Next Sketch Outing

CANCELLED: Saturday, Feb. 9, 11 a.m.: Lunar New Year/International District

Friday, February 15, 2019

Timing Is Everything

My winter get-away to Southern California coincided perfectly with Seattle’s Snowmageddon.  I eased out-of-town the day before the snows came and arrived in California the day after major rain storms soaked Los Angeles. Rain wiped away the smog  revealing crisp outlines of the Hollywood Hills against a bright blue sky.  I didn’t know how many opportunities I would have to sketch so I took a 6” X 4” pocket sketchbook. It’s a smaller size than I normally use but was handy and discreet in an unfamiliar setting.

Because I was staying within walking distance of Paramount Studios, I decided to go on a studio tour.  Early getting a ticket, I trekked down Melrose Avenue to a coffee shop.  Passing  time with coffee while sketching,  I imagined  the man in the window seat was writing an Oscar- winning screen play and the shiny red Porsche parked by the curb belonged to me.
Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

A recent graduate with a BFA in Script Writing guided the 8 person tour.  Called a Page, it’s an entry-level position at Paramount Studios.  The tour guide had ambitious plans for her future in the entertainment industry.  In the mean time, her entertaining tour was a multi-media experience. She used an iPad to reference Paramount movies from the past as we explored the studio lot.  She also took pictures of us in front of  iconic movie props so we didn’t have to do selfies. The New York apartment scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window movie was completely constructed in a Paramount Studio sound stage.  Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart were never in New York, it was pure Hollywood magic! 

Paramount Studios

Rear Window with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart
After the tour, I had lunch at Astro Burger where I sketched in their outdoor courtyard. The billboards and signs sent strong messages to the cars careening along Melrose Avenue.

Inside the Astro Burger on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
My theme of stars continued at LACMA,  the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, only this time they were art stars.  Robert Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile, is a massive work on display  in the Broad Pavilion.  Assembled with found materials over a period of 17 years, the work is almost 1/4 mile in length.  Another exhibition, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, is a stunning collection of over 250 works by trained and untrained artists. As an Urban Sketcher, it was fascinating to see drawings by self-taught artists hanging next to drawings by art super-stars. The drawings of self-taught master Martin Ramirez impressed me with their scale and content.

Tony Smith sculpture Smoke inside the Ahamson Building, LACMA
Popular Larchmont Village has a pedestrian-friendly main street, unusual in  the strip mall car culture of Los Angeles and perfect for sketching.  I couldn’t find any empty public benches so I ate too much for the sake of the sketch.  No rationalization necessary, we need to support establishments that let us use their spaces. I couldn’t help but notice what looked like an Urban Sketch on all the recycle bins in the village.  Now that’s a good idea!

Rooflines and Ice Creams in Larchmont Village, Los Angeles

Recycle Bins in Larchmont Village

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The best laid plans - sketching with New York City Urban Sketchers

After several months of planning to spend a few months in warmer weather this winter, we changed our plans and decided to stick around the northwest. January was going pretty well, then a family emergency called me back to the east coast right in the middle of their deep freeze.  It went from -6 on Thursday Jan 31 to 60 on Feb 5.

That burst of spring was very short lived. Saturday it was back down to 25. The New York City urban sketchers, however had scheduled a perfect location for a winter outing that day. And since family matters had settled down I was able to spend the day with them. We met up at the former Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House now Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indians in lower Manhattan. 

I was able to sketch a couple of fellow subway riders on the way before finding the massive building in Bowling Green near Battery Park and Wall Street.

Joy Hecht, an urbansketcher from Newfoundland who uses collage as her medium, and is about to teach a 10x10 class, lent me her glue for the logo (the red square says "National Museum of American Indians".)

NYC urban sketchers meet from 10 to 3 every Saturday (!) so we broke for lunch and I found this peek-a-boo view from the restaurant window. 

After lunch I braved the twenty-five degree afternoon to watch folks lining up in front of the Charging Bull. The sunshine helped for the fifteen minutes I stood there as did two down coats and my Uggs and fingerless gloves, but it was a quick sketch.  

I went inside to thaw and watch the people watching the exhibitions. 

The "afters" was held at Murphy's pub around the corner where, New York USK style is to have everyone present their sketches show and tell style. Since I had missed their portrait party the previous weekend so I thought I'd throw in a belated offering, my tablemate, Linda Moses who had come to join urban sketchers for the first time. 

So the best laid plans of wintering in the tropics has had many bright spots and hopefully more to come.  

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Snowmageddon Arrives

2/9/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Snowmageddon delivered the promised several inches overnight. We woke to a thick, magical blanket and the pure silence that occurs only when it snows.

