Workshop in San Francisco: Register early to save a spot!

UPDATE: The original workshop on the 10th of October in San Francisco is now FULL. I have added a couple of new dates and will update this page to reflect availability

Friday, October 9th, 10:00am -1:30 pm, San Francisco: FULL. Waitlist Available.
Saturday, October 10th, 10:00am -1:30 pm, San Francisco: FULL. Waitlist Available.
Saturday, October 24th, 10:00am -1:30 pm, Marin: AVAILABLE.

To register
e-mail Suhita: suhita(at)gmail(dot)com for information and registration. (Title your email October 10 Capturing Chaos Workshop to make sure I receive it)

suhita_chaos_banner_h1Workshop size: 15 participants only, so register early!

Workshop details
Saturday, October 10th, 2015
San Francisco, California (exact location in the city TBD)
10:00 am to 1:30 pm
$40 per person to be sent in with a completed registration form


Learning Goals
– Learning to capture people in motion through quick, gestural drawing
-Capturing a complex, energy-filled crowd scene

Do you walk into busy crowded places and feel overwhelmed at the idea of drawing them? Is it hard to see where to begin a sketch of a place so full of people, movement and chaos? Do you wish you could capture the scene without being overwhelmed by it? This workshop will help you do just that by breaking down the process into a series of simple steps.

We use a process of alternating between two very different modes of seeing and drawing: one more structured, the other very loose and gestural. Together, we will combine these two processes for a sketch that is loose and spontaneous and captures the energy and activity of these places without ending up as a bewildering mess.

Workshop Schedule
We will start with a discussion and an exercise in quick, gestural figure drawing from observation.

We’ll follow this up by talking about the qualities of busy places (and our location in particular) that we would like to capture and all the elements that go into making the scene.

We will then break down the busy scene before us and learn to capture it in one sketch. The instructor will demo each step as we move through the process, and we will gather to critique and discuss the pieces at the end of the session.

Please bring
1) A medium sized or larger sketchbook  for the final watercolor piece.

2) A book you can use to do lots of pages of quick, gestural figure drawings (can be the same book, but we will use lots of pages for this exercise so you may want to use a less expensive paper than watercolor paper)

3) Graphite pencil

4) One or two different kinds of pens for making marks: a fountain pen, a sharpie pen, a brushpen or any other kind of pen with waterproof ink

5) A small watercolor kit and brush

6) Bring a portable stool if you like, to sit on while working.

To register
e-mail Suhitasuhita(at)gmail(dot)com for information and registration. (Title your email October 10 Capturing Chaos Workshop to make sure I receive it)

Workshop size: 15 participants only, so register early!

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The calm after the storm.

Right now feels like the calm after the storm. Or maybe just before the next one.
Sketching at home after a big trip is always hard. Looking for the interesting in the everyday means getting back into the practice of looking so much harder than when you travel.

I got to ease my way back in with a weekend away in San Simeon. Here’s the totally over-the-top Hearst Castle. But maybe it doesn’t looks so over-the-top when you sketch just one little bit of it like I did here.


And below, a page of notes made while walking around on our guided tour inside the ‘castle’.
san_simeon_hearst_walking_notes1But my favorite bit from this part of the California coast is the beach by Hearst Castle that is always littered with elephant seals.

On the way back home, we stopped at Point Lobos State Reserve. Why have a never been here before, only 2 hours from home?? I’m going to have to go back, it was spectacular. What you cannot see in my sketches is that way out in the ocean, were humpback whales, and every so often you saw them spout or even jump out of the ocean.

Closer to home, here is La Casa Grande. It was built in 1854 as hotel, but became the home of the mine manager for the New Almaden Mining Company that mined quicksilver in these mines. It now houses the Mining Museum.
mining_museum_almadenAnd this is a little shed that I know nothing about, also on the grounds of the museum.

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Cambodia: A colorful Buddhist temple in Siem Riep

Wat Preah Ang is alive with color and life. The detailing on the roofs reminded me of flourishes at the end of calligraphic strokes. And the maximalist approach to decoration was a delightful change from the subdued palette of weathered rock at the Angkor temples.

This one? Same scene, 5 minute capture. I often do this quick second one once I understand what’s going on with what I’m looking at: It took me some time to figure that layered roof out in sketch#1, so I did a very quick second sketch before moving on.

Here, I worked with color first and then added some line. An assortment of stupas in front of the temple.siam_riep_temple9_colorful
And I am not exaggerating the color or decoration. If anything the setting was lusher and goldener- that really should be a word- than I painted it: See Laurel Holmes photos of it here.

One last sketch: the dormitories the monks live in, with saffron and red garments hanging out to dry. Laurel pointed this one out to me, she knows how much I love my bright colors. (Read her piece on photographing sketchers here.)

With that, it was goodbye to my friends (and the Cambodia). While goodbyes are always a little sad, with my sketcher friends they’re always “till we meet again”. Perhaps at the next Symposium? For sure online on the usk blog, or the facebook page which is open to all.

If you are thinking of making it to the next Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester, and are wondering what all they hype is about. maybe this wonderful video will help explain a small little bit of it.

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Cambodia: Arts and Crafts

I spent a morning at a little craft village, Artisans d’Angkor, a great way to see artisans working at so many different crafts all in one place. Artisans d’Angkor came out of a program by the Cambodian government to rebuild the country. Training young people in the arts so they could earn a living without moving away from home, keeping the arts and crafts alive and paying everyone a fair price for their work is only a small part of their mission.

