Urban sketches, figure studies and little still lifes are what I mostly post here. But every once in a while I’ll do a piece that doesn’t fit those categories.

The biggest difference between urban sketching and working on these pieces is that in the former I watch my subject more than the page I’m drawing on. And with these pieces, I might use a reference as a jumping off point, but after using it loosely I’m working towards a rather fuzzy vision in my head. Quite a different way to work.

Here’s one called “In the Shadow”. It’s only partially done, but I might want to start over with it, since it didn’t go where I wanted it to. Watercolor and ink on coldpress paper.the_shadow

Here’s a study for a series based on  my sketches at museums. Gouache on black paper.the_museum_guard

For this one, I used a photograph I took of a manzanita tree as a jumping off point. I really enjoyed the mark making process on this one. Pastel and gouache on black paper.manzilla

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Messing with perspective

Disclaimer: The point of this post is not to say that you shouldn’t understand, use or study perspective. (Some of my favorite urban sketchers to learn from at the bottom of this post)

But I drew this quick little sketch at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco last week and I think it captures my experience of being  there even though the perspective is far from technically correct.

There’s no way I could have seen this whole arch without stepping way back, which I couldn’t, the church just isn’t broad enough, side-to-side. And even if I could, I couldn’t have viewed the ceiling beams and the people at the bottom all in one view.

So what am I doing here? My first lines on the page reflect my very first impressions: this is a soaring space. To see the whole arch, I scan it from top to bottom (sketch below shows my upward-sweeping gaze on right) And to reflect that feeling, I draw a thin tall arch that frames my view, one  that narrows at the top.

And then I simply scan , top to bottom this time, and “fill in” what I see within this arch. Right off the bat, you can see I’m combining multiple views here but not doing any sort of curved distortion on my lines.
Here’s what I like about the sketch: I like that it isn’t an obviously distorted view of the space. To me, doing that would call too much attention to the distortion and take away from my focus on the gorgeous stained glass work in this sweeping view, which was my first response to the space and one I wanted to remain as the focus of the sketch.
Here’s the bit that didn’t work so well: I would have liked the feeling of the upward sweeping space to be more dramatic. Is there a way to do that without the distortion stealing the attention from the story I want to tell? I don’t know.

Everytime you ask a sketcher how to get better, you’ll hear about practice, practice and more practice. I agree that’s first. The other thing that goes hand-in-hand with it and is rarely mentioned is having great teachers. Luckily, the urban sketching community has loads of those: they share on their blogs, they teach, they write books, and have online classes. Here’s just a few of my favorite sketchers whose teaching, writing and sketches have particularly helped me in understanding and using perspective.

Liz Steel : If you think you’re going to be overwhelmed by thinking vanishing points and 2 and 3 point perspective then learn from Liz who will show you many, many other ways to approach perspective and drawing architecture. Her blog and her online classes are both fantastic places to learn.

Stephanie Bower: Think you can handle a wee bit of technical talk? It’s not overwhelming, I promise and Stephanie explains it so well. Stephanie blog here and her fabulous talk on perspective that I was lucky to go to at an Urban Sketchers Symposium really explained so much to me. She covers that same content and more in her online classes.

Matthew Brehm’s book Sketching on Location is a book I often go back to. You can see that and other books by him here.

James Richard’s blog and book are both places I find myself going back to again and again.

And Fred Lynch‘s  sketches and writing teach so much. His use of arches in his sketches and how he uses them to walk you through his stories is fascinating. And though I didn’t use it here, his work reminds me of the power of atmospheric perspective, something I often forget to use. Here’s a piece he wrote about it.

And some sketchers whose work I look at so one day I will (maybe?) understand how they do what they do: Gérard MichelLapin, Paul Heaston.

I better stop here.There’s so many more people I can think of but this post is so wordy already! So add your thoughts on perspective and your favorite teachers, books and inspiration on the subject to the comments section.

Update: Just before I published this post, I ran it by Liz to see if it made sense. Besides sending me notes and thoughts on my post, she did a really simple-looking sketch on a train that actually dealt with far more complex perspective than my cathedral sketch does: she looked side-to-side and up and down , all in one little sketch, with no visible distortion. Check out her explanation here.


Posted in How to, san franciso, teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Friday Roundup

A mish-mash of stuff for the weekend: some figure drawing, a vintage structure with a fascinating story, and a link to a discount off my craftsy class and etsy store, a holiday gift to yourself, perhaps?

I think my very earliest one-minute sketches set the tone for how I saw and responded to the model at figure drawing this week. Volume, strength and rounded lines set the tone for this week’s sketches.




If you’re wondering why there are fewer posts on this blog, it’s because I’m also posting on Vintage Signs of San Jose.Even if you don’t live near San Jose and know these signs, they make fascinating stories. You can follow that blog by hitting the red button at the bottom of the page when you go there. My most recent post is about this oddly lovable giant orange which has a pretty fascinating story connected to it.

If it intrigues you, click here to see the full post of sketches and find out more about this structure.

