Next Sketch Outing

Outings cancelled until further notice

Monday, October 19, 2020

daily drawing 2

The second chunk of my daily sketch endeavor. I'll keep this going until at least the end of October. 

10/4: Pono Ranch in Ballard. nice sketching spot close to the bridge - big patio with industrial stuff scattered around, fun to draw! it was incredibly empty while we were there despite being a weekend.

10/5: Neon Boots in Belltown. quick pint with studiomates to do an inktober sketch. the shirtless guy at the table behind was playing magic the gathering.

10/6: Hellbent Brewery in Lake City. I went up here to work on a commission (to draw the brewery) and felt super content with life over the fact that people pay me to do stuff like this sometimes. My friend Dan met me there after I was done working. 

10/7: breakfast outdoors at Bounty Kitchen in Queen Anne, after errands.  

10/8: at the studio, friend Eric gave his MFA lecture presentation from inside the storefront window as we sit outside on the sidewalk. it was so great to attend an event like this, it's been so long!

10/9: Citizen Coffee in Lower Queen Anne. I'm going to all the outdoor cafes I can before winter starts. Seems like this place is better during bar hours, but they close early now. 

10/10: first date with a guy from Hinge - we got coffee and then took a long walk around Central. it was nice. / view of the South Park Bridge, where I ended up because I was dying to ride my scooter somewhere. 

10/11: my apartment. it poured rain all day long and I had a zoom call with my friends from the East Coast in the evening. 

10/12: Pike Place Market. I was craving a doughnut, but all the places close before 3pm now :( at least I got to sketch this part of the market, which I haven't done before. 

10/13: another work meeting on The Lotus in SLU. Jonathan tells me about his family dog who was just "sent to the farm".

10/14: it was super nice outside, so I biked over to the park on 12th Ave by Ba Bar to do work on the picnic tables. I sketched this group of people having lunch together. 

10/15: met a couple friends at Chuck's Hop Shop, but they wouldn't let us sit outside without a reservation (despite 80% of tables being vacant), so we bought beers and sat at a sidewalk table across the street & sketched. I'm really enjoying painting trees all sorts of non-green colors lately. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

daily drawing

I've been making a point to do one solid sketch every day. It's an answer to my desire for a bit more structure in my life. I live alone & am self employed & single so I have to account for all my time by myself. day in day out. No more regular events anchoring the months. With all the wildly scary and depressing news out there, it’s important to fall back on something positive and immediate. 

I’ve been daring to go out for coffee again (outdoor seating only) while the weather is still nice. It’s been comforting to sit in places where I can overhear conversations and watch the world go by as I sketch, as all urban sketchers can appreciate. And making sure I do something every day that grounds me and consistently makes me happy is therapy.

Here are the first 12 days of my project, September 22 - October 3.

9/22: morning coffee at Broadcast on 20th Ave, listening to two guys chat in Arabic (?).

9/23: work meeting with my writing partner Jonathan. he's working as the caretaker of the Lotus, a 1909 floating lodge moored by Mohai. great views of Lake Union from the cabin!

9/24: dinner at my friends' place in Capitol Hill. we drew Sara while she participated in a distanced performance, which took place over an hour long phone call. it involved a 3 way call between her, a stranger, and a robot prompting conversation & narrative.

9/25: grocery run to Lam's Seafood Market on King St, my favorite food store in the neighborhood. I've wanted to draw this place for a while. Sketching it made me notice how the awnings were attached to the original part with lots of different materials.

9/26: A Saturday where I forced myself to not work on client projects. I ended up at Ada's Technical Books on 15th Ave, where they now have street parking partitioned into distanced tables & chairs. REALLY hoping all this outdoor seating stays a thing forever.

9/27: Sunday plein air club meetup. We ended up at a picnic table on Seattle University campus. drawing those boring buildings in the background was surprisingly fun. 

9/28: Feeling lonely, I went up to Bhy Kracke park to take in some sunlight and eat a bag of Dick's. the way a guy was encouraging his dog to fetch made me laugh. 

