Next Monthly Sketch Outing

February 18 US Bank Center/CityCentre
See Monthly Outing page for details.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Urban Sketchers Seattle met in the center of downtown Seattle to sketch inside the CityCentre building. There was snow in the north end but cold and wind at our location. Only one intrepid sketcher braved the weather to sketch outside. 

We were interrupted near the end of our time by a fire alarm.  The fire department arrived and the alarm was shut off, so obviously a false alarm.

I only did one sketch today as I took my time with all the angles and bits. I forgot to look below it for any information about it and also couldn't find anything on-line. So I let my imagination go. I was drawn to sketch it (ha ha) because it looked like a Stargate.

Do we have a cleverly disguised access to other worlds here in the middle of Seattle?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

US Bank Centre/City Centre Outing

I don't typically come to work on weekends. But deadline happens so there I was sitting at my desk on a Sunday morning. Fortunately this month's outing location happens to be at the City Centre/US Bank Centre in downtown Seattle, which is kitty-corner from where I work. I walked by and through this building almost daily. Never wanting to miss the opportunity to sketch, I sneaked out to take a break from work to let loose and be sketchy for a bit.

The three story atrium with its round rotunda has always fascinated me. I went straight to the southwest entry rotunda where 'The Jewel of Seattle' is hanging from the ceiling. My goal is to capture the entire height of the rotunda from the ground floor all the way to the ceiling, using the curving barrel distorted perspective. I realized quickly that I bit off more than I could chew. Standing from the second floor, I miscalculated the scale of the scene and angle of perspective from the get go. Knowing that I don't have much time since I have to go back to work soon, I decided to make do with what I have and follow the old mantra: “use your sketch to capture the essence of the space”. Disregarding accuracy, I used quick shapes, lines, and solids blacks to whip out a rough one below. As you can see, ellipses are my archenemies.
City Centre/US Bank Centre_Interior

For the next one, I wanted to do a scene with a bit more details. I decided to sketch one of the two column portals located on the ground floor's southern concourse. I am not really sure what these two portals are supposed to be, but they have just the right amount of details for me to challenge myself. With two sketches, I thought I was done for the day and decided to go back to work.

As I was taking a quick stretch between tasks, I stumbled upon a nice exterior view of the corner entry rotunda from the second floor window of my pod. Again not wanting to miss the opportunity to sketch, I decided to do another quick one while waiting for my files to save, using shapes to represent the major forms within the scene. Once I got home, I borrowed my daughter's white gel pen to add contrasting lines to the solid blacks in order to represent the window mullions. I think I am going to need my own white gel pen in my arsenal :).

City Centre/US Bank Centre_Exterior

Saturday, February 17, 2018

lake union drydock co.

Lake Union Drydock Co. is one of my closest neighbors in Eastlake, occupying a couple blocks on the banks of eastern Lake Union. I'm working on getting inside the facility and onto their docks for closer sketching, but for now I'll be content capturing interesting land/water scenes from the many viewpoints on shore.

They've been in operation for almost 100 consecutive years, and are one of the only all-wood docks left in the city. LUDD has mostly been in the boat repair business, but back in the early 20th century they made a few dozen patrol & recreation boats, and even several minesweepers in the 1940s. [source]

LUDD leases some of their dock space to Seattle Seaplanes, as well as for moorage for recreational boats.

The Sandra Foss, a tugboat, has been docked for several weeks, presumably getting repairs. The boats here become such a fixture that it's a little sad when you go out one day and see a big hole where they used to be. 

A quick sketch of some administrative buildings, accessible by bridge.
I want to come back and do a better drawing here when it's not raining!  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Floating Home Explorations

Recently, I've had the good fortune of meeting some folks who have the good fortune to live ON the water in Seattle. I had no idea before moving here that water living is such a Thing - and apparently there used to be way more floating homes before the city cracked down on regulations. After mentioning my interest in them to Gabi Campanario, he generously hit up some of his acquaintances with interesting watery living situations and arranged some visits.

A brief context: The floating homes started as a scrappy working class housing necessity (built by sawmill workers during the timber boom), now it's a gentrifier phenomenon – a place on the lake is now easily over $1 million. The houses float on big old timber logs, some scavenged from the mills over 100 years ago. Actual houseboats (live-aboards) require a hard-to-get permit & you have to find/rent moorage. There are pros and cons to each! Being able to easily move your home around seems pretty great, but you sacrifice certain things, like having convenient access to toilets, running water, internet, etc.

