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

Escaping capitalist structures in France and Italy

[Guest post by Thomas Carroll-Brentnall in France and Italy]  In Europe, people have come together to live cooperatively from the land, aiming to live away from the structures of capitalist society, embracing a closer relationship to nature and each other. These settlements are called intentional, autonomous communities. I visited two of these communities last summer and report about them here.

La Zone à Défendre (The Zone to be Defended)
La Zone à Défendre, informally known as ZAD, is in Notre-Dame-des-Landes in the west of France. The community formed six years ago to prevent the construction of an airport. Its inhabitants govern collectively and aspire to live autonomously, farming and living off the land. They live in abandoned farm buildings and handmade structures built in the fields and forests, the forms resembling patchwork sculptures.

In January the government announced that the airport would no longer be built. The ‘Zadists’, however, remained. The State has threatened to evict them. There have been both peaceful protest and violent clashes between the police and activists at the site and in Nantes. The community’s future is being debated by the French government.

We arrived at the ZAD through the Rue d’Barracade, a long country road reinforced with piles of stone and barricades, decorated in spray-painted slogans. Ramshackle buildings, burnt out and operational cars, and scrap ammunition line the road. Down the road we reach the first gatehouse, a tall wooden tower rises from the hedgerow (see the drawing at the top).

Construction of La Ambassada
ZAD’s La Ambassada (above) was built as a social space for creative projects, talks and accommodation for short-term inhabitants. The construction process was organic: bricks had been made from clay sourced from the area; wooden beams had been bought at a low price from a timber mason connected with the ZAD; wood was cut from trees within the zone; and the rest of the materials were scavenged scrap. The method of building was open to interpretation, and the original idea was constantly changing with the arrival of more people.

Rainy morning La Wardine
The weekly ZAD meeting takes place in La Wardine. Here many gathered to discuss the present and future state of the community. Because of the threatened eviction, the atmosphere was tense, but there was no aggression. Every person was given time to talk freely. People who were more involved with the organisation of the community sat in the middle to answer questions.

There was a jam session (above) at La Boîte Noire on the east side of the ZAD. Many people gathered to play, drink, laugh and eat. At one point a complete leg of mutton was produced, charred but tender on the inside. I ended the night sleeping in the grass outside of a friend’s van until the chill of the early morning woke me. In this part of the ZAD there is no running water or electricity.

Jamming at Bellvue
Bellvue is a farm on the west of the ZAD. Here there were geese, chickens and cows. There was also a smith workshop, a computer room with connection to the internet, a creamery and a bakery. I worked a day baking bread. Four of us mixed and kneaded the dough into loaves, then baked them in the stone oven, each loaf only taking a few minutes to be cooked. The bread was then up for sale for the rest of the day for a donation.

On the night of the full moon as I was walking along Rue d’Barracade (above), I was told to stop for pizza. A few of the Italian inhabitants had organised a pizza evening. With plenty of dough and vegetables, pizzas began flying out from the handmade clay pizza oven. Madness brewed as a crowd gathered, there was the sound of a guitar, of people rapping and conversing. The pizza chef shouted, "Pizza per la luna!" Donations were given for flour. At one point a car drove past with a man on top of the bonnet clinging to the windscreen, shouting and laughing as they went.

Il Comunitario di Elfi (The Community of Elves)
The second community I visited is named Elfi or Il Comunitario di Elfi. It is in the Pistoia Mountains of Tuscany, Italy. This community was established around 40 years ago from a series of small villages that had been abandoned in the 1900s. Surrounded by forest, the villages are linked by snaking paths to create a community.

The lifestyle varies from village to village and mixes aspects of traditional living with modern. Most practice self-sufficient farming—animals and crops. The people share anything that is needed between villages. The surrounding forest and their gardens are very biodiverse. The community felt almost medieval.

I stayed for a month, travelling between families and villages, taking part in the life and festivities and documenting some of the villages and happenings in sketches.

Piccolo Burrone

Piccolo Burrone
Piccolo Burrone was the first Elfi village where I stayed. They keep about 20 goats, so fresh goat milk and cheese is available every day. Piccolo Burrone had a family feeling, the kids were well taken care of and loved, and food was in good supply.

One night a pizza party was held to welcome the return of two children. The pizza cooking was like a military operation where constant pizza flew out of the oven at an extreme velocity. In fact all the work in Piccolo Burone was conducted at a very fast pace, with jobs constantly changing. This is what was needed to keep the place running; it was fuelled by the characters of the people who lived there.

Campo Mascherine, pizza kitchen

Campo Mascherine, festa
A small, free festival was held over a few days on a plateau further up the mountains. Constant food was on the table and the pizza oven alive every second. A few of the members of the community would stay up all night to continue the party with baking. Music shifted from place to place—in the field, between marquee, fire hearth and kitchen. Pots and pans were introduced to the ensemble, creating a wild eccentricity in the kitchen. One person would start playing, another would join in, making for spontaneous musical entertainment. Everything between Indian mantras, Italian and American folk songs and Australian didgeridoo music were played.

La Scuola
One evening, the final night before the festa began, the house of Scuola was burning with life, packed full of people. I arrived to the sound of a man playing guitar. I added a harmonica and a flautist joined in. A woman performing an amazing accordion and voice solo continued the evening music. She also danced with her eyes closed until she collapsed on the sofa, continuing to play and smiling ear to ear.

Gran’ Burrone
With the sun rising on the other side of the valley to Gran’ Burrone, the mornings were hot, making days slow and evenings quicker, a contrast to life on the other side. This also meant the plant life thrived and the farm was abundant with plants and unusually coloured insects.

Insect life throughout Elfi thrived and their presence felt very harmonic with the life there. I would sit surrounded by wasps sipping spilt rose juice off a table, they buzzed around lazily without a care and I neither, unless they fell into the liquid and needed saving. The hills were filled with fireflies at night; I saw bees which were black with blue wings and also a snail as large as a fist with pink and beige tones to its shell. These unusually fantastic animals added an air of magic to the community, magic that springs from the earth, that of elves.

Gran’ Burrone

Thomas Carroll-Brentnall is a third year Illustration student at Cardiff School of Art and Design. You can see more of Tom's work on his website or Instagram.




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