After the sun came up, I looked through every window to see what I could sketch without putting on my boots. I settled on this view from the kitchen – our neighbor’s tree and patio table and our bird feeder. Even the birds were smart enough to stay in bed. (A couple of chickadees did show up toward the end of my sketch.)

I’m very grateful that we didn’t lose power overnight as many homes in the area apparently did. I hope you’re warm and safe, wherever you are!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Yet another Viaduct post

As you can gather from Tina and Ellie’s posts, urban sketchers have not escaped Seattle’s obsession with the Alaskan Way Viaduct and its closure. Yesterday we witnessed the “end of an era” final act: the new SR 99 tunnel officially opened and pedestrians had a unique chance to walk the new tunnel and the old dingy-with-oh-so-beautiful-views-viaduct before its final demise. 

The first of several "Goodbye Alaskan Way Viaduct" sketches - December 2018
Some of us have been sketching the viaduct for the past couple of months. I found its dark grey ugliness mesmerizing. Since I moved to Seattle, 3 years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the city’s contrast of beauty and ugliness: the Olympic Sculpture park and the corporate buildings of South Lake Union; the snow-capped mountains at the horizon and downtown’s ubiquitous construction zones; the beautiful waterfront and the ugly viaduct. 

A view of the Viaduct closed to car traffic from the back of the Pike Place Market - January 2019

I could not stop myself from sketching the viaduct once again, during the USK Seattle sketchwalk at the Seattle Art Museum on January 25

My Viaduct/Tunnel celebration day started at 6:30AM on February 2nd, when I took the bus to the Seattle Center to run the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K race. The race, as the name suggests, ran down through the new tunnel, up to the viaduct, down the old tunnel, and ended by the Seattle Center. 

Waiting for the race to start

It was the most crowded race I’ve attended in Seattle: 25,244 walkers and runners completed it (for comparison, less than 5,000 finished the Seattle Marathon and Half marathon this past November). There were also a record number of selfies taken in the tunnel and on the viaduct.

Runners making their way to water and food at the end of the Tunnel to Viaduct 8k Race. 

After the race, I sketched the view at the Seattle center as seen after crossing the finish line.

Throughout the day, 100,000 people showed up to walk the viaduct goodbye and to welcome the new tunnel. 
Before bowing to exhaustion and going home, I sketched a large image of Bertha hang on the tunnel operation buildings, which also features the four iconic yellow ventilation stacks. Bertha, the “world's largest earth pressure balance tunnel boring machine” was manufactured specifically for the SR 99 Tunnel and has cool steampunk look. Her starts, stops, and breakages have entertained Seattleites since 2013.
A giant image of Bertha on a building. The four yellow cylinders are the tunnel's ventilations stacks. Raindrops create the mottled effect on the sketch. So Seattle.

Those yellow ventilation stacks on the tunnel's operation building are so iconic
It was starting to drizzle and I was cold and tired. Time to go home. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

last exit on hwy 99

 Goodbye Viaduct and good riddance

I went out and sketched the viaduct a couple times in late December & early January to pull in a last view of the cars traversing it, before it closed. It's kind of a big deal that this structure is just going away, it's a huge piece of infrastructure and a main route for traversing the center city! As I've lived in Seattle for only a year and a half, I don't have the nostalgia about Alaskan Way that others do. I've only been on it maybe 5 times. To me, it's a toxic structure that makes all of the waterfront street below it kind of dark, dingy, and loud...generally unpleasant to be nearby. Further south in the West Edge, it's all empty buildings, trash strewn everywhere, and generally creepy vibes.

So to say the least, I was excited for the Viaduct to go away, but then I read that disheartening article in the Stranger about the new 6 lane road that will replace the elevated structure. Could it be possibly even worse than the highway?? I'll take that article with a grain of salt, but I'm not optimistic given how Seattle has dealt with its car culture til now.  I went out to document these views feeling a sense of duty to preserve how it is now - before it changes forever - and I realized that it's not especially beautiful or interesting. R.I.P.

A common refrain is how great the Viaduct views are, and how it was the "working people's view" of the waterfront. I get that it was a good view — I appreciate a good view!  As a non-driver, and someone who is strongly anti-car in general, I think the waterfront here should belong to the people, not to cars. And there are still plenty of spots to appreciate the vantages of Elliot Bay for free, and it's way easier to take it all in when you don't also have to concentrate on not crashing on the highway.

I think we're kind of spoiled for waterfront here in Seattle. If we put an ugly, loud highway down here, it's not a big deal, because you still have the other sides of Elliot Bay / Lake Union / Lake Washington / Puget Sound to look at...but this is the *central* waterfront. I think of Chicago's amazing lakefront bike path/excellent public spaces/beaches and dream of something along those lines for Seattle. I could go on, but ultimately I'm a newcomer who, unfortunately, compares everything to NYC (where I lived before here), and honestly I wish I could turn off that part of my brain.

