Next Sketch Outing

Friday, Jan. 31, 12 noon: Gab & Grab/NE Library

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Burke

Yesterday, Sunday, January 19, I joined Urban Sketchers Seattle at the newly re-opened Burke Museum. The old museum had been torn down and in it's place was this 3 story, massive building.

Since I wasn't sure when I might be back, I spent a good deal of time looking through the exhibits. It's almost overwhelming.

At end we were quite a large group.

As I spent most of my time wandering, I only did one sketch. Though there was no information about this specific canoe, all the types of paddles were identified.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


1/19/20 Mastodon replica, Burke Museum

Somehow the mastodon always calls to me. I’ve sketched it at the Burke Museum numerous times, but I never seem to tire of it. At the old facility, the big guy stood at the end of a dark, narrow exhibit area, so it was difficult to get any angle but head-on. In the Burke’s new digs, the replica of the 10,000-year-old skeleton guards the museum’s lower-floor entrance flooded with natural light. Looking down from the lobby stairway, this was my first attempt at sketching its entire length and girth in profile.

I love drawing all those bones, for sure, but capturing the sheer scale of this formidable monster is the real challenge: I used a full spread in my sketchbook this time, but I still didn’t have room for the tail. But at least I managed to get Suzanne and David in.

The mastodon made a great throwdown location as well as a popular sketch subject!

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Today's theme is "coffee". 

While waiting for a shop to open in my suburb, I stopped in at a new-ish local coffee shop, Boon Boona.  It's East African.   I was glad to see it so full on a weekday morning. 

I decided to switch from ball point pen to pencil.  I used a Faber-Castell B I got in Germany... it has a fancy cap that includes a sharpener. This is a Stillman & Birn pocket Epsilon.

After my errand, I drove on to the Museum of Flight for a Member's event: "Coffee with the Curator."  They had scheduled it into a large room and it was nearly full! Perhaps because this was our first opportunity to meet the new curator, Matthew Burchette.   This issue of the Museum's magazine, Aloft, has an article about him.  The topics included discussion of the planned "refresh" of the World War II gallery in the Personal Courage Wing to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII this year.  At this event there were also WWII artifacts on display from the archives.

And since it would have been my 4th cup this morning, I didn't have any coffee with the Curator!   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Green Lake Arch

1/14/20 Green Lake Park
We got a little more snow overnight, but not enough to write home about. The more significant difference for me was the drop in temperature. Although my weather app said it was 28 degrees, I was hoping that my walk down to Green Lake would have warmed me enough that I could stand to sketch outdoors as I had the day before. But my hands were freezing even with the mitten tops pulled over my fingerless gloves. I retreated to Starbucks.

Thawing my hands around a tall flat white, I picked a window seat facing a row of knotty old trees. It’s one of my favorite views of Green Lake Park, but it had been several years since I last sketched it. The darker areas are the grass already showing through the scant snow.

I’ll point out a bit of history: That classical façade in the distant background at right is a piece of architecture taken from the Martha Washington School of Girls for “neglected and unfortunate young girls.” Built in 1921 near Lake Washington, the school closed in 1957, and the city bought the property in 1972. (Local trivia: Apparently ghosts have been sighted there.) The Green Lake Arch, as it is now called, was taken out of storage in 2009 and placed at the park. I always thought I hadn’t noticed the arch until recent years because so many things escaped my attention before I started sketching. But now that I’ve read this bit of local history, I realize it was erected only a couple of years before I started.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Jointly at McMenamins

Urban Sketchers Tacoma hosted Urban Sketcher Seattle in a joint outing at the new(ish) McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma. It is a unique venue with so much to sketch. This was my 4th time there this year as they opened in the spring. I was grateful for the large turnout from Seattle, given the unpleasant weather for the long drive south.

Thanks to Sean F. for taking the group photo

After wandering up and down stairs, I finally found my way back to this odd mezzanine. The ceiling height is much shorter than the rest of the building.


I have a pocket Pentalic Aqua sketchbook that is dedicated to the lamps of McMenamins...not just the one's at the Elks Temple. Near the end of our sketching period, I sat with a couple other sketchers in the pub to do this ink sketch of some lamps.

This section of the hotel is unusual. There is a block of rooms inside a large, 2 story space. While it was being renovated, I watched on the construction company's FB page the installation of this magnificent chandelier. I talked with a young woman who is a housekeeper there but also an artist. I gave her the USk card, of course She told me McMenamins has one person whose sole job is to by lamps for them, scouring estate sales, antique stores, etc! This is my favorite sketch of the day.

A few more photos here.

by Kate Buike

Lots of Lamps But Not Much Light

1/10/20 Broadway, Tacoma

Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, McMenamins’ newest hotel and pub venue in Tacoma would be challenging fun to sketch from the outside on a warm, sunny day. On a wet, cold Friday, however, we all stayed inside the Elks Temple, where it was cozy. The joint sketch outing between USk Seattle and USk Tacoma attracted a huge turnout, and many sketchers were attracted to the venue’s period-appropriate furnishings, especially the impressive collection of vintage lamps.

