Drawing Hands, Part 2

Sometime in August, I decided I wanted to learn to draw hands and did a blogpost on my first few studies. I don’t have a daily goal, but over the days I draw them, sometimes a few a day, sometimes none for many days. While the drawings aren’t looking that different from day to day, I’m slowly understanding what the hand does, and what to look for in trying to capture the feel of a living, moving hand.

Here are some studies.




Gesture, hands that speak, hands that tell stories and look alive and moving. These are all important to me, so I’m working with an approach I use when drawing people in motion. Here is an attempt to capture it in stages.

My first three lines on the paper are gestural: Line 1 is the main gesture. Line 2 is a line that counterbalances the first line, a line that provides some tension and interest to line 1. Line 3? A little fuzzier: here it captures the volume of the palm and keeps me from thinking flat.

I like this bit of the process, it reinforces the action for me, and keeps the hand alive. And it reminds me a little if the Japanese flower-arranging form of Ikebana. (although that hold far more spiritual meaning in it’s three lines) After that, I build the actual structure of the palm and fingers over my gesture lines.



It’s a learning process and I’m making my way around gathering bits and pieces of learning and information from different sources, but mostly just drawing and looking a lot. I’m tagging these studies with #drawhundredhands on instagram.

Posted in Everyday Sketches, Figure Drawing, hands, studies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Porto: Last Sketches

One last set of sketches from Porto. This first one? You guessed it, a piece created in Maru Godas‘ really fun workshop, Gouache Like a Child. porto_maru.jpg

The boat piece was one I sketched one evening after teaching two back-to-back workshops. I just needed some sketch-by-myself time and the boats on the Duoro River were perfect: simple shapes and really fun to draw.

This next set is from the day after the Symposium, and the last day I spent in Porto. Unwinding from a crazy week of sketching is best done by, well, sketching some more, but at a far more relaxed pace. I spent the day sketching with Jane Blundell and Paul Wang and it was fun to watch how differently all of us approached the same subjects. This first sketch is about as fiddly as I get, messing around with stuff forever, not getting very far at all. The Clerigos Tower in Porto.porto_lastday1

And another view of the tower, this one drawn in ArtGraf watersoluble graphite, which is locally made and is such a lovely soft grey.

I haven’t a clue what this building was but it was gorgeous, covered in blue azulejos. So I  drew just one ornate door, the people who stood in the shade of that building, and then had fun swirling around creating the feel of the azulejo patterns.

Last piece from the day. Aptly, food, which I enjoyed immensely in Portugal. Loved the Padrón peppers, they go so well with a beer!

After that it was back to Lisbon for a couple of days before heading home. Those sketches, coming next…

Posted in Portugal, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sketching Climate Stories

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day. I got to sketch at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, capturing stories of people from around the world, sharing why they were there, what they march for and what their hopes, dreams (and sometimes tears) are about.

So here, without more said, (for now) are those portraits.






For those of you interested in how this reportage was done, here goes: (for the rest, skip to the next paragraph) Each of these portraits is done on an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. I asked people if they were interested in talking to be for about 10 minutes and having their portrait sketched for the project (more details on that at the end of this post). I started drawing with pen (brushpen for most of these) and as they spoke, I wrote the most fascinating bits of what they said in pencil around my sketch. I switched back and forth between drawing/painting and writing. It’s a bit of a juggle: not so much the physical bit of pencil and pen, but of listening, asking questions, drawing and painting them and recording what they say!  When I was done with the sketch and they were done telling me their story, I thanked them, they left, and then I immediately inked in what I wrote around my sketch. You can see bits of pencil handwriting under the sketch in many of these pieces.

People spoke of the effects of climate change on their own lives and how those effects are magnified by poverty, racism, and discrimination. So many people told me they came not just for themselves, but they came to speak for the invisible, those without voices. The process of recording these stories was awe-inspiring, humbling and truly moving.

This piece was performed on the pavement outside Moscone Center as delegates to the conference walked by. Ghosts of Gasoline was a dramatic, silent performance, one that you could not hep stop and watch. Coltura focusses on transitioning to clean cars.



Later that evening, I sat in at the Youth Forum held at Yerba Buena Gardens. The speakers spoke of inclusiveness and joining together to make a difference.


The evening ended with a wonderful pop-up show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum of over 200 stories, sketched over this last week by dozens of sketchers. So, so many wonderful people at SF Sketchers ( look them up on Meetup.com) and SF Urban Sketchers (our local urban sketching group) came together to make this whole week happen. But none of it would have been possible without the vision (and mad amount of work) of Laurie Wigham.

You can see more work ( as it slowly gets scanned and posted) on
Instagram at www.instagram.com/sketchingclimatestories
The web at sketchingclimatestories.com


Posted in Activism, california, people, Portrait, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

‘People at Work’workshop (and a downloadable pdf)

As promised, a report of the workshop I taught in Porto, “People at Work“. And, a downloadable pdf. Skip right to the end if you just want to get to that.

Yet another year of teaching at the USk Symposium, a huge honor, and learning experience. This year, more than other years, I focussed on demo-ing the sort of gesture drawing I teach. Drawing people is a particularly ‘risky’ business: you never know who you will find on location to draw that day, you can’t pre-study most of what you do, so you turn up, you talk through the process, and you do a demo… but just verbalizing what you’re doing as you see it, react and capture it seems to participants. So in the spirit of showing as much of my process as I can and letting people see the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn’t, I did a lot of demo sketches through my three workshops.

Everyday at the Duoro river, we found different ‘People at Work’. On the left, a guy selling sunglasses. On the right, a Porto University student singing fado, accompanied by a guy on a Portuguese guitar. We drew little vignettes, with a focus on people, but with a feeling for the place and the tools they work with to complete the story.

porto_usk_workshop1This guy sold river cruises. See those distinctive yellow boats from Porto in the background?

porto_usk_workshop3Sometimes (on the left), you mess up. Luckily, it’s just a small vignette you’re capturing, and if you catch it early, you’re not super-invested in the drawing. So you move on and create a new piece. (You can tell I will never have the beautiful sketchbooks where every spread is gorgeous). Porto doesn’t rise early. So when my morning workshop got started, the only people around were these guys who unloaded the goods for the day from large trucks to nearby restaurants.


Sometimes I got lucky, and the same busker was there more than once.  This guy (below) with the accordion walked around, played, sang and collected money all at the same time. I had the easier task of following him around with a sketchbook, drawing and painting on the move: Because once you’re committed to an angle and a gesture, you have to stay true to it to not end up with a wonky figure. porto_usk_workshop6



Here’s someone else I got to draw twice: this guy with a life-size puppet that he danced with, collecting money from passersby in a hat. Version #1 is with a fountain pen, version #2, uses a brushpen.

And finally , here are some photos from the sessions. Many, many thanks to my assistants for helping in so many ways during the workshop. Prominently featured in these photos is the youngest participant in my workshop, a fearless and fantastic sketcher who told elaborate and colorful stories with every sketch she created.

And finally, here is a link at which you can download the handout from the workshop.

Posted in Portugal, Travel, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Week in Porto: Making Memories

It’s been a while now, but in late July, I spent a week in Porto. This first post is of my sketches and impressions of the city from before the Urban Sketchers Symposium. (A post about the symposium and my workshops coming soon)

This was one of the first pieces I sketched in Porto, by the Douro River, where my workshop was to be held. It’s a pretty challenging space to sketch: the sloping street, the tourists walking up and down it all the time, that strange sculpture with a cube and a lovely row of buildings in the background, each one so different from the one next to it, but all topped with terracotta tiles roofs. And just as I settled down to draw, I spotted Paul Wang and sat next to him to sketch. If you’ve seen Paul’s gorgeous sketches of shops in Singapore, you will see how these houses and windows are right up his alley.

I’m usually a solitary sketcher. So Symposium week is a bit of an unusual experience for me: I’m a social sketcher for the week and I also like to go sketch whatever the person or group with me is sketching. It’s interesting to me to see what catches someone else’s eye and what subjects interest them. It stretches me a bit outside my comfort zone, but it takes away a whole bit of having to decide what and where to sketch.

This is one of the very few sketches I did on my own one afternoon: Narrow alleys, colorful homes, satellite dishes and colorful clothes drying in the wind; A classic scene in Porto.

A view of Porto from across the river. Lovely view, for sure. But what really makes these sketches special to me is the memory of working on them, while chatting with friends. This quick piece done one morning with Liz Steel, who I draw a lot with during the Symposium and after. Eduardo Bajzek joined us for a short bit that morning and it was so nice to get to chat with him and go through his pretty amazing sketchbook. Eduardo was one of the main organizers of a pretty unforgettable symposium in Paraty, Brazil, an experience I remember often.

Here’s another classic: red tiled roofs sketched from a secret miradour that I sketched at with Hugo .

This spot is one I would have walked past. Except that Liz and I were wandering down when we spotted Ian Fennelly sketching there, so we joined him for a bit. Ian’s work is gorgeous and his stories are hilarious. porto5

More sketches from wandering the steep, narrow cobbled alleys of Porto with Liz: sketching, chatting, catching up on what we’re working on, thinking of doing the next year, struggling with and learning from in our sketching practice… I really value and learn from these conversations.portosm


I can’t remember when I did this sketch, but that red wall is Shari’s wall, a scene that got painted quite a bit, by Shari Blaukopf and those that took her workshop at Porto.portosm3

One of the perks of being an instructor at the Symposium is that the host team sometimes arranges visits to places that would otherwise be hard to access. ( Thank you, Team Porto!) Like the Pocas wine cellars, where fine port wine is made. Here’s my sketchnoting while tasting some port wines. The tawny was my favorite.portosm4

And this one is a sketch in the cellars.

One last sketch from what was a pretty incredible place. The sketch does no justice to the magical Livraria Lello , a beautiful library turned bookstore that is now super-popular because of it’s connection to the Harry Potter books.

The sketch is a bit slapdash, and not one I really want to post. Except that I spent the time when I was in that bookstore chatting with lots of sketching friends and generally having a lovely time. And it’s the people that make this piece memorable.

Posted in Portugal, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Drawing Hands

The next two months look jam-packed with work, the kind of schedule that quickly becomes an excuse to not get out and draw. So I’m giving myself a little project to work on, something I can do in little bits through the day.

I’m drawing hands in this little book. I even drew a hand on the cover so you know I’m committed 🙂

Here’s why.

(If you can’t read my handwriting, it says: “100 Hands is an attempt to better understand hands so I can use them more expressively and confidently in my work.”)

I’ve drawn a few in the book and I mean to keep drawing. Some hands are drawn watching my kids and using my own hand as a model, but there are two really valuable sources I’m using to learn and practice.

One is an online video, The Ultimate Guide to Drawing Hands with Richard Pace.
And the other is an online resource called Line of Action.




Will I draw a hundred hands? Will I stop at a hundred? I don’t know, I figured I’d just start without worrying too much about the end.


I’m hoping the project helps me
1) Understand hands better. Hands are super-expressive and I’d like to use them better in my work.
2) Draw a little bit everyday, no matter how busy my day is.
2) Draw even on days I can’t sketch outside.

I’ll post updates once in a while and I’ll be tagging those studies with #drawhundredhands on instagram. You can too!

Posted in Everyday Sketches, Figure Drawing, hands, studies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Barcelona: Family Travels in Spain and Portugal

And the last stop on our family trip: Barcelona. What a fantastically crazy city to end our travels with. We didn’t do any off-the-beaten path stuff, this was a Gaudi-all-the-way trip for us. Sketching Gaudi is a joy: you go for the feel of his lines and there’s no perspective to worry about, it all kinda looks right. This is the rooftop of La Padrera. Two quick sketches.barcelona2

I love sketching markets. And La Boqueria is pretty special, not only because of the amazing energy of the place, but also because it’s where I covered my first workshop as correspondent for Urban Sketchers at the Symposium 5 years ago. (You can see some sketches from that trip here and here. )barcelona7ohotomarket.jpg

Sagrada Familia… what can I say? Worth the crazy lines. I love how the stained glass lights up the interior in ever-changing colors.barcelona3gaudimad

And the exterior, sketched from a cafe after our visit. Just like the interior of Sagrada would look strange without people, the exterior just isn’t itself without the ever-present construction cranes. barcelona5gaudimad

One last sketch from Parc Guell on a very hot day.

My travels didn’t end at this, but our family trip did. I headed back to Portugal, to Porto where I taught at the Urban Sketchers Symposium. But it was sad to say goodbye to my family: it had been so much fun to share our adventures with the kids. The mad architecture in this city (and the ice creams) had them super-excited.

If you missed my earlier posts from the trip, here are links to Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Evora, and Lisbon.

Posted in Spain, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments