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

Five months in Jerusalem

[Guest Post by Alex Hollmann in Jerusalem]
  I was lucky enough to spend the autumn of 2016 in Jerusalem on a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, which given the policies of the current US administration may soon be a thing of the past. The fellowship had to do with my job as classics professor at the University of Washington and my work on Ancient Greek magic, specifically deciphering and translating a group of curses from Caesarea that were written in Ancient Greek on lead tablets in the 5th c. CE and deposited in a well there. I was based at an American funded and run institution called the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, housed in East Jerusalem in a beautiful building from the early 1920s.

Mamluk-style striped masonry 42 al-Takiyah St.  
Drawing has always been an important part of my life, especially when I travel, and so I knew I would be sketching, but didn't realize how much I would end up doing.

Just about every day, before or after working on my archaeological project, I would take my drawing portfolio, slide in a few sheets of paper (about 12 by 20 inches), a foam-core drawing board with bankers clips, a small sketchbook, and two fountain pens, and slip out of the gate onto Salah-ed-Din Street. If I turned to the left, I would be carried by the crowd to the Flower Gate (Bab Al-Zahra) and would enter the Old City that way. Going straight would either lead me over the "seam" from Arab East Jerusalem and into Israeli West Jerusalem, or with a turn to the left down Nablus Road, to the Damascus Gate, another point of entry into the Old City. I generally let my feet and chance decide which direction I would go in.

Damascus Gate from the inside
I turned into a hunter, looking for anything that would suddenly coalesce as the perfect combination of things to draw. It could be a particular building or monument, an interesting tree, or a group of people, or sometimes I would sit down or stand in an interesting spot and draw whatever presented itself to me.

From the Dominus Flevit church on the Mount of Olives
Whatever I chose to begin with, from that moment on I tried to make myself receptive to whatever was happening around me. Often I would have conversations with people who came over to look at my drawing: school kids, who often wanted to practice their English, shopkeepers, guards and policemen, pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. After a while I actually began to welcome these interactions, though I initially tried to avoid them. They became an important part for me of the drawing experience and I would sometimes write a small narrative and include it on my Flickr or Facebook posts. Sometimes these figures would work their way into the picture itself.

An example of this is the Romanian orthodox priest in my picture below of the interior of the Tomb of the Virgin, one of the most atmospheric (in Jerusalem one would say "holy") places I visited in the Old City.
Tomb of the Virgin
You descend fifty or so steps into what was originally a complex of cave tombs, now squared, walled, and floored. A stream of light comes down from the door at the top of the stairs, cutting shafts through the incense-heavy air and outlining the figures of visitors making their way up and down. Hundreds of small lamps of colored glass suspended from chains glow dimly. A priest came up and asked me (after wanting to know how much I sold my drawings for) if I was orthodox (which in this context meant of course orthodox Christian, not Jewish). I made the mistake of giving an equivocal answer (partly Russian Orthodox, partly Anglican). "You cannot be both," he said. "We will ask Him." He held up a small gold crucifix hanging from a bracelet on his wrist and put his ear to it. "He says Orthodox." Then he took out a heavy wooden cross. I half expected he was going to hit me over the head with it, but he blessed me and left me to draw.

Assicurazioni Generali on Jaffa Road
If I saw an interesting figure moving through my frame, I would observe him or her for a few seconds and then draw the person from memory as best I could, preserving distinctive posture and features. Over time the sketch would become populated with these figures, as when a photographer keeps the shutter open for a long exposure and objects move across the frame, leaving traces and patterns. You can see this in my picture of Jaffa Road in West Jerusalem, a road that leads to the Old City and sees a lot of foot traffic as people go back and forth to the Wall to pray.

Western Wall. Friday morning prayers
Golden Gate

At left, I sketched a cold December twilight over Muslim graves and the Golden Gate to the Old City. The Gate's double entrance has been walled up for centuries. In Jewish tradition this is where the Messiah will enter Jerusalem. Many Christians believe this is where Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday.