Ironically, despite all the lamps, I found most areas to be dimly lighted (authentic to the period, I suppose). After wandering around from floor to floor, admiring the décor, I found a stairwell window with a view of Broadway.

Later I found a seat on the main floor, where I noticed that all the fabulous chairs had clawed feet. I knew I didn’t have enough time for a whole chair, but I had time for one foot (well, three, actually).

1/10/20 One clawed foot and two booted ones.
Dark but full of gorgeous lamps

Lots of clawed feet
At the Elks Temple pub for possibly the
 largest USk lunch turnout ever!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Neptune Theatre

12/16/19 Neptune Theatre, U-District

The Neptune Theatre has been in the University District for nearly a century. On the corner of Northeast 45th and Brooklyn since it opened in 1921, it is “the only survivor of five neighborhood theaters built during the silent film era.” It was called the U-Neptune back then.

I’ve been wanting to sketch the Neptune for a long time, afraid that any day now it could disappear the way two of Seattle’s other historic theaters, the Guild 45th and Seven Gables, suddenly closed in 2017 (I managed to sketch them only after the sad news). But the Neptune still seems to be going strong, showing indie films and staging a variety of musical concerts. It’s been years since I saw a movie there, but I know the inside is beautiful with dramatic nautical scenes painted on the walls. They just don’t make movie theaters like they used to.

In 2018, the 70-year-old marquee was replaced with a historically accurate digital one. I’m not sure if that includes the mint green, illuminated Neptune name sign, which looks identical to the one I’ve seen for decades. You probably can’t see it in my sketch, but the final E has arrowheads like Neptune’s trident.

While I was in the U-District getting my car’s battery replaced, I looked around for a coffee shop with a good window I could sketch through on that 39-degree morning. The Poindexter inside the Graduate Hotel was perfect: A corner window kitty-corner to the Neptune.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Dancers and Skaters at Winterfest

12/15/19 Winterfest
The Seattle Center Armory is always a people place, and no more so than during the holidays. Although the turn-of-the-20th-century model train and village are the centerpiece of the festivities, and I spent my last 15 minutes there (top of post), I was in the mood to make small gesture studies of people.

Beginning with a troupe of young dancers on the stage, I filled a page with their movements (and caught a few kids in the audience, too). 

12/15/19 dancers

12/15/19 Kids mesmerized by the dancers

The real fun was in Fisher Pavilion, which had been turned into an ice skating rink for the holidays. I had déjà vu of another outing with USk Seattle almost exactly seven years ago, when I attempted to capture figures on the ice for the first time. I applaud my attempt back then to take the broader view of the rink itself. Today I decided to simply focus on capturing all the different gestures I saw: the wobbly first timers using blue walker-like devices for stability; experienced skaters who sped around the small rink as fast as they could; beginners who gained confidence even as I watched. When Carol saw the rink, she put away her sketchbook and put on skates instead! I was so impressed to see her on the ice that I naturally sketched her, too.

12/15/19 ice skaters

Notice anything unusual about our group selfie below? I’m actually in the frame instead of photobombing myself! I got a new phone recently, and it made my arm grow longer! 😉

Friday, December 13, 2019


As some members of USk Seattle know, I spent 3 weeks in England during October, specifically in Yorkshire.  A couple other sketchers have asked whether I posted to this blog and, obviously, I have not. 

Himself and I flew into Manchester and based ourselves in Leeds, York and then a final long weekend in Manchester.  We made day trips out from there.  I also had the opportunity to sketch with USk Yorkshire and with a few members of USk Manchester.

This is one of my favorites, sketched at Whitby Abbey.   

Three weeks of posts would take a lot of space here.  If you're interested in the entire story, follow these links below:

Week One, Leeds.

Week Two, Leeds & York

Week Three, York and Manchester


As we have for the past years, we sketched the beautiful holiday decor at Swanson's Nursery. This year there was a large group who joined the hordes of people also there today. Many people sketched the colorful birdhouses.

I went back to the topiary reindeer that I've sketched before but today from a different viewpoint.

Cold, Crowded Cacophony at Swansons

12/13/19 Swansons Nursery
If being frozen and jostled by mobs of squealing children while sketching doesn’t appeal, you might want to avoid Swansons Nursery during its annual Reindeer Festival 12 days before Christmas. USk Seattle goes there every year around the same time, so Kate and I were puzzled about why it seemed more crowded than usual. That said, I managed to make four sketches, so how bad could it have been? I had fun!