9/29: we watched the presidential debate in the studio, everyone was on edge and I dissociated by drawing this.

9/30: I landed at this cafe i've never been to before, London Plane. It's a really nice, very distanced place to sit and sketch in Occidental Square. 

10/1: my scooter friends and I took a little ride down to Burien to eat donuts and sit in Seahurst Park and do the first day of Inktober (clearly I got a head start). it was a smoky day, and the bluffs came in & out of view.

10/2: my sketch friend Alexander has wanted to draw this tower on Swedish Hospital on Jefferson St so we met up and sat in the parking lot across the street. I've discovered my side-hobby of feeding crows peanuts goes really well with my outdoor sketching. 

10/3: biked to London Plane again, where I ate a massive cinnamon bun all by myself and drew trees turning fall colors. Pioneer Square has really changed in the last few months. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 It was on this day in 2012 I was invited to be a USk Seattle blog correspondent. I thought it would be good to do a post to commemorate my 8th anniversary.

I miss everyone! I miss sketching together! I've continued to sketch, mostly from my car. I'm also sketching almost daily, but some of it isn't Urban Sketching.  

I've just completed a series on the local fires stations. I sketched each on location from my car.  We have so many reasons to be thankful for fire fighters, even more so now! 

It started at the end of April when I was driving around the main section of my suburb looking for something to catch my eye. It was Fire station #11. It's one of the more uninteresting buildings. But that's the challenge, isn't it?

At right of this sketch is a depiction of the enameled metal mural, "Untitled" by Harold Balazs.

It wasn't until July that I decided to make the series. Next was Station 17 and also King County Fire Department 40. It’s another boring building so I parked off to the side to at least get an interesting angle.

On to Station # 12, in the “Highlands” neighborhood. It was a more interesting building and there was even a fire engine outside, but too far from the building to fit into the composition normally. I sat in the shade of a tree this time. I had my mask ready in case I was approached, but I wasn't.

The next day I went out earlier in the morning  to avoid the heat. This is Station Number 14. It’s over near Wizards of the Coast. It's also the "M.G. 'Scotty' Walls Training Center". I found very little about him, even on the Fire Department's website.

I'm on a roll. The next day, it was Station #16 with a more interesting design. There is the tall hose drying tower. A small shelter in front covers a memorial bench with the inscription, “In recognition of volunteer firefighters. King County Fire District 25. 1945-2003"

After this, it was a waiting game.  I sometimes see the fire engine parked in front of my closest station, #13.  Every time I was out over those weeks, I drove by the station to check whether the engine was out. And that morning of September 5th, it finally was!  Of course, it drove off very soon after I'd begun the sketch. But I followed my axiom, “draw first what’s most likely to move”.

The tall tower is for drying hoses. I’ve actually been inside this station when they had an open house just after construction finished a few years ago. I remember they told us the massive gas kitchen stove was made to automatically shut off when the fire alarm went off! No one wants the fire station to burn down because they left food cooking on the stove as they rushed off to fight a fire! 

The fire truck drove back in just as I was finishing. The driver called out, “did you put me in it?”. When I mentioned that to Himself, he said, “you should have said: ‘No, you drove off!'” I never think of clever come backs.

I'm looking forward to when we can meet as a large group to sketch.  Until then, "stay safe and carry on sketching"! 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pink Disc, Yellow Sky

9/12/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood, early afternoon

Although we have our own deadly fires here in Washington State, the Seattle area has been covered by a blanket of smoke since Wednesday that originated with Oregon’s equally devastating wildfires. The smoke here is not nearly as thick as it has been in Oregon and California; photos and sketches of those areas show the sky as dark orangey-brown. Here in the Puget Sound area, the sky is more yellow than orange.

On Friday when I tried to look at the sun, it was still too bright to see with bare eyes, so I knew the smoke wasn’t too bad yet. I recalled the thick smoke we had two years ago from fires to the north, when the sun was an orange ball that was easy to look at with unprotected eyes.

