Next Monthly Sketch Outing

January 21, Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park
See Monthly Outing page for details.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rainier Tower

One of the neat things about working in the heart of downtown Seattle is that you are experiencing the growth of the city firsthand. One of the larger developments currently underway is the Rainier Square on Union St. between 4th and 5th Avenue. Demolition of the old Rainier Square building revealed the base of adjacent Rainier Tower in all its glory. Designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki (also the architect of IBM Building and Pacific Science Building in Seattle, and of course the original World Trade Center), this building has fascinated me since the first time I saw it due to its unusual inverted tapered curving base. Since I work only a block away, I've been witnessing the 'unveiling' process of the tower base as the adjacent building went down brick by brick.

I figured that this view will not last, since a new tower will soon be built right next to it. I decided to do a couple of quick sketches from two different angles. The first one was taken from 5th Avenue between Union and Pike st. looking south.

Rainier Tower, sketched from 5th Avenue between Union and Pike looking south

Rainier Tower, sketched from 5th Ave looking south

 A couple of days later, I stood at a corner of Union st. and 4th Ave and sketched the tower from a slightly different angle.

Rainier Tower, sketched from 4th Ave between Union and Pike looking south

Rainier Tower, sketched from 4th Ave looking south

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Georgetown Steamplant

Yesterday I received an email about an open house at the Georgetown Steamplant today. It is open every second Saturday but it seems today was special as they would have a presentation on future plans. I've had it on my list for several years. One time I went but it wasn't open. I think the monthly tours were closed down for about a year but have started up again within the past year.  

I went but didn't attend the presentation or take the tour. I read through the posters, though. 

It was built between 1906 and 1907 at a cost of $1 million, equivalent to $26 million today. It is a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark and houses the only two Curtis vertical turbine generators left in place in the entire world.

I sketched the building from the car before it opened.   This is my tiny 3x5 book.  

Then I wandered the plant for about an hour, taking a lot of photos. It seemed very monochromatic so I decided to sketch this generator as it has a little color! It is a 10 megawatt alternating current generator made by General Electric.

I culled 160 photos down to about 100. They are here:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Still Gabbin’ & Grabbin’

1/12/18 Seattle USk Gab & Grab at the Northeast library branch

For the fifth year, Seattle USk held its annual Gab & Grab today – an opportunity for an informal show-and-tell of our favorite sketch supplies and a place to share books and materials we are no longer using. Our tradition is to do it early in the year to perk up the post-holiday doldrums when it’s too wet and cold to sketch outdoors. Usually held in the meeting room of public libraries, it’s fun and well-attended.

Earlier this week as I was pulling together supplies to give away, I was trying to recall how many times we’ve done it, and I realized I’ve been remiss in documenting this popular event. I don’t have a single blog post about it and apparently took only a few photos. Even more shocking – I’ve never sketched at one! Whaaaat?! 

To correct that omission, I decided I would document this year’s event with sketches. The photos below are from 2014, our very first Gab & Grab.

Nilda and Peggy at Third Place Commons for our very first Gab & Grab in 2014.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

12/23/17 Wedgwood
On one of the last dry, sunny days of 2017, I drove a little further east than I usually go in the Wedgwood neighborhood and parked at the crest of a hill. I looked out past the end of the street and realized I could see Lake Washington (that bit of blue) and the Cascades beyond it. Although I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, this little sketch – conifers, the mountains, the lake – is about as quintessential Seattle and Pacific Northwest as I can get in one composition.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Ravens and the Mouse King

For the fourth year in a row, our Friday group sketched holiday scenes at Swanson's Nursery. Last year there was snow but this year it was just cold. We were also later in the season so the place was mobbed. I had wanted to sketch the Star Wars themed model train village but gave up due to the crowds. Same with the reindeer. In past years there was also a camel but Tina reported he'd been retired.

First, I sketched indoors as I found this charming fireplace scene with owls.


I braved the chill to sketch the raven sculptures, which I've often admired but never got around to sketching before.

Only a few of us were left to share sketches as best we could in the crowded cafe.

More photos:

After we dispersed, I went back to the delightful "Nutcracker Lawn".  These are from the Sendak version of Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.  It's only a few minutes away from Swanson's. I'd stopped by on my way in the morning and returned in the afternoon to sketch one of the statues. I'd learned about it from King 5's Evening.

Of course, I had to sketch the Mouse King! I added some detail of the interesting house, too.

More photos:

Reindeer, Santa and Mobs at Swansons

12/22/17 Blitzen
Friday USk tradition since 2012Swansons Nursery during the holidays is one of our favorite outings. We usually don’t schedule it this late in the season, however, and it was significantly more crowded than usual.

First, I had to fight my way through swarms of kids to get to Blitzen and Dasher, the reindeer who visit the store annually. 
12/22/17 Dasher and Blitzen

Then I had to fight my way through swarms of parents to get to Santa, with lots of Santa’s helpers blocking my view. (Even with my limited view of him, Santa remembered me from the time I sketched him a couple of years ago.) At least I didn’t have to fight to get to Pippin, Alex’s new puppy, who stayed relatively still chewing his leash.

12/22/17 obstructed Santa
12/22/17 Alex's new puppy, Pippin

12/22/17 banana tree

After all that, I had to break for lunch, and then I had my usual 15 minutes left before the throwdown. In Swansons’ crowded café, I had a mostly unobstructed view of the enormous banana tree growing by the koi pond. 

Despite the mobs, Swansons was still a fun way to end the year with Urban Sketchers Seattle!

Kate and Antonella

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sketching a Historical location with UskOahu

Michele Cooper in Hawai’i
Dec16, 2017–My son and I, along with my two granddaughters joined USK Oahu at historic Washington Place from 2:30-4:30  to enjoy its 170 year history.

Over a dozen urban sketchers met on the grounds and former residence of Queen Lili'uokalani as tours were given of the interior. 'Aha Mele Hawaiian musicians and dancers performed on the lanai.

The Greek revival palace was built in 1848. It was the former residence of Queen Lili’uokalani and later became the official residence of the Governor of Hawai’i. It is a National Historic Landmark, designated in 2007. The current governor’s residence was built in 2008 behind the historic residence and is located on the same grounds as Washington Place. 
I began with a sketch of my 8 year old granddaughter, Leila.
A “backstage” tent was set up on the side lawn for performers.
My finished spread includes a group of performers, garden lamp, section of the mansion and side garden landscape. Leila has been going out sketching with me since she was 4 years old.
Leila likes sketching trees and people.
Above is Leila's sketch of the hula chanter with her drum. Her 4 year old sister, Ocean, sketched the lanai roofline and trees. See photo below. 
I took advantage of the opportunity to abandon a hand painted greeting card near the lanai. It vanished within 20 minutes!

Thanks to USK Oahu for making this rare experience possible at Washington Place.
Be sure to check out our sketches on Flickr !
See Urban Sketchers Oahu blog for more about this event.

Monday, December 18, 2017

December chills at Winterfest 2017

Decorations and Winter village

This was my second visit to the Seattle Center, last visited during Diwali festival celebration in October 2017. The 'swoopy' curves at the ceiling attracted me and to get better view of the entire decoration I went on First floor. I captured flowing curvatures and main attraction of Winterfest i.e. winter village and replica of King street station with clock tower. The entire ambiance was cheerful.
Stage performance , Hanging Lighted Snowflake and Ice-Sculpting
Alongwith Winter village display, small kids were performing Gymnastic skills on the stage. It was amazing to see them and crowd cheering those young ones. Later, I went to Fisher pavilion where my daughter was Ice-Skating. Though wanted to sketch there, but it was very crowded. Outside the pavilion Ice-Sculpting activity was going on. It was chilly and windy, still sketched the artist with his assistant while sculpting. On the way back for meet, I saw two musicians playing their instruments inspite of cold. Did a quick sketch in my pocket sketchbook and was able to draw Urban sketcher Tina Koyama.
Musicians and Tina having conversation
Me and my family spent whole day in exploring the area around Seattle Center Armory. I came across a bike which was standing at the Key arena. This was my first time to sketch bicycle. I was thrilled and excited to sketch it. Though it became more windy in late afternoon but didn't wanna miss this opportunity.
First sketch of Bike

Seattle Center Winterfest

12/17/17 Seattle Center Winterfest miniature train and village

Although the Friday sketchers tend to end up in the Armory whenever we meet at the Seattle Center for one event or another, I think it’s been almost exactly five years since the main USk Seattle group has met there for Winterfest.

