Monthly Sketch Outing

Next Monthly Sketch Outing
Sunday, March 19
Hales Brewery & Pub
4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle, WA 98107

11:00 AM till 1:30 PM*
*note new time, Hales opens at 11 am

See Monthly Outing page for details.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Simple Shapes with Sue Heston

My second Urban Sketchers 10x10 workshop was Sue Heston’s “Simple Shapes Stronger Sketches.” Many sketchers, myself included, immediately become ensnarled by the mass of details in any view we might start to draw. Sue’s workshop directly addresses this issue by keeping students focused only on large shapes. On a chilly but dry Saturday morning, 14 sketchers gathered at the downtown ferry terminal to start seeing those shapes.

In most outdoor urban views, the largest shape is the sky. “Unlike many things – cars, trees, people – we don’t have preconceived ideas about the shape of the sky,” Sue says in her handout, which makes it an easier shape to see accurately and objectively.

With that in mind, our first exercise was to choose a composition and use a wide, light-colored marker to draw the sky as a single shape. (Fat markers were recommended because it’s impossible to get fussy with details when you have those in your hand!) The next step was to fill in the “not-sky” shape with a medium gray marker, forming another large shape. We did as many of these as possible to get away from trying to draw individual buildings, windows and rooftops and instead focused on the abstracted shapes. Sue warned us not to try to make nice sketches in these exercises; they were meant to be more like thumbnails that help us see values and compositions.

The second exercise built on the first by bringing in a dark gray or black marker for the shadow shapes. Starting new compositions or simply adding to the sketches we made in the first exercise, we looked for the darkest areas to fill in.

For the final exercise, Sue encouraged us to use our medium of choice while still following the same principles we’d practiced all morning: Make the sky shape; make the not-sky shape; finish with shadow shapes and finally details.

Although I don’t usually favor fat markers, I was certain that if I picked up my usual pens or colored pencils I’d fall back into my old habits. I decided to keep going and make a few more sketches with markers to reinforce what I’d learned. After drawing the sky shape for one skyline, my intention was to color in the gray and black, but I liked the simple line so much that I left it unshaded. Of course, I couldn’t resist adding a couple of cranes.

My favorite sketch of the day was of my beloved Smith Tower framed by the interesting sky shape formed by the terminal building’s overhang.

As humans who innately look for shapes we recognize, we don’t naturally “see” the shapes in between or around those recognizable things. We have to train our eyes to see those abstract shapes. Remember those “magic eyes” picture books of the ‘90s? If you crossed your eyes just right, a three-dimensional pictured popped out of the larger picture. I remember it took me a while to see the first one, but once I did, the rest snapped into place almost immediately. By the end of the workshop, I started feeling that way about the sky shapes surrounding the buildings, cranes, rooftops, stadiums and millions of other details in front of me. I think those larger shapes will snap into place easily for me now, helping me make better sketches with any medium.

Sue points out a sky shape.

La Conner Victorian

Last weekend I was up in LaConner with my wife and friends participating in the Dandy Daffodil Tweed Ride (a casual bike ride wearing tweed).  I wasn't able to come to the monthly sketch outing, but I did get a chance to sketch and paint the Air BnB house that we spent the night in.

Double Header

This week I did an Urban Sketcher double-header.  The prospect of a road trip to Gig Harbor on Thursday and public transportation to Capitol Hill on Friday appealed to my sense of adventure.  I challenged myself to 6 drawings in 2 days, game on. 

On the way to the Thursday meet up with Urban Sketchers Tacoma-Gig Harbor, when treated to a full on view of Mt Rainier clear and detailed, I was ready to start sketching immediately except for the fact since I was driving 60 mph on the freeway, I couldn’t.  The immense blue mountain covered with a sparkling snow cap disappeared soon enough.  Before I knew it, the Narrows Bridge in all it’s glory opened up and led me to the Gig Harbor destination, All Star Guitar.  
All Star Guitar, Gig Harbor, WA

Impressed with the front door and sign the minute I rounded the corner, I stood and sketched it.  The colors and whimsy of the sign, the text and twinkling globe light fixture high above attracted my bohemian nature.  The street with distant evergreens in silhouette added rustic charm to the experience.
Sales floor and teaching schedule at All Star Guitar

Located on the second floor of a vintage building in downtown Gig Harbor, All Star Guitar is the town’s music center. Guitars line the walls and hang from the ceilings. Drum sets and other music paraphernalia fill the space and music instruction rooms line the hallways.The row of guitars and teaching schedule begged a sketch as did the man with a walking stick waiting for his repaired guitar.  He really wanted it back, said he had a hard time being without.  I liked him and the fancy red electric guitar sitting next to him.  Two necked guitars are handy for very skillful guitarists.
Waiting for repair surrounded by guitars.