Today the expected “super-massive plume” fully arrived. I kept looking for the sun, but behind the smoke, the sky must have been partly cloudy, because it was nowhere to be seen most of the day. I stood at our bedroom window in the early afternoon to capture the weird yellow light and low visibility. The “unhealthy” Air Quality Index was 185 (under 50 is considered “good”).

9/12/20 the sun is finally visible around 2:40 p.m.
By mid-afternoon, the clouds behind the smoke must have parted because I suddenly spotted the sun – a coral pink disc that, by contrast, gave the yellow sky a bluish-gray cast. Under any other circumstance, I would have called that pink “pretty.” It’s not often that I can sketch the sun by viewing it with unprotected eyes: Other than the smoke two years ago, the only other time was the moment of totality during the 2017 solar eclipse.

This smoke is terrible, but it’s not nearly as terrible as fleeing for my life as so many are from fires engulfing parts of the West Coast. I’m grateful to be safe. I’m grateful for all the firefighters working day and night to put the flames out.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Afternoon and Morning

8/22/20 across the street (Maple Leaf neighborhood)

Sketch the same view at different times of the day: That was the USk Talks Challenge that Shari Blaukopf had offered sketchers when she gave a USk Talk way back in May. I liked the idea and kept it in the back of my mind all summer, but I kept forgetting to do the same scene at a different time. Then yesterday, I looked across the street at the shadows cast by our neighbors’ planters on the lawn, and I suddenly remembered that I had sketched the same view in the afternoon a few weeks ago. It was an ideal opportunity to finally respond to the challenge.

Above is the scene in the afternoon, and below is the one I did yesterday morning. The afternoon sketch was leisurely on a lovely sunny day, but the morning one was quick: The air was still hazy with smoke from wildfires in distant parts of Washington State. I used violet and yellow to capture light and shadow as well as to evoke the strange color of the sky.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Of the Post Office and Dinos

 I drove out this morning for another session of windshield sketching.  I needed to drop something at the Post Office so checked around back for any mail trucks.  They did keep coming and going so I sketched these quickly.  I also found a sign on the fence. That and the PO logos on the trucks are bits of collage. 

The sign says, "the Eagle always faces forward". 

Then I drove to the central part of Renton with the plan to sketch more houses but I happened upon an event that was perfect for the USk Flickr group's weekly theme:  "masks".  The Chamber of Commerce was giving away PPE to small businesses.  They had some people in dino costumes to attract attention!  However, they moved a lot and then packed up and left before I was finished.  So my sketches of them were very quick.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Another one closed

The Jules Maes Saloon in the Georgetown neighborhood closed in March after 132 years.  It was one of the oldest bars in Seattle.  I only learned of the permanent closure this week so went to sketch it before the exterior changed. 

I sketched in the shade on the sidewalk across the street. This is one of only a couple times I've sketched outside my car since March. I wore a mask for the longest period yet, about an hour.

It closed during the WA Phase 1 shut down. Per a PI report, it closed permanently last week, in part due to a 27% increase in rent. The Georgetown neighborhood used to be industrial funky but has started to gentrify a bit. The owner said he might try to relocate to White Center.

There are murals on the south side, including a Henry. The white mural in my sketch is by @overallcreative

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Jaisalmer Sketchbook

In November 2017, I returned from a two-week Rajasthan trip happy, grinning ear to ear and with two sketchbooks brimming cover to cover. I was so productive with my sketching that it only took me the four days I spent in the frontier town of Jaisalmer, amidst the majestic twelfth-century World Heritage fort, to fill my second sketchbook.

Sonar Killa – the Golden Fort – is set in the Thar desert in northwestern India, less than two-hundred miles from the India-Pakistan international border.  The glitter of the yellow sandstone walls in the early morning sun is dull and metallic, reminiscent of the precious metal that the fort is named after. It is as much a breathtaking sight today for a modern traveler as it must have been to a merchant plying the silk route when the Mughals ruled India in the fifteenth century.  

