Next Sketch Outing

Friday, April 19: U Village

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sunshine, Watercolors and Comics at U Village

4/19/24 University Village

The requested sunshine was delivered for USk Seattle at U Village last Friday, and we all agreed the temperature and conditions were nearly ideal: 66 degrees with a clear blue sky!

Arriving a little early, I found a sunny spot and started sketching immediately to stay warm. The rest of the morning continued apace – one small sketch after another until I filled a spread in my bright yellow Uglybook that seemed to reflect the day’s sunshine (top of post).

4/19/24 Why do I keep torturing myself?

I was having so much fun that I could have immediately started another spread, but I thought I “should” do a watercolor. Since I knew that comfy benches and tables were plentiful at U Village, I felt compelled to bring along my watercolor palette and A5-size Hahnemühle sketchbook. I found a suitable composition and even dutifully made a thumbnail first in my Field Notes, but I admit I didn’t enjoy using watercolors nor the result (at left) nearly as much as I do comic-style urban sketching with markers. I should stop torturing myself with watercolors and just embrace me doing me!

With that over with, I sighed with relief and happily pulled out my smaller A6 Hahnemühle for another comic-like spread (below). White paper enables me to use a little color – I’d be happy with that if I could just let watercolors go.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Sunny and Chilly at Colman Ferry Terminal

3/30/24 Seattle waterfront from the Colman Terminal pedestrian overpass

Sunshine made the stiff waterfront breeze tolerable when USk Seattle gathered at the newly renovated Colman Ferry Terminal this morning. Although we didn’t need them that day, the terminal would make a great all-weather sketch location because the many deep, wide overhangs above the walkways would shelter us from drizzle.

Looking for a sunny spot instead of the cold shade, I walked out to the middle of the pedestrian overpass crossing Alaskan Way (above). I bit off more than I should have been chewing, but I wanted to capture as much of the waterfront as I could. Those strange frame-like things in the foreground are probably remnants of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct that was taken down in 2019. Right now, they look weird and unattractive, but I hope there’s a plan for them. The yellow excavator is standing where the new waterfront park will eventually be. Since work began quite a while ago, I was surprised to see how unfinished it still is.

After that overwhelming sketch, I walked to the terminal and made a much more comfortable page spread of small scenes (below): a state ferry that had just filled with passengers; my beloved Smith Tower; the terminal entrance; and a sketcher.

It was also fun to fill a few pages with fellow commuters on the light rail trains to the waterfront and back home again. 

LINK light rail southbound train
Northbound train

A fresh view of the skyline from the new pedestrian walkway

Blues skies at the ferry dock

 I think everyone enjoyed sketching the wide choice of subjects which could be seen from the relatively newly renovated Colman Ferry Dock.  

I liked this view from the north end of the large plaza next to the ferry terminal.  This is the fire boat "Leschi". Two freighters are anchored out in the bay.  And the Olympic Mountains are glorious in the sun.

 I used the opportunity to explore a little further away. This is a newly opened pocket park on the beach next to the ferry terminal.  It is a small, delightful spot.  It's not very quiet, though, as it's next to a busy city street. It is Pioneer Square Habitat Beach.

I very much enjoyed meeting new sketchers and having some good chats with several others.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Pink on Capitol Hill

3/24/24 Capitol Hill neighborhood

Until I had learned about it from my yoga instructor last year
, I didn’t know that this usually quiet street on Capitol Hill needed to be a permanent addition to my petal-peeping tour. I sketched there with a few friends then, but this year I felt greedy if I didn’t share it with USk Seattle. I even ordered up some sunshine that was delivered just in time for our outing on Sunday afternoon. The rain and wind the past few days had already sprinkled pink snow on the pavement, but we caught the blossoms just in time before they passed their peak.

(To maximize sketching opportunities on our limited dry days during cherry blossom season, a second group met at the State Capitol in Olympia the same afternoon.)

To give gouache another try, I found a typical Capitol Hill bungalow framed by pink on this residential street (at left). Then I followed my ears to the other end of the block, where a teenage violinist was busking for all the petal peepers (below). From the looks of the cash in his violin case, he seemed to be doing a brisk business, and he certainly gave a pleasant soundtrack to our pink fairyland.

When I turned around, I spotted a sketcher dwarfed by an enormous cherry behind him (top of post). Frustrated (as usual) by the gouache and watercolor I had used previously, I resorted to my tried-and-true brush pen and watercolor pencils. (I’m not sure why I keep trying paints when I like the results of my “usuals” so much more.)

Although sketching the cherries at the UW Quad will always be a mainstay, I have to admit that I prefer neighborhood streets like this one and my favorite in the Sunset Hill neighborhood. There’s something special about walking slowly down the middle of a residential street (moving to the sidewalk when occasional cars come through, always slowly as their drivers and passengers take in the splendor) lined with these majestic trees on both sides. I imagine it must be especially magical for the residents who wait for their block to transform each spring.

Note: My sketch of these trees last year is dated April 13 – three full weeks later than this year. A recent article in the Seattle Times talks about how the dates of cherry blossom peaks are giving researchers data about climate change.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Fabulous Weather, Usual Frustrations at the Quad

3/19/24 cherry trees, University of Washington Quad 

Using the search term “Quad” on my blog, I pulled up posts as far back as 2013, which was probably the first time I attempted to sketch the blossoming cherry trees on the University of Washington campus. Other than the pandemic pause, I think I’ve sketched the blossoms there every year, usually with USk Seattle. It never gets easier – simplifying the massive complexity; trying to capture that ethereal near-white hue and sheer volume of dense blossoms; the inevitable crowds of people; the backdrop of the Quad’s stately buildings. Every year I come away feeling a bit disappointed that I still haven’t figured out how to nail them, which encourages me to try something different the following year.

And so it was again last Tuesday, when USk Seattle was treated to phenomenal weather – clear skies and temps in the 60s – an ideal afternoon to meet my annual frustrations. I made a total of four sketches, each with a different mix of materials or approaches and all with a limited color palette. 

Despite my frustrations, it was impossible to walk through the spectacular trees without feeling the joy and freshness of spring! And it's always fun to do it with USk Seattle.

Monday, March 18, 2024

City Hall Sakura


All of a sudden the Yoshina cherry trees at Renton City Hall have peaked!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Trading Musician


3/16/24 The Trading Musician store, University District

Since I don’t play an instrument or have anything to do with the music industry, my only interest in The Trading Musician is its sign of a grumpy guitar head. Whenever I drive to the U-District, I pass that sign, which has been an icon for more than three decades. The Stranger reported in January that the guitar and drum sales and repair store was closing, a “devastating loss” to the musical community. Later it was reported that the owner is retiring, and the property has been sold. My guess is that the iconic sign’s days are numbered.

It’s been on my “must sketch” list since then, so I picked Saturday’s 72-degree sunshine to walk to the U-District and sketch the sign before it disappears. Despite seeing it regularly for its entire existence, I did not know until I sketched it that the sign slowly rotates! When I’m driving by, I’m paying attention to the busy traffic at Roosevelt and Ravenna, so I don’t stare at it long enough to watch it turn. But if there’s any time when one will notice a rotating sign, it’s when one is trying to sketch it!

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Back to Bellevue for People


3/11/24 Bellevue Square

On March 10, 2020 – only days before Gov. Inslee shut the state down for the potentially deadly “novel coronavirus” – Urban Sketchers Seattle met at Bellevue Square. Planned weeks earlier when most of us were still uncertain and confused about COVID-19, the outing suddenly seemed more ominous, now that it was upon us. The day before the outing, the other admins and I discussed at length whether we should go forward with it or cancel. Although we did go ahead with the outing, it was not without trepidation on my part. In retrospect, I’m happy that we did because we would not see each other in person again for a year and a half.

All of that was still a vivid memory almost exactly four years later when USk Seattle met at Bellevue Square again. Like last time, the objective was to sketch people for the One Week 100 People online drawing challenge – except this time we all did so without anxiety; in fact, we all had a great time. Meeting there again for 100 People felt like an important circle to close.

As always with this challenge, my goal was to capture quick gestures: not much more than stick figures, really, except that I wanted them to be unique, individual stick figures – not generic.

I thought I got 50 that first day of the challenge, but after I posted my sketches on social media, someone pointed out to me that I had counted wrong – I actually got 54!

We got a much better turnout than expected for a Monday morning in Bellevue! Quite a few first-timers joined us, including several from the Eastside who were happy not to have to cross the lake.