Next Monthly Sketch Outing

Sunday, April 23
Seattle Art Museum and Pike Street Neighborhood
1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

10:00 AM till 12:30 PM

See Monthly Outing page for details.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Celebration of Spring on the 10th Anniversary of USK

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Seattle Urban Sketchers. As we met at Seattle Art Museum on Sunday morning, I knew several of my fellow urban sketchers would stay in the lobby to draw the new installation of John Grace's "Middle Fork". In the spirit of group reportage, I decided to make the short walk up to Pike Place Market and find something iconic and celebratory to commemorate the occasion. We were in the city where Urban Sketchers was founded.
The Gum Wall, the Balloon Man, an abundant display of cherry blossoms--all seemed part of the celebration.
Everybody says "Ewwwww!"
The gum wall was my first destination. After a steam cleaning in November of 2015 removed 2,350 lbs of accumulated gum, for the first time in 20 years the brick walls in Pike Place Market's Post Alley were clear. I thought it was about time to see how the "mural of gum" looks now. Jackson Pollock would be proud. I doubt, however, that his work was usually greeted by exclamations of "Ewwww!" and warnings of "Don't touch it!" as people do when they first encounter the gum wall. But then you can't contribute to one of Pollock's compositions either. And it reminds me of a freeze frame photo of confetti and fireworks!

At the corner of 1st and Pike
 Farrell Thomas The Balloon Man, aka Twister Thomas, is one of the colorful denizens of the Pike Street Neighborhood. Balloon animals are quite festive aren't they? Thomas has a spot by the information booth. Brass hoof prints at his feet lead to another market icon, Rachel the pig. A few drops of rain fell from the overhang I was using as cover and blotted my sketch of his face a little, but I think it just gives more character to the quick study.
As it continued to rain, I retreated further under the shelter of the entryway of DB Laurenti's on the corner of 1st and Pike. I considered sketching the iconic news stand, but the full blossoms across the street looked like puffy pink kernels bursting out of the top of the trees like movie popcorn. A celebration of spring!

I finished my sketch of the cherry trees and the street corner. By now it was time for me to walk back down two blocks and meet with Seattle Urban Sketchers at the SW lobby of SAM to share our sketches. We covered the entire Pike Street Neighborhood, the museum and more.

As you can see by other posts on the subject, we had a great turnout for our 10th Anniversary.
I saw wonderful sketches of the installation "Middle Fork", the stone sculptures of camels on the stairs, street views up and down the block, the "Hammering Man" and examples from various exhibits that were personally chosen by each artist. It turned out to be a celebration of Seattle, urban sketching, reportage and spring!

Middle Fork – Backwards and Forwards

4/23/17 Middle Fork, Seattle Art Museum lobby

John Grade’s Middle Fork is a remarkable piece of art inspired by a 140-year-old tree in the Cascade Mountains. Along with a huge team of volunteers in Seattle, Grade built the 105-foot-long work from thousands and thousands of tiny pieces of reclaimed cedar glued together. Hanging above the Seattle Art Museum’s lobby, Middle Fork made my jaw drop, and I couldn’t keep my mouth closed even as I sketched. I’m guessing others felt the same way, as it was a popular sketch subject yesterday morning with Urban Sketchers Seattle.

First I went all the way to the back of the museum lobby and sat under it to take in as much of its full length as would fit in my sketchbook spread. Then I went upstairs to the museum’s third floor to look down on the opening of its wide end. In either case, I don’t think I quite captured its enormity, but I tried.

Nearly five years ago, USk Seattle met in SAM’s lobby, where I sketched a small part of Inopportune: Stage One, a sculpture by Cai Guo-Qiang, consisting of actual cars and flashing neon lights suspended from the same ceiling where Middle Fork now hangs. While Inopportune was controversial during its long exhibition there (many loved it, many hated it – it’s difficult to feel indifferent about a bunch of cars hanging overhead at various angles), Middle Fork seems to be unanimously praised. I have no doubt I will gaze at it with awe each time I enter SAM for as long as it’s there.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