We had found ourselves a room with a jharokha – an overhanging enclosed balcony situated on top of the bulwarks, with a sweeping view of the surrounding town and the landscape. A young scion of the family that has owned the eight-hundred-year-old haveli – a traditional Indian mansion – for several generations was responsible for its conversion to a tastefully decorated boutique hotel. Many such families still own apartments and mansions on the fort, passed as an inheritance from generation to generation. The fort has been continuously lived-in since olden times, the narrow streets buzzing with the sounds and smell of day-to-day life, adding lively charm to the ancient walls.


I took every opportunity I could find to slip out of our room and situate me in one of the many nooks and crannies of the fort to sketch. One such early morning sojourn led to the discovery of a portal hidden behind a carpet-sellers display. The opening led me along a narrow ledge behind a succession of gun-turrets, to a gun-slot where I squeezed beneath the barrel of a tremendous gun, one that had stood poised to protect the fort for many centuries.

In Nov 2017, I was deep into the preparation of my Middle East adventure to travel in the footsteps of probably the original urban sketcher of them all. The Scottish artist David Roberts had traveled through Egypt and the Holy Land in 1838-39, to sketch through direct observation, the landscape mentioned in the Bible, the first time such an ambitious project was being undertaken. Looking back at my sketches of Jaisalmer, I notice I had already started experimenting with David Roberts’ inimitable style – juxtaposing locals in colorful garb against monumental architecture. Fortunately, psychedelic colors and majestic architecture are both to be found in abundance in Rajasthan.

My wife Monica and I bivouacked on the sand dunes of Thar under a star-studded sky. Our guide, a local villager with mustache thicker than my thumb, had cooked a hardy meal for us over ambers plucked from the roaring campfire. After serving us the piping hot daal-baati – crisp wheat balls baked and then mixed with spicy lentils, doused with dollops of ghee, the guide used an empty five-gallon plastic water jug as a banjo to provide beats to the folk songs he sang for us. On our way back, our jeep got stuck in the sand. Leaving the driver to wrestle with it, Monica and I hiked a dune to arrive at an ancient cemetery with the fort gleaming on the horizon.


My goal for the trip was plenty of line-and-wash - “wash where there are no lines and lines where no wash is needed”.  As I sat down for sketching, I found myself drawn to the strong architectural lines and the squiggly curves of the Devanagari script (and Rajput mustaches.)  I felt like I had barely scratched the surface of Jaisalmer in the four days I was there. It is only a matter of time, I am sure before I go back to Jaisalmer, which I already consider in my favorite top 5 walled cities of the world.


Sunil Shinde lives in Seattle with his wife, two daughters, and his golden retriever, Oscar. He has been an ardent urban sketcher since 2013. When he is not traveling, he is building an AI-based population health product in stealth mode. You can see his sketches here.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Celebrate USk Seattle's 11th Anniversary!

Hello, sketchers! We hope you are doing well and staying creative during these difficult times. Since it will still be a while before USk Seattle is able to organize sketch outings (we follow King County’s restrictions for “social and recreational gatherings”), we wanted to offer some ideas and resources to stay inspired, engaged and sketching:

To celebrate USk Seattle’s 11th anniversary, we’re having a party on Zoom on Sunday, July 19, 12:30 p.m.!

Share one urban sketch (following our Manifesto, please) that you’ve made during the pandemic, and tell a brief story about it. The invitation link will be sent out on the Google group mailing list and in the Facebook group. You do not need your own Zoom account to attend. To learn how to use this popular videoconferencing app, please see Zoom’s helpful tutorials.

Here are more ideas:

  • The current Phase 2 restrictions allow five or fewer individuals to gather outdoors. Call a few friends and meet somewhere to sketch together (socially distanced, of course)! For those who feel safe in large public areas, this is the easiest way to get back into the social spirit of urban sketching. And please share your sketches online so that everyone can enjoy them! Our Facebook group continues to grow daily. On Instagram, use the hashtag #uskseattle.
  • Keep sketching on your own and share online. See our location suggestions below.
  • Get inspired by the many online resources for classes, tutorials, interviews, presentations and more on urban sketching and other types of art (see below). Some instructors who normally offer in-person workshops worldwide have taken their workshops online, which means that even non-locals can enjoy the same benefits as locals. Take advantage of these great opportunities to improve your skills while staying in the safety of your home.