The floating homes & live-aboard boats are probably my favorite thing about this city so far, and seem culturally unique to Seattle. Getting to explore them makes me feel happy that I moved here. I'm also grateful for sketching, which has led me to meet these people who are gracious enough to invite me onto their docks (which aren't open to the public) and into their homes.

1. A's floating home in Eastlake

This floating home is in Eastlake, just a 10 minute walk from my apartment. It's occupied by a renter who didn't want to be named. His house apparently used to be a brothel! The kitchen, with the skylight, was my favorite part of the interior.

the view from A's patio, with fellow sketcher Gabi Campanario doing his thing on the left. Being able to walk out the door & jump in your kayak and paddle out would be so convenient! 
It was raining during the visit but I took advantage of the covered area make a quick watercolor before my hands froze.

2. Ann's floating home in Westlake

Ann is a Seattle native (I think - she's lived here for decades, at the least) who has lived in her lovely floating home for decades & was also introduced to me by Gabi. We weren't able to go inside her house, but there was plenty to explore on the dock and patio. This one is on the other side of Lake Union in Westlake. I love how the docks themselves feel very lived in - potted plants are everywhere & there are plenty of chairs available to lounge in. Ann even swims off her dock in the summer! Apparently Lake Union is clean enough these days.

Our host remarked on the new boxy home that recently moved in a few docks down. Apparently these new "luxury" houses are assembled elsewhere and floated in to the lots! So there isn't that connection of the materials to the land that the older homes have, and a lot of charm is lost. Seattle should recognize the value of its history in these floating homes and do something to preserve the aesthetic before it's lost.

Ann has a direct view of the most famous floating home - the one used in Sleepless in Seattle (the one on the end of the opposing dock with the bench on the end).

Ann and her neighbors own their dock as a co-op, so parts of it are rented out for moorage to actual houseboats. 

3. Jack's Live-Aboard Sailboat

I met Jack at a party at the Center for Wooden Boats, and he invited my partner & I over for dinner to his live-aboard sailboat! He whipped up a hearty stir-fry for us in his boat's super minimal kitchen. Jack lives aboard the Tachyon (n. a hypothetical particle that always moves faster than light), a 42 footer sailboat moored in the Shilshole Bay Marina, on the Puget Sound (I'm super jealous of the mountain views he gets from the dock). His parents were also boat people back in the day, and though he's a Pacific Northwest native, he's not lived in Seattle much longer than us.

The Shilshole Marina is quite sterile compared to the floating home docks - no potted plants, keyed gates on the entrances - and it was hard to tell how many of the other boats were being lived on. I definitely want to come back to sketch the surroundings here, it was a very cold and rainy night when we visited.

Although he likes to cook, Jack is definitely too tall of a dude to do this too often (he was really stooping over the whole time) – mostly he spends his free time at tea houses on land where there is wifi and comfortable desks to work.

It was roomier down in the cabin than I would have expected. Larger than most studio apts in NYC, though the ceilings are quite low. The space is really challenging to sketch, especially because of the curved walls and ceilings.

Meet the Correspondent: Eleanor Doughty

I'm Eleanor (or Ellie) - nice to meet you! I'm a new Seattle transplant as of September 2017. I moved here from NYC (Brooklyn, Bushwick) for a few reasons, none of which have to do with working for Amazon/Microsoft/etc:
• I was super tired of having multiple roommates, but wasn't willing to pay twice as much rent to avoid it. Also my lease was up, and it's so horrible to move in NYC it was pretty much just as difficult to move across the country as to move across a borough.
• Having grown up exclusively on the east coast, it was time for a change!
• The west coast was the closest thing to moving to a different country before it would be logistically super difficult. I plan to stay here for a few years before moving overseas.
• I wanted to live in a place where you could see mountains. The Pacific Northwest delivers.
• The light on the west coast is different. golden. magical (when the sun is out).

I grew up in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C., earned a BFA in illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and then moved up to Brooklyn for three years. There I co-founded the Brunch Club Sketchers group, which has a similar mission to USK. After the Chicago Symposium, I wanted to get more involved with the global Urban Sketchers community, and here we are!