SAM I am

I've always been fascinated by the Hammering Man in front of the Seattle Art Museum's south entry. Today's outing gave me a chance to sketch this piece of art up close. After fueling myself up with a cup of mocha, I stationed myself across the street, kitty-corner from the giant sculpture, trying my best to stay dry under the rain. The view from this angle was quite a challenge to sketch. Without worrying too much about the perspective and details, I tried my best to capture the overall look and feel of the scene, by focusing on larger shapes and forms.
The Hammering Man, Seattle Art Museum

For the sketch of the Grand Staircase, I decided to change things up a bit and whipped out my trusted technical pencil. Lately I've been inspired by the work of BorisZatko, particularly his pencil line work. I've always loved this space with its large sculptures from Chinese dynasty, the cascading steps that spill to the outdoor, and the decorative arches on the ceiling. 
Grand Staircase, Seattle Art Museum

SAM and Middle Fork

The outing was listed as Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and Pike Street Neighborhood.  I was happy to spend the entire time inside SAM.  First, it was chilly and raining much of the time.  Second, I had free admission for volunteer week with my volunteer badge from another local museum!  Third, I wanted to get my fill of sketching Middle Fork.

John Grade: Middle Fork

First thing, I settled down to sketch the unusual sculpture.  It was pieced together over many months.  Two of our group worked on it:  Ching (an Urban Sketcher who has since moved away) and John (husband of Urban Sketcher, Anne).   I sat on the floor at the base end.

Once finished, I went into the museum proper.  There is so much to sketch but I wanted to get this odd sculpture.  It's called Mann und Maus (Man and Mouse) but I think the head shape looks more like a rat. .  

There was still time, so I did another sketch of Middle Fork, this time from above.  

We met in the far lobby to share sketches and have our group photo.

Pike Place Market, take three.

Students in my 10x10 workshop had good results sitting against the wall across from the donut machine so I followed their example. About 20 minutes into my sketch a tour group set up camp almost in my lap so I had to move. I joined Liz and Anjl to draw the busker near the pig but the crowd was even more distracting. I finally sat across from Deja Vu and drew the intersection, thinking I'd be safe there. Then halfway through this sketch the flower shop opened and they rolled a large cart out, blocking my view of the right side of my scene! That's why it's a bit vacant on the right. I had hoped to include the news stand but I cut my losses and added more bricks instead.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

David Chamness Frees Us from Worry and Details

4/22/17 9th and Howell construction site
As all construction sites are, the building going up at Ninth and Howell in downtown Seattle is a formidable and intimidating sketch subject. But David Chamness promised us “freedom from worry and the details” as we tackled the site in his USk 10x10 workshop. He encouraged us to stay loose and fast with the sketch while having fun and engaging with passers-by.

On a cloudy but fortunately mostly dry morning today, a dozen of us began by making small thumbnails to divide the intimidating scene into manageable compositions. David suggested taking smartphone photos to help us view various compositions. Giving a brief drawing demo, he explained how to identify the horizon line and vanishing point and how to take relative measurements of elements and angles with our pens.

Next we drew a complete scene using one of our thumbnails as a reminder of the composition. (“Look at the thumbnail briefly, then put it away and look at the actual scene while you draw,” he said, “don’t draw from the thumbnail.”) David urged us to draw with bold, confident ink lines, not dashed, sketchy pencil lines. (“You don’t want to draw it twice or spend time erasing.”) As we drew, he gave us more pointers like using the whole arm – not just wrist – to draw long, straight lines, and using the “rule of thirds” to make interesting compositions.

David giving a watercolor demo.
During a brief watercolor demo, David showed us his signature painting style: bold, sometimes “unrealistic” colors put down quickly with a large brush. Moving from lightest to darkest colors, he showed us how values support the forms and shapes in the drawing. He also moves from the top down on the page to avoid dragging his hand through wet paint. After the demo we made our final sketch of the workshop – on large paper, at least 9-by-12 inches, and finished with watercolor. (He recommends taping a sheet of watercolor paper to a board for support.)

Shown at the top of the post is my final sketch. Whenever I take workshops, I usually end up feeling like the resulting sketches are not my spontaneous responses to the subject because they are assigned by the instructor, who has a specific objective in mind for the exercise. I maintain the attitude, however, that I’m there to learn more than to make spontaneous sketches, so the results don’t bother me. I have to say, though, that this sketch is one of few workshop sketches I actually like because it did feel like a genuine, fresh response. Influenced by David’s approach and feedback, it is looser and bolder than most scenes I’ve sketched under the duress of being intimidated by huge and complex subject matter. Free of worries, indeed!
A few thumbnails

Our intimidating sketch subject!

