Cat sketching

I’ve been cat-sketching a lot lately. Some at a cat cafe (have you heard of the concept?) here in San Jose called The Dancing Cat.  These had to be quick sketches. Cats that don’t know you don’t like to be still when you’re near them.


And some sketches at home. One of my cats, Moshi, makes a good model. She sleeps in my studio a lot, so it’s kinda like working on a still life.
Below is Moshi caught napping (again) while I test some new goodies: a set of QoR watercolors I received in Chicago along with a LYRA graphite stub. Also, a new opaque white I’m liking a lot : Winsor & Newton’s white gouache.cat_qor

That’s it for my week. Happy friday!

Posted in Animals, california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to small sketches

Now that the Symposium is over, it’s time to return to everyday sketching. Here’s a sampling of some little sketches from last week.

This was my first post-symposium little sketch. I’m liking carrying around a waterbrush filled with a diluted black ink for a midtone grey. Makes for quick sketches: you find the big shapes with grey ink, and add in details with a fountain pen in black ink.small_sketch_man_backHome

A day spent at the zoo: You can see my walking-while-sketching kit in my hand: 2 pencils, 2 water brushes: one filled with ink, one with water and a couple of pencils: one regular and one extra-dark. Next time I’ll substitute the extra-dark with a water-soluble pencil.

Tree trimming. When you’re an urban sketcher, that’s an event worth stopping, watching and capturing.

And, speaking of safety jackets and traffic cones, see how they’re a dull orange in the sketch above? That was before I tested a new color. How did I not know about Schmincke Transparent Orange before now? So gorgeous, it’s going into my paint kit now.
orangeThere’s this little toy my son plays with that requires infinite patience. The packaging was in Japanese (and I threw it away), so I don’t know what it’s called. The aim is to get all the orange balls over on one side and the blue ones on the other. Sometimes you’re almost there and then you mess up, and it’s like starting over. Makes for good sketching because the game takes so

That’s last week in sketches. How’s your weekly sketching going?

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Usk 2017 Part 8: Farewell Chicago!

Five days in the city, and I’d never been as far as the river (which was only a 10 minute  walk north of my hotel). So when the Symposium was done, that’s where  I headed.

This is Marina City, but I like it’s nickname, corn-cob building, better. You know you have a really good friend when they don’t even sketch but will sit with you on pavements all over the city for hours while you sketch. My friend Madhavi hung out with me for most of the sketching I did after the symposium. She brought me tea and coffee and chatted while I drew away. And me? I forgot to take even one photo of us together. Good thing we’re friends since Pre-Kindergarten and everything goes 🙂

This water tower was constructed in 1869 as part of Chicago’s waterworks and is one of very few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1871. Horse carriages stood in front, waiting for tourists.

Also on the waterfront, The Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower.

And finally, the view looking the other way, sitting just under Tribune Tower, looking south across the river.

And that’s it from Chicago for me. As always, I come home inspired and full of ideas to try out.

All posts are here. Post #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,and 7 are here.
Thanks for coming along on the journey.

Back to everyday sketches soon!


Posted in chicago, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Usk Chicago 2017 Part 7: One final sketchcrawl

Sketches from the last sketchcrawl in Grant Park. I stayed close to the John Logan Statue since I knew we had to meet there for one final photo. Here’s that statue, sketched from the north, sitting by myself in the park, enjoying a bit of quiet, surrounded by other sketchers sketching away.

And then I walked to the base of that hillock and sketched the view looking northwards: a scene scattered with sketchers, trees and tall buildings in the distance.

Here we all are, on that hillside, for one final photo!

With one final evening celebrating the end of another fantastic symposium and the announcement of the venue of the next one, it was a wrap!

See the guy holding the yellow pencil in the photo below? That’s Nélson Paciência, representing Porto, venue for next year’s symposium. For dates, stay tuned by signing up to receive the USk newsletter or following the blog. With Nelson in that photo are representatives from every past team that hosted a Symposium. Thank you to every one of them for the incredible experiences and memories they create for us. And for making our world a smaller place.

The Symposium ended but I stayed another couple of days: to meet with friends, to sketch, to see the amazing Art Institute, and take an Architectural Boat tour. Which means there’s one more post of sketches from Chicago still coming up.

Posts #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 , in case you missed them.




Posted in chicago, people, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Usk Chicago 2017 Part 6: Public Art

Yes there’s The Bean, that most famous piece of public art in downtown Chicago. But that wasn’t my favorite piece. I loved Crown Fountain, (but I really think it should have been named The Spitting Fountain) It’s an interesting piece where imposing brick towers, water, kids and irreverent faces that seem to spit out the water come together for hours of fun and interaction. Here’s my take on that piece.
In Chicago you quickly learn not to try and draw everything into your sketches. Want to focus on the kids and sculpture? Just hint at the tall buildings in the distance and keep the focus in the foreground…
The other piece I sketched was Calder’s Flamingo, a huge piece in Federal Plaza painted-what else- Calder Red.
Almost as interesting to me as the sculpture is the building behind it and all the colors and reflections in it. And I think you can see in this piece that I had a hard time deciding which one to focus on.

If you missed them, here are links to posts #1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from Chicago.

Posted in chicago, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Usk Chicago 2017 Part 5: In-between sketches

Many of my sketches from during the Symposium are made in little bits of time between things. Often early in the morning, or quickly on a walk to or from a workshop location. (My friend and fellow sketcher Shiho Nakaza coined the perfect term for them: grab-and-go sketches.)

Sometimes the quick sketches work out. But sometimes they don’t and there’s never time to work on a second attempt… One of the buildings that most confounded me was the Harold Washington Building… just it’s scale and it’s bizarre decoration. Did I like it? Maybe even love how strange it was? Or hate it?? I never could decide. I’m sad I didn’t get to do a second sketch of it after this quick one…

Another quick one of a space that deserved a longer look. The ornate lobby of the Palmer House. I found it a bit hard to draw in the low light that flattened everything…

I saw these two cops on Michigan Avenue just as I headed back to my hotel one evening. Had to sketch them of course. They walked over when I was done, took pictures of the sketch and gave me this “Get Out of Jail Free” card, “Just in case I needed it”.
I didn’t know Mark Leibowitz passed by when I was chatting with those cops, but he sent me this photo later, so now you know it really happened. Thanks Mark!

If you missed them, here are links to posts #1, 2, 3, and 4 from Chicago.

Next up, a couple of Public Art pieces I sketched in the city (besides The Bean!)



Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Usk Chicago Part 4: Workshop at The Bean (and a free download)

Another year of teaching at the Symposium. And what a great location I taught at! Anish Kapoor‘s Cloud Gate, better knows as The Bean. A huge, reflective, you guessed it: bean-shaped sculpture that people can’t help but interact with.

Here are some sketches at The Bean done before and during the workshops.




We started our workshop where I always like to start: with warmup gesture drawings to capture people full of action. We looked at what it takes to move our drawings from being static to being dynamic.

Next, we focussed on capturing more elusive gestures and telling stories even through very quick sketches. Every participant was handed a little green sticky note shaped like a speech bubble. With their sketch, they wrote a very simple story into it.

With 3 workshops of really enthusiastic participants, we captured lots of really fun stories, with people doing handstands, taking selfies galore, pretending to hold up The Bean and many, many more stories. I wish I’d photographed some of their sketches, but taking photos is something I never find the time to do during a workshop!


A big thank you to all the participants. It’s always an honor to teach at the Symposium, share my enthusiasm for urban sketching and people sketching in particular, and to learn from you.

Click this link to download my workshop handout.  It’s been designed to be printed double-sided on a letter-sized sheet and folded as a handout. So if you just view the pdf online, use the page numbers to make sense of how to read it.

Happy Sketching!

Posted in chicago, people, teaching, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments