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.
zoo

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

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 long.game

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

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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 🙂
corncob_river_bldg

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.
watertower_river_bldg

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

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

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!

 

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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.
grant_park

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.
grant_park2

Here we all are, on that hillside, for one final photo!
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.
2018porto

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.

 

 

 

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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.
spitting_fountain
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.
calder
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.

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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…
chicago-library

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…
palmer_house

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”.
cops
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!
cops_michigan_ave

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!)

 

 

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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.
bean1.jpg

bean2.jpg

bean3

bean4

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.
static_dynamic2
static_dynamic1

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.
story-bubble

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!

bean_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!

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Usk Chicago 2017 Part 3: Painting Trees with Shari Blaukopf

Besides teaching, every instructor at the Symposium gets to take one workshop. Always a hard choice with so many inspiring instructors and one open spot in your schedule. I’ve always wanted to take a workshop with Shari Blaukopf and this was the very first year my schedule actually allowed for it. So my first full day at the Symposium started with the workshop Trees in the City.

We warmed up by drawing a few trees at Grant Park in line, really looking at their shape and how their branches wove in and out of the foliage, how the foliage clumped into one large mass or several smaller ones. 
trees1

Each of us got a Winsor & Newton Field Box and we refilled the halfpans with artist grade watercolors that we used during the workshop. Then we discussed mixing greens. Of particular interest to me was getting beautiful color mixes for foliage with Phthalo Green.

After that, we relooked at the trees around us and painted them as big shapes in watercolors, noting the silhouette and color changes within the shape and painting it all wet-in-wet. When I’ve painted trees before, I’m always tempted to pull out my pen to add in line for the branches, but using a rigger brush like we did in this exercise might be reason for me to put that pen away sometimes.
trees2

Composition came next. We looked at examples of Shari’s work where she uses trees in many different ways: sometimes as the star of the sketch, and sometimes to offset more stark lines in the city. We discussed framing and cropping, placement and repetition and did a couple of quick thumbnails before using one of them to do a more finished sketch.

trees3

I chose to work with the sketch on the left, and miraculously the fellow on the bench stayed put while I got my ink-sketch done.
trees4

At this point in the sketch, Shari walked by and said she thought the piece was done. Which is a good thing, because I might have been tempted to keep going and add linework on that tree on the right, losing my focal point of the guy on the bench.

And that’s something I have to keep working on: learning when to stop!

Coming up tomorrow: my workshop at The Bean and a downloadable pdf of my workshop handout.

Post #1 from Chicago is here.
Post #2 is here.

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