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

“Hello, Sketcher!” Thoughts from the 2019 USk Symposium

[By Mark Alan Anderson, 2019 symposium correspondent, in Amsterdam]
(An edited version of this story will appear in the September 2019 issue of Drawing Attention.)

“For me the USk Symposium looks like finally meeting the cousins that you knew were loosely part of your family but never got the chance to meet. And now you want to be a part of the family party every year!” 

Charline Moreau

A phrase that ran through my head the entirety of the 2019 Urban Sketchers Symposium is “All are welcome.” Our Amsterdam event was incredibly diverse and inclusive, without in any way seeming contrived. Something I found to be both interesting and charming was the way that sketchers would call out a greeting of “Hello, Sketcher!” when encountering one another on the street. I found myself casually appropriating this salutation as I wandered from one workshop to another in my role as correspondent. It’s a gracious way of politely making others aware of your presence as they ruminate upon their sketches, much like the friendly ringing of a bicycle bell. At the same time, we all knowingly shared something in common, this sketching thing, somewhat like a secret fraternal handshake.
The people of Holland are warm and welcoming, and were incredibly forgiving of my own deficiency of language. On the street, sketchers were approached by locals, chatting across tables in cafes; inquiries were made about how our visit had gone so far, and suggestions made about places and cafes to explore. At the heart of this sense of welcome was the incredible team of local volunteers. The event itself was well organized and smooth, while the volunteers were lifesavers, over and over again. I’ve been involved in other major events where a small challenge quickly spiraled out of control. Not so here. The Dutch take pride in fostering tolerance as a cultural trait and, in fact, even have a word for their open-mindedness, gedogen. 

“Never seen so many bicycles in my life! Loved the drawn black lines of them parked en masse or leaning against a tree. And a red and white spotted kid-cart on one, right in front of me… how could I not draw that!!” 

Pat Southern-Pearce

One of the more charming aspects of European culture, Amsterdam in particular, is the “outside” culture. Many – perhaps even most – of the cafes, bistros, and bars have very limited table space indoors. Walking the narrow streets in the morning is a very different experience than walking those same paths late in the day. Tables and chairs appear, seemingly out of nowhere and quickly fill with passersby. Cars and bicycles and motorbikes often thread their way through a labyrith of people enjoying a cool glass of bier and, perhaps, bitterballen, one of the consummate Dutch bar foods. Umbrellas are nearly as ubiquitous to these streets as bicycles. The buildings are tall and skinny and close together. Sidewalk life seems to be very civilized and oh, so comfortable! The other Dutch word I learned is gezellig, which neatly sums up this lifestyle. Although there’s no direct English translation, think of it as implying a feeling of coziness or enjoyment – what we might otherwise refer to as “good vibes.” Gezellig, indeed.
Many of us arrived early to explore and sketch in various places around The Netherlands. Amsterdam, however, was the destination, and the Symposium the entire point of the journey. It was exciting to be a part of something Iike – like what? Frankly, I had no idea what to expect. Upon arriving and after settling into a room, the next immediate step for me was to engage in a little recon. I followed my map to Zuiderkerk, the historic church that was to be the base of operations for the Symposium. It was Monday afternoon, and registration was still two full days away but there were already sketchers milling about outside the building. Many were parked on benches, their necks craned skyward as they sketched the impressively tall church tower. Tracing a path back toward the hotel, I eventually encountered the two most important people of my Symposium experience: my fellow correspondents, local sketcher Gwen Glotin and Orling Dominguez from the Dominican Republic. Together we would brave a teeming throng of sketchers hailing from every corner of the planet. Our press passes granted us access to all events, and also afforded us a unique view to the behind-the-scenes efficiency of Symposium organizers.

USk Amsterdam was an incredible experience. I loved the canals, boats, and the variation on the roof gables. The many excellent instructors made the workshops valuable and fun. And despite a heat wave, we all carried on.” 

Eileen P. Goldenberg

It’s difficult to express the scope of the Symposium. We three correspondents were constantly in motion, moving from one event location to another, sometimes just down the street and other times across the city. A constant was that sketchers were everywhere: I’d turn the corner and someone would be drawing a stand of bicycles; turn another and there I’d discover a cluster of architectural sketchers. I’m an early riser, but I didn’t once hit the streets early enough: there was always already someone out there, sketchbook in hand. Our kits and bright red lavaliers signaled kinship; strangers often enough, still we’d stop to chat and thumb through each other’s work. A bond had been forged.

