Next Sketch Outing

March and April outings cancelled

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Down Low

In the mid-century house where I grew up, some door knobs were made of faceted glass. I was intrigued when I stared into these “diamond” door knobs, and sometimes I would invite playmates to come see our “diamond room.” I would blindfold them until they reached a glass knob, position their eyes near the knob, then reveal the diamonds. I’m not sure why they were never as impressed as I thought they should be.

Recently Rob Sketcherman and Liz Steel put out a sketching challenge to “get down low” inside one’s home for a new perspective. I’d planned to sketch the light fixture in the center of our livingroom ceiling, but I wanted something else to put in the composition. I walked all around, trying to find a way to fit something else in. In the early-century house where I live now, we have a few original glass knobs, but they’re not quite as ornate and diamond-y as the ones in my childhood home. The mullioned French doors between the livingroom and Greg’s study have such knobs, and if I sat on the floor up against the doors, I could see the light fixture through it.

It was not the most comfortable sketch I’ve ever made, but I’m thankful for the challenge, because otherwise it never would have occurred to me to look for a composition from that perspective.

Stay home, stay safe, and keep sketching, everyone!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Corona Hours

3/23/20 Maple Leaf Ace Hardware Store

I have a hunch that a full lockdown is close (voluntary social distancing wasn’t working, and even the current severe restrictions might not be enough), so I went out in my car looking for a way to document these crazy times before I lose that freedom. First I drove past my neighborhood Maple Leaf Park for any signs of closure, which the city had begun the day before, but I didn’t see anything from the street. Although a few people still walked around the park’s periphery, the playground was empty (last week we were dismayed to see it full of kids playing together while their parents chatted, just like normal).

A couple blocks north of the park, I passed the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware store (which I sketched from a better angle a few months ago). Its readerboard posted reduced “Corona Hours.” Staying in my parked car across the street, I wasn’t especially pleased with the composition, but tough times call for tough measures.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

pre-social distance

I keep flipping through my sketchbook of the last couple weeks, feeling nostalgia for my carefree, out&about pre-coronavirus lifestyle. it's going to be an important document for my future self, and my present self to record this moment. This sketch of the arch was the final time I went out, to Fort St George in the I.D, which had a nice view of Hing Hay Park and a miserable cold & rainy day with very little foot traffic.

a couple weeks ago, I was drawing at the Athenian's happy hour with friends to celebrate the purchase of T's new live-aboard sailboat. it was just the beginning of the gradual shut down and social distancing. I remember we went to a live punk music thing at another bar later that night and the band had cancelled because of the virus... "that's not very punk of them" we thought.

By the way, the gray ink in these sketches is Diamine Earl Gray, which does lovely things when water is applied over top of it – it softens & separates into pink & blue splotches at random.

An uneasy composition at the Square Knot in Georgetown, one of my favorite breakfast spots. Things were still fairly normal back then. A week and a half later, I drove past this place and it's totally shut down, like 90% of all the other restaurants in the city.

I feel certain that soon even leisurely walks are going to be restricted, so I'm trying my best to enjoy them while I can, especially when the weather is so nice. I met a fellow freelancer friend yesterday in the neighborhood between our home bases because we were both getting extremely restless working from home. We spent some time sketching in the grass 6 feet apart, naturally. 
The person who runs (?) and lives next to the Konko church came out with her tiny son and looked at our drawings. She was really touched that we "found the building interesting" and that interaction was one of the highlights of my day.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Out Again

3/16/20 Mt. Rainier from 5th Ave. NE overpass

Toward the end of my daily walk around the neighborhood, which has become my regular sanity saver, I took the route across the Fifth Avenue Northeast I-5 overpass. I was counting on The Mountain being out, and it was – a glorious, life-affirming sign that someday all will be well again.

I thought about the similar sketch I had made just about a month earlier from the same spot. At that time, I complained to myself about how the traffic was noisy and unpleasant.

We were so innocent then.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

All Alone, Together

Urban Sketchers Milan promoted an event for yesterday.   I think it would be a good idea to continue to sketch our view from home and use the hashtag.

Both USk Seattle and USk Tacoma have cancelled all sketch outing through the end of April.  Due to my and husband's risk factors, I've decided I won't be attending any of the demos at Daniel Smith.  All of this makes me sad and I miss my friends.

The bright spot is that I can still make as much art as I want.  I can go out on my own, maintaining social distance or just sketch from inside my car.  I can stay somewhat connected with other artists via all of the USk social media platforms.

What I see out my windows is not all that interesting to me.  I live in a modern suburb of homes that look very much alike.  A couple Urban Sketchers have shared sketches of similar views and made them look interesting and artful.  That's the challenge I may take up soon.  For now, though, I sketched the view out my patio.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Chasing 100 People at Bellevue Square

The decision weighed heavily on my mind. For more than a week, the other USk Seattle admins and I have been discussing whether we should go ahead with outings or cancel. Every day, updates from the health department grow increasingly alarming, and authorities urge anyone in higher-risk groups (including those of us over 60) to stay home if possible. With growing concern about COVID-19, was it reckless to gather? Even on my way to Bellevue Square, where I had initiated an ad hoc outing for the annual #OneWeek100People challenge, I was trepidatious.

