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

12. Artist as a Reporter


March 21, 2021 "Artist as a Reporter: From a Living Room to a Battlefield"

Johanna Krimmel & George Butler

In this episode we look at reportage sketching on both an intimate and global scale as we meet award-winning reportage artist George Butler and beloved urban sketcher and instructor Johanna Krimmel. Both show respect and empathy in their documentation of difficult subjects.

Johanna Krimmel

Johanna Krimmel

Johanna Krimmel joined us from Darmstadt, Germany, to talk about a very personal reportage project. Like so many of us over the past year, Johanna’s sketching focus switched from her usual subjects of industrial machinery, cars, and groups of people to interiors and what she could sketch from her window. In early spring of 2020, her mother asked her to draw her father, who at 93 was in failing health. As we scrolled through her sketches, we could see the same setting of her father watching the news and something on TV marking time, such as news reports about the effects of Covid-19, Biden’s speech after he was declared the winner of the US presidential election, and Queen Elizabeth’s rare public address.

Johanna described drawing someone you care for as difficult (many of us find it easier to draw strangers) but also a form of caressing or cherishing what you see – you observe, take it in, process it, let it out again. Drawing her father was a special kind of connection and also a way of saying goodbye. At the end, when he couldn’t get out of bed, Johanna made larger sketches of him, saying, “It’s a way of dealing with the pain.”

She’s now working on a video installation of this project, creating a large “sketchbook” frame to project her 40 or so sketches of her father onto, with a chair in front of it in the position her father sat in.

Johanna’s project evolved by chance, and she encourages us to focus on our own personal motivation and what is important to us in our sketching, saying, “Don’t think about what others think about it, do what you want to do, then it will come out interesting.”

George Butler
image credit: @guspalmer

George Butler

Reportage illustrator George Butler joined us from London to talk about his work going to different parts of the world and looking for underreported, personal stories to share in drawings for newspapers and magazines. George has visited Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other places facing conflict to tell the stories about people who are affected. With his dip pen and watercolors, he draws from life, often standing with an A2 sheet of paper on a board propped on his hip. He has embedded with troops and interviewed business owners and visited with the sick and dying.

He talked about the effects of this very personal and emotional type of reportage, saying that drawing gives both a distance as the bystander but also a unique view into the hope and dignity and resilience of the people he sketches. He tries to keep in touch with the people whose stories he tells, but also says that what he is capturing might be a fleeting moment for his subject. The stories do stay with him – he remembers all of their names because he can’t forget them.

Viewers were curious about George’s use of a dip pen on site, which might seem impractical, but George says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. He prefers the weight of line and varying tone of ink he gets with a dip pen. He says with this approach there is no turning back – you have to keep going once you’ve started. He spoke of the value in having the drawing unfold as people watch. It helps build trust – you’re there longer than a person with a camera, you’re not threatening, and an audience looking over your shoulder as you draw should be a right of the people whose space you are drawing.

In closing we talked about George’s book, Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration, which comes out on 1 April 2021. The individual stories and drawings of migrants and their reasons for moving help create a deeper understanding of migration. This book highlights what George says is a quality reportage artists must have – empathy – caring enough to understand the person sitting in front of you.

Challenge: Documenting Loss

Dig deep, reflect and share the story of something or someone you have missed, loved or lost. Maybe your focus is a loss from the last year, maybe from before that. If you documented something before but haven’t shared it online, consider sharing it now. As we saw in work by George and Johanna, these stories can be painful, but they capture the beauty of the human spirit. As our host Rob Sketcherman said, “We have this tool, urban sketching, that helps us deal with and heal from difficult situations.”

Be sure to share your USk Talks Challenge sketches on Instagram using the hashtags #usktalks and #usktalkschallenge. Tag our guests in your challenge sketches, and follow them on Instagram: Johanna Krimmel @jaykay2012, George Butler @georgebutlerillustration, and our host Rob Sketcherman @robsketcherman.

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