I currently work as a freelance illustrator (editorials, architecture, private commissions, etc.) and hustle selling prints online & in craft markets around the city. My sketching style is pretty bold and energetic, influenced by my work as an editorial illustrator, where it's critical to use shapes to create striking, attention grabbing images that also communicate clearly. I got really into watercolors last year but drawing is my first love! I especially like sketching scenery from above or from afar, to see the true character of a landscape. The mood I usually try to evoke is lighthearted & a bit wonky and off-balance.

Although I sketch on the daily, I'm looking forward to this opportunity to write more & provide context to the things I draw. I realized that the drawing part is only half the battle in urban sketching – so now I want to work on my journalism skills. So far in Seattle, sketching has brought me many opportunities to explore the city and meet interesting people, as well as a good excuse to get outside and take advantage of nice weather when it happens. 

You can follow my work on Instagram or Tumblr or see my website at

Here's a flipthrough of my sketchbook from the first four months of my Seattle life (Sept. - December 2017), and some highlights below:

the Row House Cafe (left), a lovely Old Seattle style building unfortunately slated to be demolished in the near future, no doubt for more hideous luxury apartments. I really felt it was my duty to paint it...before going inside to catch their happy hour.
My first ever time going to Gas Works Park. There was a big forest fire somewhere that day so the surroundings were weirdly tinted and super hazy - a new thing for an east coaster. 
the Seattle Japanese Gardens w/ Ad Hoc urban sketchers. The fall colors were beautiful, especially in all the maples. Lots of photo takers were present as well, "appreciating" the foliage in their own way.
While we waited for our new apartment be ready for move-in (spoiler: it would eventually fall through), my partner and I went camping on the Olympic Peninsula. This was the view from our tent – pretty much unbeatable. A huge plus of living on the west coast: ocean sunsets.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Panama Hotel Tearoom

Two views of the tearoom at the Panama Hotel. The first was done when a small group of Urban Sketchers met there last Friday. The second is from four years ago, with a similar viewpoint but from a position a little closer to the front door. Also dissimilar is the use of tonal values in the later sketch to convey the daylight streaming in through the storefront windows.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Panama Hotel, Seattle - Feb 9, 2018

I am glad I made to our USkseattle friday sketch outing today, I have been pulled away from this favorite activity quite a while. This 105-yrs-old building reflects the internment history during World War II, it now became Seattle's designated "National Treasure". This is at basement with some old furnitures, little gifts, family photos, I could imagine how many stories behind each of them, also lead me toward the book: 
"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet"

This is the hotel entrance area on the first floor which is now a coffee & tea place, my immediate thought to include our dear urban sketcher in, while she was so focus and that impressed me.

A Big Bite at the Panama Hotel

2/19/18 Panama Hotel and teahouse

The historic Panama Hotel and teahouse is a wintertime favorite for the Friday sketchers. With two floors of cozy chairs and tables, vintage photos, unusual décor, and tasty teas and pastries, it’s a fun place.

During past outings, I’ve always chosen comfy subjects like my food or other sketchers. I’m not sure what compelled me on this visit, but I decided to sit in one corner of the main café area and take on the whole long counter and room. It was like shoving an entire watermelon into my mouth – the proverbial bite of more than I can chew. Still, it helped to remember the principles I learned in Gabi Campanario’s “Pocket Urban Sketching” workshop that I took almost exactly a year ago. Even though I used a spread twice as large as a pocket sketchbook spread, it was a formidable challenge to get it all in. I usually manage two or three sketches at USk outings, but I worked up such a sweat chewing this watermelon that it was the only one I did! 

We had another great turnout, including a couple of new faces, and even a few hardy souls who sketched outdoors!

Vivian is holding my sketchbook for me!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A "Nominal" experience

The Museum of Flight hosted a launch event. Space X scheduled the first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket for 10:30 PST today. However, when I arrived, I learned the lift off was delayed until 12:30.

I left to do an errand. Once back, I realized I still had another hour to wait as launch was further delayed. I went out to the Aviation Pavilion to sketch this scene with the Harrier. The figure is a statue of an Aircraft Handling Officer, responsible for managing aircraft movement on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. This is the AV-8C Harrier.

It was quite chilly out in the "Av Pav" so I was glad to be back inside the warmth of the Space Gallery where a small crowd had gathered to watch the launch.

This really is an historic event. The launch pad used was Complex 39A from which Apollo 11 launched in 1969 as well as other Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. This is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. Only the Saturn V moon rocket was more powerful. It last flew in 1973.