Upon arrival, however, I was happy that we didn’t cancel. After feeling gloomy all week, it felt good to see friends and sketch together. The mall was emptier than I had ever seen, and we laughed sardonically that we’d be hard pressed to find a hundred people!

Bellevue Square is an ideal people-sketching mall. Wide-open multiple levels enable easy views looking up, down or across. In addition, stairways are an interesting challenge. I chose to stand, but other sketchers enjoyed using the many tables and convenient seating throughout the mall.

I had done 25 sketches yesterday. Hitting my groove almost immediately at the mall, I decided to finish my remaining 75 in the 2½ hours of the outing. One hundred done!

As in previous years, my goal was to avoid portraits or details and focus strictly on making simple gestures that capture individuals, not generic stick figures. It was also an excellent opportunity to study the movement of walking, especially people coming toward or going away from me. I tried to draw the subtle differences in their legs to show that they are walking, not standing.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Census is coming

Because of "an abundance of caution" and because it's raining again, I did some sketching from the car this morning. 

My suburb has more than one sign about the upcoming Census.  It's important that everyone complete it! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

marching along

hello Urban Sketchers Seattle, it's been a while since I've posted! like you all probably are, I am really excited about the warmer, happier-sketching weather just around the corner (though I am definitely counting on at least a few last gasps of winter to come). here's some pages from my sketchbook from the last week.

Sitting outside Volunteer Park CafĂ© in a sunlit moment looking up the street, trying to ignore the parents playing "Baby Shark" for their toddlers out of their phones. 

 My oyster-obsessed studio friends and I went to Taylor Shellfish Farms for happy hour and sketching. Not the best space for drawing (it's a restaurant) but the grays of the shellfish were fun to capture in neutral watercolors and ink. 

 Sunny sunday sketchwalk in Central District, just up the very steep hill from my building. My friend and I sat on the sidewalk drawing the cute old houses & Beacon Hill across the valley while eating steamed BBQ pork buns. Happy to notice the tiny buds starting on trees. Since I moved here in October I've scarcely explored my neighborhood, which makes me feel bad...blame it on the weather? 

Another happy hour with drawing buddies — at Pike Place Grill, which has an excellent view of the famous sign & maybe the best deals on drinks I've seen anywhere in Seattle.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

USk Seattle 10x10 Registration is Open!

Urban Sketchers Seattle is excited to announce the 2020 USk 10x10 Workshop Program! All your favorite local instructors are back, many with new workshops: Stephanie Bower, Gabi Campanario, David ChamnessMichele CooperEleanor DoughtySue HestonAndika Murandi and Jane Wingfield. In addition, two new instructors are joining our faculty: Seattle sketcher Tina Koyama and guest instructor Suzala, visiting from New York City! All are offering inspiring workshops for sketchers of all experience levels.

The USk 10x10 program is a worldwide initiative to offer educational workshops wherever sketchers live. Launched in celebration of Urban Sketchers’ 10th anniversary in 2017, the program offers a variety of courses on urban sketching techniques, approaches and media. This is the fourth consecutive year that USk Seattle is participating. With 15 workshops scheduled, it’s our biggest program yet!

Registration begins Saturday, Feb. 29, 9 a.m. The cost for each 3½-hour workshop is $60 through our “early bird” date, March 27, 2020. After that date, the price is $70 per workshop. Registration will be processed by the event management website, Brown Paper Tickets. Please see the program schedule and workshop details and read the FAQ for registration information.

Have questions? Read the FAQ first, then send email to:

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Wintergrass fun

This was my first outing to Wintergrass at the Bellevue Hyatt, and it was a treat. Music everywhere -- be it scheduled concerts, or just groups of friends who pulled some chairs together and switched instruments (and musicians!) as they went along.

The first group I sketched had a bassist and a banjo player - amongst many others, but I don’t draw that quickly. Or color that quickly, as I left these as ink drawings. They were a lively bunch and drew quite a crowd.

Then I moved over to a group of three guys playing farther down the hallway. This time, I just drew one and spent a bit more time and added color. I was using my iPad, so this didn’t require any additional equipment - in fact, I didn’t even set up my stool the entire day! I think this is the first sketch outing where I’ve done the whole thing standing up.

I headed upstairs and saw tables set up with a huge number of guitars. I didn't have the time to draw all of them, but since I was drawing digitally, I didn't have to. ;)

I was in a hurry, because I wanted to catch the concert at the KBCS stage -- the radio station for Bellevue College.

After that, I headed back downstairs and caught up with some of the other sketchers, where we chatted about our morning, and also about using iPads for sketching.

Then we got together for the throw down, where we had nine artists! We roped in a friendly bystander to get a group photo.