Anyway, some drawings:

Standing at the lookout point by Pike Place Market, at Victor Steinbruek park. Mt. Rainier was partially out, completing the view. I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the feeling of lots of cars going past - in this case by drawing some in water soluble media, then running a water brush over it to fade them out, then drawing on top of that to simulate a long exposure in photography. 
  • I'm showing this one & the very first piece at a Viaduct-themed show at the newly opened Phantom Realms gallery, which is appropriately located under the Viaduct (for now!). The opening is on Thursday 2/7 (Pioneer Square artwalk night). 

Standing under Seneca St ramp in an empty parking lot. So many good, dynamic views around this thing, maybe I'll make it back for a final sketch before they remove it! I bet the people who live/work in these buildings can't wait for this highway to go away. I'm sure this stretch will look really different in 10 years. Betting on there being several more luxury apartment buildings than there are currently.

 Walking on the Viaduct 

Like many of us, I went to the festivities on Alaskan Way. I was expecting long queues and crushing crowds, but it wasn't that bad - I appreciated that even though you were supposed to reserve a ticket to enter, the staff weren't even checking for them by the time I got there. I entered at the north hub by the old tunnel and had to wait for my companion, who I accidentally ditched as we biked over, so I sketched the pedestrians entering & leaving the tunnel. It was kind of surreal. The feeling I got was : why can't it always be this nice?

The event was a good time. I thought the curation of the art pieces was very thoughtful and represented the best of Seattle culture. Everyone seemed just down to appreciate the views and the interesting perspectives of spots you only get a glance of when you drive on this route. I saw people spray painting inside the old tunnel, and others hacking at the potholed pavement with chisels and pliers to attempt to take pieces of it away as souvenirs. It seemed to not work very well.

I kept overhearing folks wishing we could somehow keep the viaduct and tunnel and repurpose them into...a pedestrian/bike-friendly path! a High Line style elevated park! a mushroom farm (the tunnel)! I get that it's not safe in the event of the Big One but it still seems like a big waste to just throw away these huge infrastructure projects.
 A final sketch while my companion waited in line at the port-a-potties. The special vantage of looking at the Seneca St. ramp from the highway! I kept thinking: "this moment is special. it will never happen again." I really felt like part of the city today at this event. Everyone has their own memories and experiences with this thing - for many Seattleites, it's been around their whole lives, and the nostalgia is totally understandable. I just hope with its removal, something substantially better can replace it.

The Viaduct: Concrete, Potholes and Nostalgia

2/2/19 Hundreds of thousands of pedestrians walk on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
On our final day of driver’s ed, my car mates and I were supposed to drive on Interstate 5 to show that we could merge and achieve freeway speed safely. When it was my turn, however, my instructor wasn’t confident that I could drive at 55 mph safely, but he apparently thought I could handle 45 on Highway 99 instead. It was the first time I had ever driven on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Since that summer of 1975, I have driven on the viaduct countless times, safely but often mindlessly. As a Seattle native, I usually took for granted the glorious views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle that the viaduct offered. For me, it was just a way to get from point A to point B – an often convenient and faster alternative to I-5. It was Greg, a Midwest transplant, who taught me to appreciate the viaduct whenever he deliberately chose that route just for its views.

On the day before its closure and eventual destruction, we took a drive for one last glimpse of that view and to say good-bye to the viaduct. (I made my farewell sketch of it from the waterfront in December a few weeks before it closed.) I’m not exactly teary-eyed to see it go; dark, noisy and unsightly from the ground, the viaduct is a formidable barrier between our city and its waterfront. Built in 1949, it’s also a scary seismic risk. Still, it’s part of the city’s history and my personal history.

On Feb. 2 we got one more chance to bid farewell to the viaduct, this time in a way that has never been possible before: without a car! The public was invited to participate in a “community celebration” that allowed pedestrians to walk on the viaduct for the first and only time.

Along with 100,000 other people, Greg and I first walked partway through the new tunnel that will convey traffic in place of the demolished viaduct. I wasn’t very interested in seeing that part, but I figured it was as clean as it will ever be!

The new tunnel that will take the place of the viaduct

Next we walked through the old Battery Street Tunnel, which will be filled with rubble. It was eerie to be on foot in the 2,000-foot tunnel that I had driven through so many times. (Years ago, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a poor, flustered dog that had wandered into the tunnel. Several cars squealed to a stop behind me as I somehow avoided getting rear-ended.)

Entering the old Battery Street Tunnel

Light at the end of the Battery Street Tunnel
Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel got brighter, and we walked onto the open viaduct. A woman nearby pointed to the Western Avenue exit and got a bit emotional as she exclaimed to her companion, “I’ll never take that exit again! I took it every day to get to. . .” He took her photo near the exit.