Friday morning I hopped on bus #3 and disembarked at Pine and 3rd.  It was raining so I popped open my umbrella as I walked up the steep incline to Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. When I arrived at the Roastery to meet with the Urban Sketchers Seattle Ad Hoc group, I discovered my normal brew was not available as they only sell premium coffee. The barista’s recommendation was $2.50 more than I usually pay but that’s OK because it was good, and I did appreciate sketching at the Reserve.
Coffee tasting.

Customers sitting on the custom designed wooden bar stools looked comfortable and sociable.  

Picturesque view.
The beautifully preserved window design frames an urban landscape lined with domes, pediments and painted brick facades distinctive with the patina of age.
Stylish customers and decor.
The employees were friendly and welcoming to our sketching group. I’m glad Starbucks decided to use and restore the building. On my bus ride I observed row after row of old buildings ready for demolition. Surrounded by chain link fences, they looked forlorn. It will be a sad day if all the buildings with character turn to rubble.  I have great admiration for developers who repair and restore buildings of historical interest.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Roastery Still Dazzles

3/24/17 Starbucks Roastery

I think today was my fifth time in two years visiting the Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room, all but once with USk Seattle. You’d think by now that I’d be done with it, but it is filled with so many amazing and challenging things to sketch that I remain dazzled. I may do my share of eye-rolling at the marketing copy – “Zesty lime citrus notes and brown spice accents with a chocolaty mouthfeel” is the description of my cup of Costa Rica Bella Vista F.W. Tres Rios – and my rolling eyes may pop out of their sockets when I see how much I paid for that cup, but I can sit just about anywhere and find something interesting to draw.

3/24/17 First Covenant Church
For a Friday morning, the place was mobbed and noisy, and I think we lost one or two sketchers because of that. I generally don’t like loud music and crowds either, but once I decide on a view to sketch, I get lost in drawing and hardly notice the buzz around me. The enormous copper vat with the Reserve logo was a popular spot for selfies.

Finished with that sketch, I got up to look around for the next one when something rare and astonishing caught my eye – the sun! I grabbed my coat and dashed outside for the view I was hoping to catch – the domed top of the First Covenant Church just up Pike from the Roastery.

The sun stayed out long enough for us to take a group photo outside the Roastery, but by the time I caught my bus ride home, it was pouring again.

Welcome to Roxanne (second from right), a visitor who
sketches with Urban Sketchers in North Carolina!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hale"s Ales Brewery

Yesterday was USk Seattle monthly sketching at Hale's Brewery located intheFreemont neighborhood. First time here, although I am a beer lover.  
When too many subjects in front of me, I often get stuck in details, as this time I told myself avoid it just sketch what interested me most. 

We can not ask more for such a beautiful day and so Iwalked outside the Brewery to sketch under worm sunshine, at the same time why not included the sunlight into shadow.

The Brewing Process

Here's my contribution to the sketch works from yesterday's outing at Hale's Ales Brewery and Pub. I like this view not only because of the geometric forms of the brewing equipment but also because of the way the brewing process is described on the signs posted on the railing. I annotated my drawing of the first three stages before the hopped wort is transferred to fermentation barrels.

Sun + Shadows at Hale's Brewery

2017_03_19 USk Hales Brewery

The interior of Hale's Brewery had a lot to tempt a sketcher, with giant steel brewing tanks and a cozy pub (OK, gave in to the pub later in the day). But when I stepped outside and saw the dramatic shadows on Hale's outdoor patio area, I knew I had found my sketch. It was still pretty chilly out, but Seattle has not seen the sun in soooo long, and I love big shadows.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Urban Sketching on Our One Sunny Day, At Last!

After all the recent rainfall, it was a beautifully sunny day at Hale’s Ales Brewery for the Urban Sketchers Seattle meet-up at 11 a.m. Since 1983, Hale’s claims to be the longest running, continually owned brewery, of any size, in the Pacific Northwest, and indeed one of the oldest in the entire U.S.

There were fascinating things (like a red London phone booth) to sketch inside, but the forecast is for another week of rain and I didn't want to waste our one sunny day! I found a great spot out back of the brewery at the corner of 8th Ave NW and NW 43rd. 

Who wouldn't want to bask in the warm sun while sketching a grain elevator with a worn out Moss Bay sign, a container with the word "clepto" spray painted in red on the side, a small spare tire secured with rope to the blue tarp on a storage bin and a nice big green dumpster? After a while, despite the sunshine, my hands did get cold so I went inside to see what the menu had to offer.

Along with lunch, a few of us ordered a flight of ales with interesting names like El Jefe Weisen, Red Menace, and NightTroll (a play on words referring to a nearby landmark, the Fremont Troll.)

I counted 23 sketchers today. I'm not surprised. When we get a sun break here in the Pacific NW we don't waste it! After sharing our sketches and getting a group photo in the Pub, I headed for one more spot on the way home.