12/17/17 Shane the caricaturist
The Armory’s primary visual Winterfest attraction is a miniature train and turn-of-the-previous-century village, whose centerpiece is a train station and clock tower that look remarkably similar to King Street Station (above).

I had a great table for sketching the train station scene that I didn’t want to lose as the Armory started filling. I looked behind me and spotted a caricaturist at work, so I simply swiveled my chair around. My intention was to include his client in the sketch, but he finished drawing her just as I had finished drawing him.

Although a little reluctant to give up my warm, cozy spot inside the Armory, I knew it wasn’t raining, so I pulled up my hood and ventured outside. Like that USk outing in 2012, it was bitterly cold and windy, so I spent no more than 15 minutes sketching the top of the Space Needle covered up with colorful tarps and scaffolding for remodeling. (Waiting at the bus stop for my ride home, I spotted the Space Needle from the opposite side, so I sketched it again as an inset. From that distance, I could see more of the construction equipment on top, plus the Christmas-tree-shaped lighting on the needle.)
12/17/17 Space Needle wearing its top-heavy hat

Even in my down coat, I was shivering and ready to retreat indoors again. At the Armory entrance, though, a pair of buskers called Fascinator Jazz Band was performing, and you know I can’t walk by buskers without sketching them. I decided that if these hardy musicians could play in the cold (the bass player kept stopping to rub her hand warmers between songs), I could shiver for another 10 minutes to sketch them. 

Considering that it’s the week before Christmas and probably the busiest weekend for holiday activities, we had a great turnout of sketchers, including Anya from Anchorage and Juliana from Londrina, Brazil! 

12/17/17 Fascinator Jazz Band


Similar to the Gingerbread village, the model train village at Seattle Center's Winterfest is a sketching nemesis. I've never done a sketch of either that I've liked. So today I mostly practiced avoidance.

I was there so early, though, that I felt I really should sketch something while I sat at a table awaiting the arrival of other sketchers. So I did a small sketch of the "King Street Station" clock tower the the model train engineer.

Still wanting to sketch in the holiday theme, I next turned to this tree decoration.

I wandered up to the "Armory Loft" to see the view of the scene from above. This amused me: the Armory logo with it's own ribbon hanger made it look like it belonged with the holiday wreaths.

The throw down.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Good Day to Draw at Winterfest

2017_12_17 USk Seattle Center

The crowd was still small at 10am, when Urban Sketchers Seattle showed up at the Seattle Center Armory to draw the annual Winterfest activities. The big attraction was the holiday village and miniature train display. But I decided it would be much more comfortable to get a coffee and a good seat and draw the people who came and went, meeting, waiting for their kids, and even another sketcher who had a better view of the trains than I.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Caffe Fiore

12/15/17 Caffe Fiore patrons and Kathleen's painting of Elephant Car Wash
I’ve been meaning to get up to Caffe Fiore on Queen Anne Hill to see urban sketcher and painter Kathleen Keckler’s show, “Signs You Live in Seattle.” She has a lovely collection of sketches and acrylic paintings of city landmarks, including several places we’ve sketched together. The show is up the rest of the month.

Although Kathleen has managed to sketch the café’s interior beautifully, I found the seating to be awkward and not particularly conducive to surreptitious sketching. The main seating in the small coffee shop are a few large community tables and a bar along one window. All the table seating was taken, so I sat at the bar and swiveled around to face the room, which made me feel a bit self-conscious, but everyone had their heads buried in laptops, so they didn’t pay me any mind.

12/15/17 Too close for comfort, and yet I dared.
I was sketching a couple of guys across the room when a man sat down right next to me at the bar. Although he was a little too close for comfort, nonetheless I couldn’t resist sketching him. Since I was already facing the room when he took his seat, he must have assumed I was still sketching in that direction. In any case, he was engrossed in his book and never noticed me, either. 

Invisibility: The urban sketcher’s super power.

Kathleen's sketches and paintings are on exhibit until Jan. 1. (This is the guy in
my sketch at the top of the page. I didn't see his man bun until I took this photo!
I wish I'd been able to sketch him from this angle.)

Christmas Trees with the Ad Hoc Sketchers

2017_12_8 USk Holidays Seattle

I thought about titling this post "Christmas tree photobombed by Starbucks". On the last outing to draw the gingerbread houses - which are sponsored by the Sheraton but located in the US Bank building - I got side tracked by the Christmas tree in the lobby. And then the Starbucks kiosk snuck in.