This woman took plain blocks of wood and lacquered them in red.

When the blocks were dry, the girl on the left painted the center of every piece in flat black and the girl on the right worked on a painting on that surface.siam_riep_crafts_village5

Some pieces got real gold leaf painted on to them by this ambidextrous artist: she never moved, but just switched the brush between hands to paint on very intricate gold leaf patterns . This was done in a closed room with a glass window to look through.

There were other large lacquered pieces being worked on in the workshop too, with gold-colored paint instead of gold leaf. These were out in the open workshop space, making it so much easier to draw them up close.

These artisans made little copper elephants. Here, they hammer decorative patterns into the hollow sculptures.

Next, the brass pieces go to the polishers who wear cloths over their face and goggles because of all the little copper shavings that flew off their polishing wheels.

I didn’t get to capture the step-by-step wood and stone carving process. So here’s a photograph that shows it.
craft_siam_riep_processThe stone and wood carving workshops used replicas of ancient sculptures and a very exact method of measuring sizes, angles and depths with calipers to replicate a piece.

That was my very last full day in Siam Riep. But I did have a few hours the next morning before catching a flight back home. I sketched, ofcourse. That very last post form Cambodia coming up next.

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Cambodia: Angkor Wat

If the temples of Angkor are huge, complex, and really hard to capture, then Angkor Wat just takes it to another level. We’ve all seen this iconic structure in photographs before. But walking in through those gates is overwhelming. So overwhelming, perhaps, that the first sketch I did was of the view of the temple from outside the back gates.
20519568535_e4a0449617_zPhotograph by Laurel Holmes

My next two sketches were smaller vignettes. This one in the inner courtyard.

And this one of a monk in a small part of the temple that is now a living Buddhist temple.

To see some amazing sketches of the space and scale of Angkor Wat, see Stephanie Bower capture it.

These next sketches are from a second trip to the complex. Another few captures of the inner courtyard, filled with tourists and monks.


See that brush on the top left of my page? Best-est gift ever, the Rosemary Dagger Brush: it’s quickly become my most-used brush. An incredibly versatile brush that makes really expressive marks, but that’ll have to be another post…

What works for me is people-filled scenes. When I try to draw just the architecture, it rarely comes alive. So here is more of that monk at the temple and a huge statue of Buddha.


And I thought this was one last, mad capture as I hurried out: tourists by the ponds taking pictures of themselves with Angkor Wat reflected in the water.

siam_riep_temple7_angkorwatBut then I had to stop for this: How can you not draw the palm juice seller who holds this pose (and smile) for you? That hollow bamboo hanging from the palm is a sort of strainer for the sweetish juice.

More from Siam Riep coming up next, this time from the Crafts Village.

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Cambodia: The markets of Siam Riep

The main market of Siam Riep covered a whole block. Around it’s perimeter were stalls that mostly sold dry good, like this seller of tens of varieties of rice.


And this cart selling satay.


But the inside of the market is what really came alive. The fish market with crabs, shrimp, eel and fish of every size. And lots of stuff I couldn’t identify.




The chicken stalls where plucked chickens were washed and then displayed, feet up.


In the middle of it all sat this seamstress, working away at her sewing.


The fruit and vegetable market with many varieties of bananas, mangosteen and dragon fruit.siam_riep_market1

And stalls that sold pickle-like snacks that were super popular with locals. This lady waved a plastic bag on a stick and lit a candle to keep flies off her goods.


I moved between many different stalls over the course of the afternoon and sketched the individual sellers. Its always a bit of a balancing act, with my sketchbook, pens and watercolors in a place as crowded as this, but I really enjoy the experience of standing up close and capturing the action. It helps me capture detail and gesture and draw in little stories around these quick portraits.

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Cambodia: the temples of Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom

A full day of sketching the temples around Angkor. Take big, complex, layered and textured  stone structures. Throw in a cloudy day with diffused light and it’s quite a challenge to try and figure what to focus on and draw.

Our first temple visit was to Ta Prohm, most famous for the huge ficus trees growing out of the structures. This first sketch I did is probably of the most iconic place in that temple. Wish I’d done it a little later in my trip because it takes a while to sort out what’s going on in a new environment, and this was sketch #1 at the temples. And what an imposing site it was! (See Shari Blaukopf’s sketch of it that captures its scale and magnificence so well)

After this one, I decided I needed to do a couple of little pieces, so I sketched the workers who were part of a restoration project. Some built scaffolding around the structures, others painstakingly cleaned the remnants of carvings in the stone.


Then I walked around the corner and just had to capture this monk photographing the ruins with his phone. Yes, it’s the “ancient meets modern” cliché, but I had to sketch it. Everywhere you looked, great crumbling stone structures were so intertwined with the trees that the trees now held them up. It’s hard to imagine how these structures must have looked when they were living temples, all painted and adorned in gilded wood.

After a short break for lunch we headed out to Angkor Thom where I sketched the giant face towers at the Bayon. There are over 200 of these massive faces on the towers, although many of them are barely recognizable as faces.


I can usually sketch all day, but in the heat and humidity of Cambodia, I was totally done at this point and headed back to the hotel after laboring over a small sketch of the tuk-tuks for far too long.

So glad I headed back, there is just no way I could have sketched anymore that day.
Well, except for this little piece produced later that evening at the hotel. I don’t know what these little lettuce-like water plants are but they floated in a pond at the hotel and were fun and relaxing to sketch.

Coming up next: A break from temples to capture life in the markets of Siam Riep.

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