I've been waiting for a sunny day and some good cast shadows so that I could sketch the old Everett Courthouse. These shadows weren't quite what I had in mind, but we have only one day of pure sunshine before it rains again!

The front steps are no longer used to enter the building and some of the landscaping is getting a bit overgrown. It's an unusual type of architecture for our area, but Everett does have a few random Spanish style buildings, including the old courthouse. The shadows I wanted would have been better in about an hour but I felt uncomfortable alone in the deserted neighborhood.  So I quickly sketched an abbreviated version of the scene and went home to add color.

Sketchcrawl at Hale's Ale Brewery

The spring sun shone on quite large group of urban sketchers outside of Hale's Ale Brewery this morning. I was hoping to spend some time outside to sketch the building and surrounding neighborhood, but ended up staying inside for the entire session.
Hale's Brewery interior, sketched from the steps
The brewery was a challenge to sketch due to its complex overlapping shapes and lines. I started my process by focusing on the basic shapes and placing them in the overall scene (ie. the phone booth, the row of storefront windows, the guardrail, the tanks, etc.) and not really worrying too much about perspective. Once I had these basic shapes down, I added some details (ie. pipes, railings, steel ladders, mullions, etc.) and slowly populating the frame with more lines. Lastly I incorporated hatches to create shading for depth.
Hale's Brewery interior, sketched from the entry lobby
Lunch with Frank
After finishing a couple of sketches, I headed into the bar with the intention to sketch some more. There I came across Frank Ching enjoying his beer. I ended up joining him for a quick bite and chat. He shared his sketching tricks and I shared the story of my college time back in Indonesia studying architecture and having bunch of his books on my desk as reference. Who would've thought that I'd be sitting here having lunch with the master himself.

Sun and Brews in Ballard

3/19/17 Northwest 43rd and Leary Way in Ballard

Based on what I saw driving past Green Lake on my way home from Ballard this afternoon, I’d say 90 percent of the Seattle population was outdoors today (and the other 10 percent was wishing it was). Never mind that the temps got up to only around the high 40s – this rain-soggy region had been craving sunshine!

3/19/17 Inside Hale's Brewery
When I arrived at Hale’s Brewery for the Urban Sketchers Seattle meet-up before 11 a.m., the temperature wasn’t yet 40, but that sun was irresistible. I zipped up my down parka and sketched the scene outside Hale’s, where there were so many utility lines criss-crossing the street that I could hardly keep track of them all. As I sketched, I kept thinking that I probably wouldn’t have attempted a composition spanning this much distance before taking Gabi’s Pocket Urban Sketching workshop last month. Although the concepts he taught about scaling weren’t new to me, I think it was the first time the proverbial light bulb had turned on over my head.

3/19/17 Lunch and brews at the pub
Thirty minutes later, my hands were cold, despite that delightful sun at my back, so I ducked inside the brewery to sketch the British telephone booth next to some barrels.

By then I was hungry, so I joined other sketchers for lunch inside the pub. Michele and Sue each had a tasting flight of five brews that I had started to sketch. I didn’t get far on color or details, though, because then my Nightroll Stout (named for the Fremont Troll) and burger arrived (and you know me – I’ve never been one to let my food get cold for a sketch).

Ahhh – a day like this could sustain me for the rest of winter! 

Hale's Brewery

The day dawned with blue sky and sun.  At first, I thought I would leave extra early for our 11am sketch outing so I could do another sketch of the Fremont Troll on my way to the sketch venue.  Then I looked at the temperature... 32 degrees.   Even though it was much warmer in the afternoon on my way homeward, I didn't stop as I wanted to beat the Sounders traffic.

We met a little later than usual so as to sketch at Hale's Brewery and Pub, which opened at 1100.  From looking at photos on-line, I knew I wanted to sketch the red English telephone box.  It was a popular subject today.

By then, it was 12:30, with still an hour remaining.  I decided to have some lunch while I sketched the taps in the bar.  The names of the brews were unusual:  Aftermath India Pale Alre, Red Menace Big Amber, Leary Way Limited (The brewery's address is Leary Way), Nightroll Porter. 

We shared our sketches and had our group photo in the dining room.

We were 22 people today.  One is missing from the photo (Vivan's nephew). 

Once home, my husband said I smelled like a brewery.  He has been an accomplished brewer, so he didn't mean I smelled of alcohol, he meant I smelled like wort (a liquid in the stage of brewing).  I'd sketched for an hour in the lobby which is open to the brewery.  

More photos:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Steamboat Nachez | New Orleans

In New Orleans for work and was able to carve a little time for some sketching on the Riverwalk. Steamboat Nachez, the last authentic steamboat on the mighty Mississippi River.

