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

Tall stack. Small town.

[By Marcia Milner-Brage in Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA]

 The Cedar Falls Utilities smokestack is tall. It’s the tallest structure in my small city. We have no skyscrapers. No other chimneys that come close in height. There is no great variation in elevation here. No mountains to put its man-made height into perspective. From much of the town, the stack is a point of reference. It is a landmark that orients us to where we are. In Lisbon, it would be Cristo Rei. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower. In Washington, D.C., the Washington Monument. In NYC, it was the World Trade Center. Unlike those famous towering landmarks, created to inspire, our smokestack was erected for one, totally functional purpose: to burn coal for electricity. But whatever the reason for its presence, something tall in our urban environment prompts us to look higher than the predominant horizon line. Something tall pins us to the sky.

The City of Cedar Falls is on a broad floodplain of the Cedar River. We are within the larger landmass at the center of the United States, the Great Plains. Yes, it’s flat here. Cedar Falls Utilities, with its tall stack, is located close to the river. (see above). It is improbably tall for such a small, flat town.

The smokestack still burns some coal, but more often it now uses cleaner fuel, like natural gas, biomass or wind. There are train tracks leading to our electricity plant. Coal cars are parked there most of the time (above). We have a smokestack that rarely emits smoke. That only happens when coal is the fuel.

Recently, the long winter yielded to a late spring, temperatures rose and I was once again able to stand outside to sketch, I wandered the neighborhood, hunting for angles of view that included the smokestack, where the Cedar Falls Utilities smokestack was a backdrop.

As I walk down the sidewalk alongside my house,  I spy the Utilities' chimney beyond the house across the street. At night, from this same vantage, one sees the flashing red and white lights on the very top of the smokestack.

I’ve lived here long enough to know that once the leaves emerge, the smokestack will not be as readily seen. Our streets are lined with mature trees. Here’s the first drawing of this recent series (above), a glimpse of the smokestack from Clay and 15th Street done ten days ago. I’ll have to check this spot out come summer when the trees have fully unfurled their canopies, to see what I can see.

On one of my recent, daily walks, I glimpsed the stack above these one-story houses. A willow, with its signature yellow–not from leaves but from its downward draping branches, added color to our painfully late spring.

Cedar Falls is a town of many churches. Most have steeples. This one, seen from a block away, is on Main Street. It was the Old Bethlehem Church, then it changed to the Grace Community Church, Then Prairie Springs Church occupied part of it. Now it’s no longer a church. It’s been converted to apartment lofts. Yet it is unmistakably church-like. The recently refurbished copper-topped spire still has its cross.

Find a view that includes the smokestack and find a facet of our town. Often, it’s not anything grand or inherently beautiful, but a view that defines our ordinariness. The ever-straight smokestack accentuates this precariously slanted utility pole. On my way back from buying cream for my morning coffee, I spotted the relationship of these two verticals, visually connected by the horizontal wires.

Unfortunately, a north-south highway bisects our town. (I don’t like the constant drone of traffic!) The highway is elevated as it crosses Dry Run Creek which soon after enters the Cedar River. The elevated roadway passes alongside the power plant. A spur of the City’s extensive bike trails goes under the highway.

Viking Pump, the building beyond the parked cars, is one of the original industries to secure Cedar Falls as a thriving community. In the early 20th century, three prominent settlers started the company to manufacture pumps to remove seeping ground water from the rock quarries being dug here. Viking Pump is now an international conglomerate. This is its corporate headquarters. It’s in the small downtown area called the Parkade. This parking lot is new and offers a new sightline on the two-story brick building and the more distant smokestack.

All of the above were done in the past ten days in my pocket-size Moleskin. But I have a stash of older drawings that include the smokestack. One I’ll include here from April 2010, because it illustrates another important function of Cedar Falls’ tall smokestack: it’s the perch for the vultures. Contrary to popular belief, robins are not the first birds to arrive in town to herald spring, the vultures are. And until they leave for warmer climes in the autumn, they use the two catwalks on the chimney as their roost and are seen circling it.

Hopefully, these drawings speak to this smokestack being a core to our city. In previous times, a fortified citadel might have stood at a highpoint of a city’s center, insuring the life of the community. In our modern times here in Cedar Falls, our smokestack and the electricity it helps to generate are what we need.





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