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

Documenting the remains: the wildfire of California

[Guest post by Susan Cornelis in Northern California] On the night of October 8th, fueled by high winds and dry conditions, a string of firestorms raged through our communities north of the San Francisco Bay area. I woke in the middle of the night to see the horizon in flames and later learned that in our county of Sonoma 23 had died, 5100 homes had been burned to the ground, along with 37,000 acres of land. Since that time this fire, named the Tubbs Fire, has become known as the deadliest wildfire disaster in California history.

In an effort to deal personally with the tragedy and to join people in the community in mourning and support, I joined some sketch friends to find ways to report on the stories as they unfolded. The air was thick with toxic smoke in the areas which burned for days, so we headed out to the redwoods to the camp where firefighting teams from all over the state were being housed between shifts. Driving out country roads there were frequent reminders of the gratitude felt by this community for these first responders who were the undisputed heroes of the day. Signs were posted on most properties with bright Thank You Firefighters messages.

While sitting in the parking lot we saw men as they came back from grueling 24 hours shifts of firefighting. Although most of the firefighters were young men, Tony was a 75-year-old volunteer firefighter from the mountains of California, seeking a few minutes rest in the cab of his truck. Like many of the men he had responded quickly to the call for help, driven from his small community a distance away, headed straight for the fires to be dispatched and gone 60 hours without sleep. This was the kind of story we heard repeatedly.

The Sonoma County fairgrounds became the Fire Rescue Headquarters where firefighters and military set up a tent city during the weeks of disaster management that ensued. At one point ten percent of the population was evacuated and evacuation centers were opened in every town, including those for animals. Donations and volunteers wanting to help poured in at such an astounding rate that soon they were being turned away. Everyone in the county shared the distress. Our own home was not touched by the fire, but our car sat in the driveway, packed and ready to go should the fire reach us.

When the smoke and ash cleared enough we visited some of the burn areas. Anova, a school for children with learning differences, had burned and a hazardous materials team was cleaning and removing loose debris. School was temporarily suspended while they awaited portable classrooms to be erected in the parking lot. I couldn’t help noticing the clean white fire hydrant that stood untouched next to the property it was to be used to protect. The fire came through with such force and speed that the usual firefighting methods were abandoned.

I switched to gray toned paper to capture the burnt out landscapes we were visiting. Rubber was melted off tires, steel girders collapsed or bent, while on the same property, there would be trees retaining full foliage. Across the street roses were blooming, and farther down, beautiful homes untouched by the flames. We were learning about the unpredictable vagaries of fire. There was no sense to make of it in the bright light of a sunlit day. Pink ribbons flapped in the breeze on mailboxes indicating that a hazardous waste inspection had been done.

The Round Barn stood on the hillside in Santa Rosa for 119 years before it burned in the Tubbs fire. I wanted to pay homage to it with a sketch, but all that was left on the blackened hillside was a small, leafless tree, piles of rusty nails and bolts, and this cement bench with the blackened wood back. Meanwhile just days after the fire, green shoots of grass, bright and vibrant, were already beginning to lend a healthy glow to the hillside. A walk on the burnt hillside restored my vision of nature as flexible, yielding to disaster, bending and springing back so ardently on this hillside meadow where an old wooden barn burned to the ground. Who knows what flowers will decorate the hillside this winter and spring?

The barbeques were the most likely survivors of the firestorm. Along with brick chimneys they seem to have taken fire in their stride. It’s over a month since we started sketching the story of the fire. We have not found answers to questions like why did the fire stop in this mobile home park before crossing the street, and how did it become so fierce that it burned 1,000 homes in one neighborhood in one night, driving residents to flee for their lives with little or no warning? The stories we’ve heard have touched our hearts profoundly and our reportage will continue for many months to come as we watch the unfolding of a spirited and hopeful resurrection of our communities.

A self-portrait during the time when we were all wearing masks outside.

Susan Cornelis is an urban sketcher, mixed media painter and workshop teacher in the San Francisco Bay area in California. You can see more of her sketches on her blog.





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