...and a shaky timelapse video...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Amazon's Spheres

I first drew these steel-and-glass spheres a year ago and decided to draw them again from a different vantage point. The most difficult part of this view for me was how to suggest the surface pattern of the steel structures without getting consumed by them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My 104th Person at Via6

3/10/17 Via6 complex, South Lake Union

I was somewhat focused at this morning’s outing at the Via6 apartment/retail complex in South Lake Union. I needed 15 more sketches of people to complete my participation in the challenge that has occupied much of the sketching community this week: #oneweek100people2017. Initiated by Marc Holmes and Liz Steel, the challenge is to sketch 100 people in five days. Not limited to urban sketching (drawing from photos, models or even a mirror is acceptable), the challenge is intended to help participants gain confidence and speed in sketching people.

Based on my speed record over the course of the week, I thought I would finish my 15 easily and quickly and then move on to other subject matter. But as it turned out, the 15 (actually 19 – I made it to 104!) took more time than I expected, so I had only about 15 minutes before the throwdown to find other subject matter. Believe it or not, I really was intending to sketch something other than people, but by then the place was packed, so I resigned myself to one more peopled sketch (above).

Here are a couple other sketches from today, including my most challenging viewpoint: From the upper level, I looked down on the curving line of people at the Assembly Hall Juice & Coffee counter. Such perspectival trickery! 

3/10/17 Assembly Hall Juice & Coffee counter
3/10/17 Via6 main floor

Monday, March 6, 2017

Modernism Week

It was blue skies and sunshine during Modernism Week in Palm Springs, California, February 16 through 27, 2017.  Design enthusiasts from around the world attend the weeklong event celebrating mid-century architecture and design.  Tickets to lectures, tours and gala events are sold out as soon as they’re posted on the Internet.
Downtown Palm Springs mid-century style

Seeking warmth and sun after a long, grey Seattle winter was my primary reason for visiting Palm Springs.  Modernism Week coinciding with the trip was an exciting bonus. One way to overview mid-century architecture in Palm Springs is on a bus tour with a knowledgeable guide.  At Modernism Week’s visitor’s camp, all the tickets for the double decker architecture tour were sold out. I was advised to come early next morning to add my name to a wait list.  Following their advice, I arrived at camp shortly after the crack of dawn.  Sure enough, the first bus was full, however, the desk staff pointed to a man on the sidelines looking to sell his ticket. He accepted my offer and I was in luck.  I boarded the bus and spent 2 ½ hours winding though historic neighborhoods. Seats on the top deck offer bird’s eye views of houses designed by rock star architects Richard Neutra, Andrew Frey and Donald Wexler (to name a few).  Palm Springs was a get away for Hollywood stars.  Their houses were designed by some of the most famous architects.  We drove past many of the celebrity houses, Swiss Miss style houses, butterfly roof houses, steel houses, and were alerted to form follows function architecture at every turn.  Awareness raised about mid-century architecture and landscaping by the excellent tour guide (well worth the price of admission), I spent the rest of the week on my own tour of discovery, sketching as much as possible.  Once you know the lay of the land, it’s a free ticket for an Urban Sketcher.
Black and white Hollywood Regency home
The tour bus zigzagged through a neighborhood where all the buildings are long, low and white, just the way they liked them in Palm Springs back in 1960. The tour guide said if you tried to paint a house in this particular neighborhood a color other than white, the home association would take your brush and paint you with the color.  All the homes must remain bright white.   Bright white with black trim, this Hollywood Regency style home is built around a pool, as all proper Palm Springs homes should be.  Bougainvillea lines the edges of the house bringing a pop of color to contrast with the white and black color scheme. 
Mid-century development
Although white prevails on the walls of the homes in some developments, doors can show the owners personal color preference, as long as the color is pastel.  In one complex, a mint green door was neighbor to a tangerine colored door.  Carports were trimmed in rugged natural rock and vaulted rooflines created a pretty pattern. Concrete lace accents the front wall and enclosure.
Fan palms and San Jacinto Mountains
The San Jacinto Mountains loom large over Palm Springs providing a dramatically staged backdrop.  The sun moves like a spotlight across the mountain range creating a movie theatre experience when the mountain turns blue accented by dark shadows, or when it’s pale in the strong sun, and then suddenly it’s shrouded in clouds.  Apparently after the sun goes behind the mountain it’s cocktail time.  At that precise moment, if you see a house with a door open six inches, that means come on in for a drink.  Very friendly!
Drought resistant landscaping
The bright desert sunlight creates dark, crisp shadows.  Drought resistant landscaping is a wonderland of cactus, palms and various spindly, spiky plants.  Beautiful specimens in their own right, they cast equally gorgeous shadows across pebbly lawns or up textured stucco walls.  White walls are a perfect foil for the inky shadows. 
Palm Springs house built around a pool
Most of all, for those who visit, Palm Springs is a retreat, a place to relax and enjoy what nature, history, and retail have to offer.