It was a great day of sketching, and I'll be back next year! (And possibly tomorrow!)

Also, for those of you who were curious about the specifics of my iPad setup, here are some of the details:

  • I’m using the previous model of the iPad Pro 10.5”, which you can still buy "refurbished" from Apple. Most newer models, and all of the "Pro" models, support the Apple Pencil which utilizes pressure and tilt sensitivity. (Most normal styluses don't.)
  • The screen protector brand I’m using is "iCarez Anti-Glare Matte Screen Protector". You have to buy the correctly sized one for your model of iPad. I vastly prefer this brand to the “ClearView” brand protector which is much rougher and harder on pen nibs. However, both are tricky to install without getting dust or bubbles under it. (It can be done - it's just tricky.) 
  • The holder is the “Max Smart Tablet iPad Hand Holder Grip Handle”. Note that there are different sizes for some model iPads. Check to make sure yours will fit the one you order.
  • All of these items are available online and should show up under those search terms. 

Wintergrass Friends

Perusing the lineup for the 2020 Wintergrass Music Festival, I noticed one band named I Draw Slow.   I drew very fast at the festival!  It was of course due to movement of  musician’s hands and the beat of music.  Spun into musical festival excitement, drawing while listening to music was pure joy.  

Stringed instruments


Although I brought my stool, I didn’t use it once.  Instead, I found abundant, comfortable, Hyatt Regency chairs with mostly straight on views of jamming bands.  The woman in my first sketch had a commanding touch with her larger than she was instrument.  The guys on  fiddles moved things along while the guy on guitar sang melody.  Afterwards I asked him the name of their band. He said it was a no name band, they were all just friends. 

Playing nice together

I walked around the upper balcony and listened to some groups playing in a circle.  I couldn’t get the right angle so I moved back to the other side of my band with no name.  This time around, I thought about Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints from the Moulin Rouge series and pushed some of the figures into a flat background shape.  

Cajun music

Before throw down time, I came upon a group with two accordions.  They too were just friends, a no name band.  I loved listening to their cajun style music.  The female guitar player had a beautiful, clear voice.  They were all so friendly and happy, even let me take a picture of them with my sketch in the foreground!  I wished them well in their musical adventure.  

Wintergrass and Urban Sketch friends

Friday, February 14, 2020

Out the windows

We spent part of this Valentine's day doing what we love...sketching together in our town. We spread out around Columbia Center, which is the tallest building in the city. The view from the 40th floor Starbucks isn't what it used to be and it now costs $20 to ride the elevator up to the 73rd floor. So I spent my time sketching out the windows of the 4th floor.

Liz and Peggy found warm spots on an outdoor patio with a good view.

Sharing our sketches. The Smith Tower got a lot of attention today. It opened in 1914 and was the first skyscraper in Seattle as well as tallest building west of the Mississippi for many decades. It is 35 floors.

My first sketch was a window view of that same Smith Tower.


Then I moved to the other side of the building to sketch the Rainier club dwarfed by new skyscrapers.

More photos here. 

Fourth & Cherry in Thumbnails

2/14/20 view of 4th and Cherry
Although USk Seattle had met at Columbia Center only last fall, we all agreed then that Seattle’s tallest building offers enough easy views that it wouldn’t be too soon to visit again in the winter. In addition to spacious windows with seating and tables on the three lobby floors, the central stairway challenged several sketchers. Finally, the Starbucks on the 40th floor (the highest Starbucks in the city and, at least at one time, in the country) offers spectacular views for the price of a coffee (a great alternative to paying $22 to ride up to the 73rd floor where, admittedly, the view is even more spectacular).

Last time I was there, I did a full-size sketch of the Smith Tower, so this morning I decided instead to do a series of thumbnail-size sketches from various points in the building. From a third-floor corner facing Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street, I took on the Smith Tower again, an abstract view of another building and the skyway (jokingly called Seattle’s “bridge of sighs”) between the King County Courthouse and correctional facility.

2/14/20 A slice of sky from the 40th floor

Next I rode the elevator up to floor 40 to check out the Sky View Starbucks (at left). The last time I spent any time there, I enjoyed a much wider view of Elliott Bay. With all the new buildings that have been completed in the past several years, the slices of sky and water are getting slimmer and slimmer. 

Not yet ready to give up my prime corner table, I swiveled 90 degrees and looked down. My next page of thumbnails (below) includes the Gothic tower of Trinity Parish Church and Interstate 5. If you look closely at the last sketch, you’ll see some tiny blue dots. That’s a small village of tents where, very sadly, an increasing number of Seattle citizens reside (as well as in many other parts of the city).

2/14/20 Trinity Parish Church and Interstate 5

I’ll leave you with one last thumbnail: I arrived downtown quite a bit early for the sketch outing, so I made a quick stop on First Avenue facing Elliott Bay and the Seattle Great Wheel. I still can’t get over the view that is no longer blocked by the viaduct.

2/14/20 Seattle Great Wheel and Elliott Bay