Happy December!
Gifting time? Here’s my little sales pitch (and discount codes for the season)

My craftsy class finally has discount codes available again! Use the code
http://craftsy.me/2gOIlvw for a discount on the class.

titlecardAnd if you’re thinking of gifting some art this holiday season, then you can use the code SKETCH1THANKS  at checkout at my etsy store  for 15% off the price of anything in the store. (but order soon, so I can print and ship to you in time for the holidays.)

Happy last month of 2016. Now go make some art!


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SFMoMa and a night in the city

I (finally) made it to the SFMoMa, so long after it opened. What a gorgeous space… I love Calder and can watch those delicately balance mobiles for hours. The shadows they cast are especially fascinating. And what’s a museum sketch without the ubiquitous  guard in the background?sf_moma1There were too many favorites to stop and sketch, so I just sketched at places we stopped when the kids were fatigued. Luckily, everything in the museum makes for a good sketch. On the left, below is a  Tony Cragg made from industrial stuff. And on the right a really fun and energetic Frank Stella inspired by a racecar track.

I grew up living in tall apartments in Bombay and still miss living up high above a city. So staying up in the city and watching the street below on a wet night felt like home.sf_uphigh_night

Here’s the view of the rooftops out of our window the next morning. I love not only the energy of a city, but also it’s texture: nothing is very clean and pristine, everything is weathered and tells a story.sf_uphigh_day

The kids discovered at breakfast the next day that you can overdose on Nutella. Each of the Nutella and strawberry crepes at Honey Honey could have fed a whole family.sf_crepes

The weather in San Francisco is so unpredictable. One day it poured all over my sketch in the very short time I stood outside.

And the next day was spectacularly sunny at Grace Cathedral.I was tempted to leave it in just line but then I felt I just had to capture that blue sky.




Posted in california, Close to home, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Odds and Ends and the Winchester Mystery House

If you’ve been a tourist anywhere in the South Bay you’ve probably been to Winchester Mystery House. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for atleast 15 years and only went a couple of weeks ago. It’s a strange, crazy mansion made up of more than 160 rooms, built without a master plan (and it shows!). You can’t sketch inside because you’re on a tour with a lot of people and move quickly through many, many rooms ( I did manage page 2 that you see here, but only just about). But I would go back to the grounds to sketch views like this one of the assortment of roof and turrets: and you can visit the grounds and gardens for free anytime.




In ‘other sketches from that week’ are a few little ones.

My daughter and her bubble tea.

And an attempt at gouache. I need to get a hang of this medium soon so I can use it to sketch some lit neon signs in the night!

And in “happenings this week’. If you live near San Jose and can make it to the SoFa Market on Wednesday evening, bring your sketchbook and come! SoFa Sketch meets once a month: it’s easy, it’s casual: a bunch of artists bring their sketchbooks and current projects and come work on them and chat and draw together.

Here’s my little poster I did for this month’s meeting. It has my cats Samson and Moshi in it.  The inspiration for it? I wanted to stay in the vein of these pieces created over the years by artist Frances Marin who started and still organizes SoFaSketch. Oh, and I forgot to note it in my little poster… see you there between 7 and 9pm!



Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Launching vintagesignsanjose.com (and asking for your help)

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new blog dedicated to urban sketches of vintage signage in San Jose, California. If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that sketching these signs has been an obsession for the last few years.


Thanks to a grant from The Knight Foundation and History San José I am now researching those signs I have sketched, and sketching more on my list that I haven’t got around to  yet. Eventually, all those sketches will turn into a book and an exhibit.


Here’s where I’d love your help:

If you know a history buff, interested in the history of Santa Clara Valley. Or someone who lived in the area and might know more about these signs or have a story to share, could you point them to the site? (Details at the end of this post)

I’d love to hear from them: Part of the challenge of the project is that I want to find out more about the stories behind these signs. And some signs are better documented than others. Many of the stories probably live only with the families that ran or patronized these businesses. And how much richer this project would be if I could collect those stories!

Here is how you can follow this project:

Go to www.vintagesignsanjose.com and click “Follow Me” at the bottom of the page, in red, to follow the blog and get notifications straight to your email every time I blog a new set of sketches. You can also use the contact page to send me a message.

Follow Vintage Signs San Jose on facebook

Or look up #vintagesignssanjose on Instagram


Want to know more? It’s all on the site,

More about the project here.

And a list of signs I am sketching here.



Posted in Close to home, san jose, Silicon Valley, Vintage Signs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Selective Color

Many days, the furtherest I can get from home is my local Starbucks.And I think “Yet another Starbucks sketch?” But everyday is different. And different things catch my eye on different days. Selective color helps keep these two impressions very different from each other, even though they are sketched only a couple of days apart.

A busy weekday morning at Starbucks. I guess it was my first time in since the store turned ‘all red’ for the holidays. Black ink line and two red colored pencils were all I used.

And a rainy dark Sunday evening where it seemed to me that everyone just stared at their screens, their faces reflecting the blue light. Black ink line. Cool tones in watercolor for all the screens, and a warmish backdrop to accentuate the eerie blues.

Posted in Close to home, Drink, Everyday Sketches, Food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments