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

Firestorm: A Time to Heal

[By Richard Sheppard in Santa Rosa, California]
Since October of 2017, we have a saying here in Sonoma County: “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.” And with all the fires we've had here in California, I can confirm first hand that the smoke is pretty thick. Sure, there are those who use the tragedy to finger point and blame, but after repeatedly witnessing communities pulling together to help others since last year’s devastating fires, the saying still rings true.

It’s been just over a year since the Tubbs, Nuns, and Pocket fires ripped through Sonoma County, killing 25, burning over 110,000 acres, and leveling nearly 7,000 structures. Recovery has been slow but steady, and I’ve been busy recording fire stories and sketches ever since that first deadly night.

But just last week, I stepped outside our home and was concerned to see gray clouds in the sky above the hills. An hour later, a smoke-filtered orange haze enveloped our town, making it difficult to breathe outdoors. I learned from the CalFire website that a fire near Camp Creek east of Chico—over 100 miles away—was creating the smoke.

Within the next 24 hours, the Camp Fire destroyed over 90,000 acres, leveling the town of Paradise (population 27,000), and killed 42 people. As of this writing, 200 people are still missing as the fire continues to threaten surrounding communities. Our utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, told state regulators on Friday that a high-voltage power line located in the area had had a problem just before the fire started.

High winds, low humidity, and abnormally warm weather have created the perfect conditions for these devastating fires to proliferate. Adding to the lethal cocktail is a high-pressure ridge sitting off the coast of California that is pushing our seasonal autumn rains into Oregon and Washington. It’s a pattern we’ve seen happen repeatedly the past few years. Without these seasonal rains that had been typical for our area, our parched landscape provides more than enough fuel for a single spark to ignite a firestorm.

The anniversary of last year’s fires was painful for many people who had to flee, resurfacing painful memories. But the new smoke currently blanketing the northern coast of California has brought additional anxiety to those in recovery.

Last month I spoke with Goyn Evens, who lost his wife Valerie. In addition, his entire property was burned to the ground, but somehow his bull miraculously survived. As I sketched Goyn at the Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, he recounted his losses but kept a positive tone. “The hardest part is over,” he said. “I’m looking forward to rebuilding.”

During our discussion, I realized I’d already sketched Goyn’s property some months back. I pulled out my sketchbook and showed the drawing of two burnt trees supporting a crossbeam log that together form a monument at the entrance of his property. “Yup, that’s it all right,” he confirmed. “It sure brings back a lot of memories.”

Goyn is not the only person who’s been inspired to create monuments from perished trees. Earlier this year I spoke with sculpture artist Peter Phibbs, whose outdoor studio is located at Paradise Ridge Winery. Paradise Ridge was the only Santa Rosa winery destroyed in the Tubbs fire. In addition to delicious wines, the winery is known for its Marijke’s Grove Sculpture Garden that includes the LOVE sculpture first seen at Burning Man. The piece survived the firestorm and has since become a symbol of hope for the people of Sonoma County.

I arrived at Pete’s outdoor studio, high upon a hill overlooking Santa Rosa, with fellow sketchers Susan Cornelis and Carol Flaherty. There we found him loading a sculpture into the back of his pick-up, with Sonin Johnson assisting.

Peter had become a resident artist for the winery almost by accident. Walter Byck, the winery’s owner asked him to create a sculpture from a dead oak tree on the property. That project led to more work, and so it happened that Peter was there the night the fire blazed down the mountain. 

He told us, “I was in the process of building an outdoor stage and dance floor at about 12:30 in the morning when I noticed the tree was on fire next to where I was working. I turned around and saw a wall of flames moving towards me. I immediately got in my truck and sped away.” Recounting the events Peter says, “The hairs stand up on the back of my neck every time I tell the story.”

Within minutes, the entire property was up in flames, obliterating the wine cellar, tasting room, and other structures. Fueled by high winds, the fire continued to spread from Fountain Grove into Coffey Park where Gyn Evens property was destroyed along with thousands of other homes.

The next day, Peter returned to the estate to find many trees reduced to stubs and still burning. He used buckets of water, hand carried from a lake on the property to put out the flames. Thankfully, his sculpted oak tree was unharmed.

 Since the fires, Peter has spent much of the last year giving new life to charred tree stumps from the burned out properties of fire survivors, by carving the trees with with intricate designs. The resulting sculptures are then returned to the owners. It’s a healing process for both the artist and the property owner.

Over the past year, Sonoma County residents have used unique and creative ways of healing. Even those whose homes were spared have endured stresses and continue to deal with the threat of potential fires. As I write this, Sonoma County is currently under red flag warning, which indicates the conditions are ripe for yet another devastating wildfire.

But after hearing the stories from survivors and witnessing their recoveries first hand, I agree that both the love and healing in the air truly are thicker than the smoke.





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