I soon discovered that life in Jerusalem is particularly intense. Every stone is important to someone, every square centimeter has been contested and claimed by some group. Whoever currently controls those stones, controls access to them and behavior around them, and feelings can run high.

Most of the time this was not an obstacle to drawing—in fact I often received encouragement and praise for stopping and taking the time to record what I saw. A teacher quietly came up and left coffee and pastry for me when he saw me drawing the beautiful 12th century CE Mamluk-period details of the Araghonia Madrasa.
Bab el-Hadid ("Iron gate") on left. Araghonia Madrasa on right, with Mamluk architecture 

Ten minutes later the Israeli guard at the nearby gate to the Haram-as-Sharif stopped by to chat. Only once was I prevented from drawing, at the Western Wall on Shabbat. I had thought that the prohibition on photography during the Sabbath would not extend to drawing but I was wrong: drawing is an act of creation. I felt I couldn't draw at all in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim and I had to be very careful drawing the Haredim, ultra-orthodox Jews whose clothing and hats I was instantly attracted to.

Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) in their Sabbath clothes
People asked me at the time and later whether I felt safe walking about in Jerusalem—particularly in East Jerusalem. There were several stabbings of Israeli police or soldiers during my time there, sometimes in places that I had passed through a few hours before.

Maharil Diskin Courtyard, near the Damascus Gate

One day, on my way to draw a street and courtyard in the Old City, I passed through the Damascus Gate and noticed a female Israeli guard with exceptionally long and beautiful hair (living in East Jerusalem I seldom saw such hair displayed openly). When I left some hours later, I heard that there had been a knife attack on the guards there, and that a female guard had been injured. It was a shock to realize that it must have been the woman whose hair I had admired earlier, that the stones I walked over then now were stained with blood. I was similarly shocked again to hear of attacks at the Flower Gate and on El Wad Street in the Old City, places on my daily walks. And it was impossible not to think daily of the tensions and hardships of life for Israelis and Palestinians. I think only in Jerusalem might one see a scene like the one I drew one day near the New Gate. I was admiring the glossy horses of Israeli mounted police and starting to draw them, when suddenly one of the policemen jumped down from his horse and pulled over a Palestinian youth, spread him against the wall, and frisked him. While this happened a Franciscan monk and an Ethiopian Coptic priest wandered into the picture, followed by an American Orthodox Jew, who said, "Now that's something I never seen before."

Horseback search
Despite all this I still felt safe, if only because I was so clearly an outsider and a tourist. Surely I couldn't be a target? I felt, perhaps naively, that my smatterings of Hebrew and Arabic that I used whenever I could, a smile, and in particular my sketchbooks and pens and the respect that still seems to be given to artists were my protection.

Yusufiya Cemetery
A final word on technique: this trip was also a breakthrough for me in the sense that I began to use color in my drawings on a regular basis. (The drawing at the top of this post was my first attempt at using washes of color. It is a view over the Kidron Valley of the Mount of Olives). I love the effect of a beautiful ink line and letting white paper speak for itself, but I have always admired the subtle washes of artists like Edward Lear and the work of Urban Sketchers such as fellow Seattleite Stephanie Bower, Antonio Roca, Vincent Desplanche, Gérard Michel, Catherine Gout, and the late Florian Afflerbach. Although there was a time when I painted in watercolor, it had been many years since I did so regularly. Now, after reading about Lear's technique of drawing in the day and adding color later, in the evenings after work and dinner I would sometimes add watercolor to the day's drawings, using a number 8 quill brush and a tiny box of paints. I was terrified at first of ruining a good drawing with a bad painting, but I got over that eventually, largely by pretending that I was not actually "doing" watercolor, but just adding a few splashes here and there to an ink drawing.

Mount of Olives Silwan Wall

Alex Hollmann is a classics professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. See more of his work: 





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