solemnly pressed together. When the prayers ended, the production started. Performers sat in a circle applying red and blue makeup with jet-black eyebrows and mustaches.

Seven hours into the performance, my back was cramped and head heavy from sitting through the Kuttu. Demon god characters shouted from the stage while drums popped and thumped to the accompaniment of singers and a wheezing flute. Kuttu performances tell complicated stories from the Mahabharata where gods quarrel with humans through moral dilemmas. Oftentimes, only men perform this theater form, but the Kattaikkuttu envisioned a theater company that broke gender barriers and encouraged girls to perform. Girls, discouraged from performing due to perceived weakness or impropriety, perform as spinning warriors that own the stage along male counterparts.

At five a.m., men, women, and children in the audience were sprawled out on mats sleeping, but the majority of the estimated 300 people were still captivated by the show. Near the end of the show I walked beyond the village on a dirt road bisecting rice paddies and palms reflecting on the culture, artistry, and humanity of the young performers of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam. It has been my pleasure and an inspirational experience to be living here.

I came to be at the Kattaikkuttu Sangam as an American India Foundation Fellow, which is an experiential learning opportunity in India where participants work in various sectors of international development (education, livelihoods, health, environment, law). Throughout my time in India I’ve been privileged to join 31 intelligent and ambitious men and women from India and the United States. Through our experiences, we’ve collaborated and learned from youth with big dreams, women who started milk collectives to earn their fair share and break barriers, and empower people to work for better lives.

Sketching is a way I experience, share, and capture moments of my life. I draw scenes in the moment, with the scents of food, honking of horns, crowds of curious onlookers, and expressions of people I admire imbued into each drawing. I hope you enjoy looking through these drawings, a lens into my world, as I experience serving in India.

Cal Brackin is from Jackson, Wyoming and is currently serving as an American India Foundation Fellow in Tamil Nadu, India. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia (2013-2015). You can see more of his sketches here.





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