Workshop students hard at work.

A bus shelter makes a handy studio.

David helps Svetlana take a measurement.
Final throwdown and critique.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Eastern Trip

I recently took a trip east to explore sites related to World War II history which I have an interest in. First stop was in Hanford, WA to take two tours of the reactors and the area that was once small towns and farm land. Both tours were excellent and I recommend them. 

I drove to Wyoming to visit the Japanese Internment Camp at Heart Mountain, which is east of Yellowstone. The museum is one of the best and is worth seeing. It compares favorably with the internment camp in Manzanar, CA because you get a real sense of the unpleasant life there.

Monday, April 17, 2017

San Francisco Weekend

We traveled down to San Francisco a few weekends ago to visit our son and had a lovely/ warm few days in the sunshine.  Our AirBnB was in an old house in the Hayes Valley, which was a new part of the city for us to spend time in.  Nearby is Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies that sit across from the park.  The apartment  building next door  is a beautiful building in itself, but gets no attention being next to its famous sisters.

The scale of the city is so pleasant and you can find a beautiful old building on every block to sketch.
Shopping on Valencia Street in the Mission District, I stopped to capture a few quick paintings while the others continued down the street.

I wanted to get a sketch of the cable cars, but only had a chance at the turn-a-bout down on Beach & Hyde.  The lines of tourist trying to get on made it impossible to catch a ride up the hill to our next destination.  We turned to Uber for a faster and cheaper ride (although less romantic).

Saturday morning we went to the Ferry Terminal to shop for our dinner that evening.  I found a shady spot where I could get a panorama of the city while watching the crowds at all the farmer's booths.  Lots of young families enjoying their morning in the sunshine.

Before helping out with cooking dinner that evening, I wanted to visit the "Church of the Eight Wheels".  This is a converted parish church into a family friendly disco roller rink used by many in the  neighborhood.  You can always have interesting conversations with people that stop and watch me while I sketch.

Sunday morning we crossed the bridge to have a coffee and pastry treat at the Sausalito Bakery and Cafe.  The fog was just lifting off the bay while I painted the street view.

Finally we ended our weekend in the North Beach neighborhood with an Italian meal at Acquolina Pizzeria and then stepped next door for gelato before heading to the airport. Can't wait for my next trip to visit my son and this beautiful west coast city.

London, Budapest, Dubrovnik and Coffee Painting

2-hr sketch of the Buckingham Palace (from Queen Victoria Memorial), London.  Ink + watercolor.

1.5-hr sketch of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben (from Parliament Square), London | Ink + coffee
Fishing Children Fountain at Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary | Ink + watercolor 
Old Town within the Walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia | Ink + coffee

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Better late than never?

I'm behind in my USk posting. Let me catch up:

 Drawn with USk at MOHAI. Too cold for brushes and ink wash! I used markers and red Uniball.
Pike Place Market drawn for USk 10 x10 workshop

With USk at Grand Central Bakery but I forgot my sketchbook, so I did this in my lined journal

This was a commission from his girlfriend for the owner of Al's Tavern in Wallingford

First drawing from inside my new-to-me 2012 Prius
 Chocolati in Wallingford
 My dishes drying in the rack
Fisherman's Terminal at Interbay

 Drawing at Guitar Center in South Lake Union while Donna browsed
Hanging in the UW gift shop during Donna's lunch break

Sorry if this is overkill, I'll try to be better about keeping up. See you at SAM!

Friday, April 14, 2017


We had unexpectedly good weather for our regular Friday sketch outing.  We met at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).  Rain was predicted to start about 11, so I did my first sketch out side.  While it never did rain, there was rather a cold wind so I was quite chilled by the time I finished. 

So I had a coffee in the pleasant cafe and sketched the old clock (again).  I really like this clock and have sketched it 2 or 3 times before.  In December 2009, thieves gutted the clock, presumably stealing the copper and metals inside.   A group to which I belong held a fund raiser at the old MOHAI location to help repair the clock.

The sketchers posed outside with the Space Needle visible in the distance behind us.