This is a "demonstration mission". In place of a payload, Elon Musk's red Tesla was carried into space. If all goes to plan, it will travel in an Earth-Mars orbit around the sun!

What an experience! The launch was perfect! Then the two side cores/boosters landed perfectly back on the pad at Kennedy.  What a sight! 

Unfortunately, the center core didn't make it to the drone ship where it was planned to land as well. My friend, Carol, traveled to Florida to watch the launch in person. She told me via message that the central core ran out of fuel.

Of course, I commemorated the experience with a sketch, done while waiting for the launch.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


It seemed like a good idea at the time. I joined Himself in registering for the Seattle version of BSides, a virtually free IT security conference. My reasoning was that it gave me a reason to go to the Microsoft campus in Redmond where I planned to spend most of the day sketching.   Since I did register, I got the t shirt and the hackable electronic badge.  I chose not to use the soldering station to add the included components to it. 

I forgot that in early February it would likely be raining. Having never been there before I also didn't realize that the buildings at Microsoft were all, boringly, of very similar architecture.

I know, we Urban Sketchers are supposed to find what's interesting in the most boring of built environments. But I wasn't very motivated to stand in the chill and damp to sketch boring. There were overhangs, so I wouldn't have gotten really wet. Still. Boring.
I tried attending one or two of the lectures. Unlike BSides Las Vegas, all the presentations were significantly over my head!

I was determined to find something to sketch. We were in the Commons building where there were at least a dozen restaurants. None were open but I could wander through some on the upper level. The Lunchbox Lab was interesting but a challenge to represent as a sketch so I did a montage.

Lunchboxes were both on display and used as dispensers:

At MOD pizza, the sign is made of the keys from computer keyboards!

I then wandered around the lower level but all the restaurants were gated up. I did find an elephant, though! It's not a mount but a sculpture made of some sort of fabric over a frame.

More photos:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Amazon Adventures

1/30/18 One of three Amazon Spheres
1/30/18 View of the construction across the street
through a Sphere window.

Amazon has been in the news a lot lately. The company’s long-anticipated Spheres finally opened this week, and I have to say they look pretty cool. (I first sketched them two years ago when the glass was still going in, and then again a year later.) The triple-bubble, terrarium-like structure is a meeting place for Amazon employees, but what makes it distinctive is that it is filled with plants. This morning Greg and I visited the Understory, which is the Spheres’ visitors center and the only part open to the public. The Understory includes exhibits about the building and the types of plants in the upper levels. Video and photo projections show the bird-nest-like meeting rooms and gorgeous vegetation. It sure made us want to go upstairs!

After we got our fill of that, we walked down the street to Amazon Go, which has also been making national news. Billed as the “store of the future,” Amazon Go has no cashiers. You walk in and scan the app on your phone (which is connected to your Amazon account). The store sells snacks, ready-to-eat foods, meal kits and other convenience foods. You can take anything off the shelf that you want, and a million cameras on the ceiling are watching you. If you don’t put it back, the transaction is recorded as a purchase. A few minutes after you leave the store (“Just walk out!” the signs encourage you), a receipt shows up on your app. It does feel a bit like shoplifting, but since a friendly Amazon staff member urged me to step through the exit with my big orange bag of self-served snacks, I felt reassured.
The pattern in the ceiling
mimics the complex window structure
of the Spheres.

Creepy or cool? You decide. I guess I was more curious than paranoid, so I enjoyed the novelty. All I bought was a cookie and an exclusively branded Amazon Go chocolate bar made by local Theo Chocolate

Understory ceiling

Image of "bird nest" meeting room projected on the wall.

Plant projections

A model of the Spheres is behind us.

We're Amazon Go-ing!

Lots of convenience foods

Just doing my part to support the local economy.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A winter day at the Convention Center

Once again, we met at the Convention Center. It seems to be a winter favorite in the winter as it has so many options and keeps us dry and mostly warm. There are several floors with excellent views out the windows on the upper floors.

I'd seen this sculpture before but today I decided it would be my main subject. This large sculpture of the plains Indian is from the Cobb building.  "The facade features large terra-cotta cartouches incorporating a stylized Indian chief’s face in full headdress. These were supposedly inspired by the photography of Edward S. Curtis."

Then I did a small sketch out one of the many windows before meeting up with the others for throw down. 

More photos