12/13/19 Dasher and Blitzen
Whatever else I sketch during these annual outings (I think this was USk Seattle’s eighth Christmas visit; we sometimes go in the fall and spring, too), Swansons’ reindeer are always my favorite. As far as animals go, they don’t move too swiftly, but scaling those enormous antlers accurately is the challenging part. No matter how small I draw their bodies, I can’t seem to fit their antlers on the same page. This time I hedged my bets and put both Dasher and Blitzen in the same composition so that the full rack of at least one of them would appear in the sketch.

Fully chilled, I retreated to the koi pond inside the café. A few years ago, I was more ambitious and attempted the whole pond. This time I focused on simply capturing a couple of koi (I apparently had trouble scaling again – one tail went right off the page).

12/13/19 koi
Although I hadn’t fully recovered from the cold, I pulled my hood up again and went back to the reindeer pen, this time to stand further back (top of post). Perhaps my proudest moment of the whole day was catching the gesture of the dad taking a selfie with his young kids – he was quick, and so was I.

Toes numb, I headed for the café again to get coffee when I suddenly remembered Santa! The coffee line wrapped around the café, so I skipped it and headed for yet another crowd – the one waiting for the big bearded guy. At least it was warm and the view relatively unblocked. (I’ve sketched a lot of Santas, and my favorite moment is when babes are seated on his knee, and suddenly they turn and realize this red-suited, bearded dude is not known to them – and let out a huge howl! It happened a couple of times as I sketched . . . though the little bald guy in my sketch was happily oblivious.)

12/13/19 Santa at Swansons

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cat in a Hat

While driving around yesterday, I spotted this small Caterpillar equipment wearing a huge Santa hat! After meeting some friends for coffee, I drove back to the site to sketch it. I just makes me laugh. It's in Tukwila, on West Valley Highway, just east of Southcenter mall. 

With it's non-Santa buddies

Or maybe it's a Santa-pillar?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Southern Textures

A pre-Thanksgiving trip to Atlanta yielded some sketching opportunities in a wooded suburban enclave.  Populated with craftsman style homes and giant deciduous trees, everything looked pretty under a cornflower blue sky.  Many of the houses had screened in porches with overhead fans, useful during the hot and humid summers.  I can almost taste the sweet tea! 
Back porch
Lucky for me, most of the trees still had orange, yellow and rust colored leaves on their branches.  Sitting on a bench in the neighborhood green space, I thought the planners of the community were wise to set aside a piece of land for natural beauty preservation.
Village Green
A long, winding, tree covered road led us to Cheatham Hill Loop at Kennesaw Mountain. Historic markers throughout the park tell the story of a Civil War battle at Kennesaw Mountain.  It was sobering to see battlefield earthworks and cannons as reminders of the war.  I sat behind the cannons and looked over the parapet into the woods.  In my comfortable situation, it was hard to imagine what it must have been like for terrified soldiers in 1864. 
Civil War cannons

Historic Marker at Cheatham Hill

With the weather still perfect, I once again sketched under falling leaves and appreciated the freedom of peace and tranquility in a rustic backyard.
Rustic yard
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 17, 2019


11/17/19 Seattle Art Museum lobby
The Seattle Art Museum’s resident Chinese camels, rams and human figure received plenty of sketcher attention this morning. I was one of many USk Seattle members who were attracted to the iconic marble sculptures. Since I sketched the back end of a camel the last time we met at the museum, this time I gave a ram a try, along with the Chinese figure behind it. Unlike some brave souls, I ignored most of the long lobby stairway and its imposing decorative ceiling.

After that time-consuming exercise in graphite and quite a bit of chatting, I hardly had time to catch a few gestures of sketchers (and a security guard) scattered around the lobby before it was time for the throwdown. We had an excellent turnout again with a few new faces, including a visitor from Austin.

11/17/19 Seattle Art Museum lobby

Friday, November 8, 2019

La Marzocco People

Sue and I nabbed an empty table when we first walked into La Marzocco Cafe Friday morning.  I stayed at the same table the entire time and pivoted for different viewpoints.  A busy place with a constant stream of customers, this coffee shop has lots of options for figure studies.  
Comfortable seating next to KEXP fonts

Located behind a stage at the north end of La Marzocco Cafe is KEXP radio station.  You can watch the DJs through a window and hear the broadcast inside and outside the building.  A woman with a black beret in a leather chair next to the KEXP logo created a fine composition. Large ottomans offer extra acreage for kicking up your heels.
Seating arrangements

 Next, I sketched a young man with a mass of beautiful hair.  His companion sported a top knot, a popular style for both women and men in coffee shops I frequent.   The chair shapes and flowered oil cloth table tops offer some character to the industrial building. Only hinting at the gallery of record covers in the background of my sketch, I later went for a closer look at the colorful designs. 
November at the cafe

Large glass paneled garage door walls form the east side of the cafe.  Two figures provided a perfect counter point to the fall foliage and promenade of trees in the courtyard beyond La Marzocco.