“As an instructor I get to share things that I think may be useful for beginner sketchers who were willing to spend their money for a piece of knowledge. Let me tell you though, as class after class progresses, I feel that I was the one who actually learned more. The term ‘sharing is learning’ does stand its ground in the Urban Sketchers community.” 

Donald Saluling

“Three incredible workshops and the demonstration I attended was really great. I learned a lot, not only from the instructors but also from my fellow sketchers.” 

Montse Sanchiz Bosch

Although many were already out and hard at work, our official day began in a loosely organized scrum in the courtyard outside Zuiderkerk. We’d gather with our workshop group, then play “follow the leader,” usually on foot, to our destination. Workshops are the heart and soul of this event. They are an opportunity to consider new ideas, embrace new strategies and techniques, and to do so under the guidance of excellent instructors in an environment that encouraged discourse and sharing among one’s fellow workshop participants. Time and again I’d marvel at how diversely engaging each of the instructors was. From Suhita Shirodkar’s windmill-like energy to the frankly pointed advice of Richard Briggs, participants soaked in every syllable. 
Lunch often felt like an extension of the morning’s workshop. It was a time to relax a little and dissect some of what had been experienced that day, compare with yesterday, and to anticipate what was coming tomorrow. This was also an opportunity to visit with an incredible group of artist material vendors – for many of us, this part of the event was like setting a child loose in a candy store! 

If the mornings were about listening, experimenting with, and rehearsing new approaches, the afternoon focused on those things that make our workshop instructors who and what they are. Demonstrations help to concretize concepts and techniques that we’d like to wrap our heads around. More than one participant told me how much they appreciated the small group format of both workshops and demonstrations. Clearly, this arrangement allowed for valuable back and forth to take place.

“My best memory: Sketchers everywhere! Riding my bicycle along the canals and through narrow streets, they were all over Amsterdam!” 

Inge Leonora-den Ouden

One of the marvelous things about the Symposium was the organized and neatly mapped out sketch walks. “Marvelous,” because not only did they present an opportunity to explore intriguing aspects of the city, but also because everyone was welcome to join in, regardless of whether or not one was a registered Symposium attendee. In fact, I was surprised by the number of sketchers who traveled to Amsterdam specifically to be part of the sketch walks. 

Strolling along the path of a designated sketch walk, it was remarkable to see how many sketchers had set up their kits on a convenient stair, leaned up against an available wall, perched with their legs dangling over the edge of a canal. Many had brought along compact folding stools, while others simply sat crossed legged on the pavement. Regardless, I’ve never seen so many people in one place engaged in the simple act of drawing.

“To me, the USk Symposium is common interests, diversity in style, exhibits of art materials, silent conversation through art; inspiration comes after a drink: Cheers with a brush!” 

June Goh

A day filled with workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and wandering the visually rich streets of Amsterdam during organized sketch walks is ultimately both physically and mentally exhausting. As each day drew to a close, friends – both old and new – would commandeer a chair and belly up to tables for the “Drink and Draw,” to sketch a bit more, and to perhaps enjoy a cool libation. Some of us couldn’t put our pens or brushes down, and this became a time for sketching the architecture and canals. We’d also find ourselves sketching one another, then posing for selfies with our sketched likenesses. I’ve often heard people talk about how intimidating it is to draw in public, but the conviviality of our evenings was anything but a frightening experience. These nights defined the phrase, “All are welcome.” 

“On my final day in Amsterdam, I had a bit of time before catching my train and decided to do a quick sketch. I decided to try some techniques from Suhita’s workshop. I started drawing two tourists who were taking pictures. They noticed I was drawing them and very cautiously came to look. They were very happy to be included in my sketch. I asked where they were from and they replied they were from Hong Kong! It made me smile – what a great way to end the Symposium. I explained to them that the Symposium was coming to their hometown and they let me know there are plenty of sketching opportunities. I wasn’t planning on going to Hong Kong, but maybe the universe is trying to tell me something?” 

Nele Vandenreyt



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