Sketch Location Suggestions

See this list for dozens and dozens of exciting locations where we have sketched previously. If you’re unfamiliar with a place, use the blog’s search tool to see what others have sketched there. Here are some of our favorite large, outdoor spaces:

Alki Beach
Bellevue Botanical Garden
Fishermen’s Terminal
Gas Works Park
Jack Block Park
Kubota Gardens
Lake Union Park
Leschi Park and Marina
Magnuson Park
Olympic Sculpture Park
Volunteer Park

Online Resources

USk Talks are live on USk Instagram Saturdays at 9 p.m. PDT. Rob Sketcherman in Hong Kong interviews two urban sketchers (usually symposium instructors) from around the world. Each interview ends with an urban sketching challenge, and participants are invited to share their results on social media with the #USkTalksChallenge hashtag. The programs are available for later viewing on the USk YouTube Channel.

Sketching Play Lab with USk instructors Suhita Shirodkar and Paul Wang: 90-minute Zoom sessions focus on exploring elements of design.

USk Portland 10x10: Rita Sabler offers workshops with a choice of in-person attendance (maintaining physical distancing) or on Zoom. (Kate participated in a Zoom workshop and found it well done.)

Studio 56: Free offerings and interviews on Zoom with urban sketchers who teach for Studio 56. Some online workshops are available for a fee.

Sketchbook Skool: Many online classes offered, some of which are related to urban sketching.

Several urban sketching instructors are now offering workshops online, including Michele Cooper and Shari Blaukopf.

"The Mind of Watercolor" by Steve Mitchell is Kate’s favorite watercolor YouTube channel. Many free tutorials available.

Urban sketcher Teoh Yi Chie, better known as Parka, offers hundreds of product reviews and demos on YouTube. Some online courses are also offered for a small fee.

Daniel Smith owner John Cogley offers frequent presentations and artist interviews on YouTube. (The Seattle Daniel Smith store is closed but plans to reopen Sept. 8. All in-person events remain cancelled through the end of 2020.)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

sketching black owned businesses

Your Family Auto repair shop & Cafe Selam Ethiopian Restaurant on E Cherry St.

In the wake of the recent wave of BLM movements, my friend Alexander and I have been meeting up in the Central District to make a point of sketching, patronizing, and learning about Black-owned businesses in our area. To be sure it's a small gesture, but it feels good at this moment to connect my sketching practice and what's been going on in the country for the last month or so. It's also been fun to meet some of the neighborhood characters & some of the shop owners. 

I'm now making myself show people what I drew before I leave the spot. Trying to make connections in the community and spread positive energy! Everyone likes feeling appreciated, and drawing their stuff is one way to do it.

Ezell's Famous Chicken on 23rd. I had never eaten there before, and spending like $11 on a combo meal made me full for the entire day. They even accidentally (?) gave me an extra piece! Ezell's claim to fame is that Oprah apparently flew in some of their fried chicken to Chicago because she was craving it so hard. 

Fat's Chicken on E. Cherry & MLK. This was the most fun sketch we did. Not only is this corner building really wonky and neat details, the owner (who I unknowingly put in the sketch, sitting outside the orange door) was so psyched about our drawings they gave us free to-go cocktails. I also ate some more chicken here, which was super tender and crispy. That might be enough fried chicken for me for the rest of the summer, but it was worth it. 

Finally, here is Tana Market just down the way on E Cherry. I had become familiar with this Ethiopian bodega from buying canned beers from its well stocked fridges for our other nearby sketch outings. If you want fresh baked injera, this is the place! Alexander drew the juice bar across the street, while I was more attracted to Tana's awning and simple storefront. When I showed the drawing to the guy at the register, he did not react at all.