Walking south on the viaduct

It was fun and somewhat disorienting to be able to leisurely enjoy the views I’d zipped by so many times at freeway speeds. A bit overwhelmed, I couldn’t seem to get a bearing on what to sketch. I could have chosen one of those beloved city or waterfront views. But the really strange and wonderful part about the day was simply walking on the viaduct with so many other people. When we neared the Pike Place Market, I finally saw the sketch I wanted to make. I bellied up to a ribbon barrier where I could see thousands and thousands of pedestrians passing the market’s parking garage as the viaduct snaked southward.

Walking past the Pike Place Market from below.
I didn't see any sketchers I knew. This artist must have made special arrangements to get this seat!

These people were all waiting to walk onto the viaduct as we were leaving. The line went down several blocks.

Bye-bye, viaduct! 

Friday, January 25, 2019

SAM And Starbucks

It was a large group of sketchers who met in the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) lobby today. We numbered at least 20.

Throw down and group photo:

I've sketched it twice before, but I settled on a different view of Middle Fork. It's by John Grade. The suspended tree was made from a plaster cast of a 140 y/o western hemlock found in the Middle Fork area of the Snoqualmie River (hence the name). The contour of the tree was reproduced using thousands of pieces of reclaimed, old growth, cedar. It was completed by hundreds of volunteers under the direction of the artist and his assistants. One volunteer was a member of USk Seattle and another was associated (husband of a sketcher). 

I noticed a new Starbucks Reserve store across the street. It's an even more upscale Starbucks and has an interesting interior. However, I chose to sit at the window with Pam.
I sketched the view of SAM across the street. It's a very loose sketch with little of my usual detail! I added the Reserve logo on the edge

A few more photos here.

Back End of a Camel (and a Wandering Sketchbook)

1/25/19 Marble camel sculpture, Seattle Art Museum
1/25/19 Hammering Man at SAM
When I was growing up, the marble camel sculptures that are inside the Seattle Art Museum used to be outside the original museum (now the Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park, where replicas took their place in 1991). I’ve sketched the replicas a few times, but I couldn’t remember ever sketching the original camels at the downtown SAM, so I made one of them my objective at todays USk Seattle outing. (See this post for a photo of why the camels are special to me.)

Now protected from the elements, the camels guard a long, windowed stairway. Instead of choosing the more common front view, I went around to the back end of a camel and found a handy seat in the museum’s classroom. About an hour into the sketch, I was informed by museum staff that a class of middle schoolers would be showing up within minutes, so I reluctantly gave up my seat. Fortunately, I was mostly done. Eavesdropping on their lesson in perspective, I finished up standing a short distance away.

Next I braved the cold to complete another objective: Filling a page in a wandering sketchbook! USk Boston co-admin and avid sketcher Andre Behrens has released several “wandering sketchbooks” into the wild by giving them to members of other Urban Sketchers groups. He doesn’t want the sketchbooks back; he asks only that we fill their pages and use the hashtag #wanderingsketchbooks when we post images of the sketches on Instagram. I love the idea of sketchbooks wandering around the world, collecting sketches!

1/25/19 Pike Brewing Co.

I thought that the iconic Hammering Man kinetic sculpture outside SAM would be an appropriate symbol of Seattle to put into the book. I’ve passed the book along, and I hope it keeps going far and wide on its travels.

To end the fun morning, some of us went to Pike Brewing Company for lunch. Amusing, eclectic d├ęcor surrounds the diningroom, and the hanging beer bottles were among my favorite. 

Throwdown with a floral centerpiece!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Say Hi to USk Albuquerque-Santa Fe

Some of you may know I have been traveling in New Mexico this month. I have done a lot of sketching, and I plan to get a post up with lots of sketches soon. But I wanted to put up these sketches I did with the USk Albuquerque-Santa Fe chapter on Saturday.

The first thing I do when I travel is check for a local USk group - and I lucked out here. I had to laugh when the organizer, Jay, said it wasn’t going to be a very exciting sketch outing and, because of the cold, they were meeting at a Starbucks! Just like home, except for the cowboy hats! But I had a great time with lots of chat about art supplies, sketching and I even found someone to reminisce about Porto with.

And it turned out to be perfectly warm if you found a sunny spot outside. So I sketched the lovely view of the parking lot with Domino’s Pizza in the background. Seriously though, if you are in NM, look these guys up ‘cause they are a ton of fun and they love to sketch!

Gothic Splendor

It was a large group with many first timers that came for Urban Sketchers Seattle's afternoon outing  to the UW Suzzallo library yesterday. The Gothic splendor of the quiet reading room attracted many.

Throw down and group photo.


Thanks to Sean for taking the photo.  At least three are missing. 

I chose a section of that Gothic splendor for my sketch subject.


--Kate Buike