Next Sketch Outing

Next Zoom: Sunday, May 16, 10 a.m.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Glorious Spring


The weather this week is just glorious: sunny and warm. In fact, it could get very warm, reaching nearly 80 degrees. I went out car sketching again this morning.

One destination was to check on the not-yet-blossomed trees along Lake Washington Blvd but I forgot it was going to be closed this week. I honored the "locals only" sign, turned around and explored a nearby neighborhood street, where I found these tulips in a yard.

My route home took me past Seward Park. I'd driven in while outbound but didn't find parking. This time I got the perfect spot with a view of the Mountain, which was most definitely OUT! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Spring is in the Air


I always know spring is in the air when I can’t take a walk without stopping several times to sneeze. It’s a small price to pay, though, to see fresh buds giving trees a haze of pale yellow-green and to smell flowers just beginning to open. And now pink trees are everywhere, and I’m chasing them as fast as I can.

This time last year, the pandemic was fresh, the enormity difficult to grasp, nearly unfathomable. At the height of my anxiety, I found solace in trees continuing to blossom, the birds going about their mating business as if nothing were amiss – as if the whole world hadn’t changed overnight.

A year later, the vaccine has changed everything again, but this time toward hope instead of horror. And the trees and birds still carry on as they always do. I still find solace in that.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Looking for pink

It's feeling more like spring. Eager to see some cherry blossoms, I took a drive along Lake Washington Blvd as I'd heard it was good viewing. It doesn't seem like they are out yet. Still, it's a beautiful stretch of road and I found some places to sketch from the car that had some pink!

I wonder whether this is a plum tree? Both plum and cherry have little pink blossoms and I don't seem to be able to tell the difference.

On the way back, I turned into Renton airport as on the way outbound, I'd noticed amusing aircraft tail art. The engines and the tires are covered, so it would seem this plane isn't going anywhere soon.

After I got home I did the usual research. Buzz was formerly called Ryanair Sun, is a subsidiary of the Irish airline company Ryanair Holdings, and is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland with a fleet of 47. There were 3 right there in Renton. Two or three Ryanair aircraft were also parked in the same area.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Sixth and Lenora


3/20/21 Sixth and Lenora, downtown Seattle

As I did three weeks ago for his first shot, I dropped Greg off for his second dose at the Virginia Mason/Amazon SuperVax site, then parked a short distance away to wait. This time I found a spot facing Sixth and Lenora, where I caught a glimpse of the Amazon Spheres. In the foreground, protected by a row of orange stanchions and a fake picket fence, is a large tent used for outdoor seating by nearby restaurants. The tent occupies a traffic lane that has been closed to accommodate it. As before, it’s not a composition I would have chosen if I’d felt comfortable standing on the sidewalk, but it was still a treat to be downtown.

Sketching from my car is not a tactic new to the pandemic; I use my mobile studio every winter. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I know much better compositions would be available, if only I could get out and move a few feet. Other times I enjoy the challenge of looking for an interesting view within my parking limitations.

By the time I finished the sketch, he was done. It seems deceptively simple for a life-saving solution to take so little time to receive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

COVID Community Center

3/16/21 Northgate library and community center

After picking up some books at the Northgate branch library and going back to my car, I noticed that the adjacent community center was being used as a COVID testing site. The playground, also part of the complex, was cordoned off, and the entire walkway leading up to the various entrances was ribboned. It was empty the day I was there, but maybe on busy weekends the ribbons are necessary to manage snaking lines of people waiting six feet apart. Nearby, a child jumped around on a bench because he couldn’t use the playground, of course.

I thought sadly about how the community center is normally a fun, welcoming place for classes, meetings and activities. Every Halloween, the center used to sponsor a free pumpkin carving party that was fun to sketch, and I’ve sketched the playground, too.

The bright yellow ribbons and neon orange stanchions had a forboding, unwelcoming presence, like a hazardous construction site. Danger. Caution. Keep Out.

On the bright side, the Greenwood branch used to be the closest library branch offering curbside-pickup service, but recently the much closer Northgate branch opened for curbside, so now I can go there. The service is about as contact-free as any I have used: When I approached the friendly library staff person behind the plexi window, he pushed a tiny plastic basket through the slot at the bottom. I dropped my library card into the basket, he pulled it back to scan the card, and a moment later he returned with the books I’d placed on hold. All library materials are quarantined for 48 hours before being lent to other patrons. The library website lists all the protocols staff members follow to ensure patrons’ safety and their own. It was all very reassuring.

It will probably be a while yet before the library opens again for “normal” use, but until then, I’m grateful that I can continue to borrow books safely.

Monday, March 15, 2021

powell barnett park


Exploring Central District, I sat on a steep ridge on the edge of the park and sketched this view until a big dog came into the yard behind me and scared me away. Really excited to start drawing deciduous trees with leaves soon.

Saturday, March 13, 2021


while walking through the Seattle Center thinking about bygone days of USK meetups I came upon this little old popcorn cart with a broken window. the whole area has been pretty desolate since last year and I felt like this encapsulated that story neatly. grass & moss has started growing around it where the foot traffic doesn't hit, and I realized that that included right under the front window, where people once ordered food & refreshments.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Sixth and Westlake


2/27/21 6th and Westlake, Seattle

After dropping Greg off at the Virginia Mason/Amazon SuperVax site for his vaccine, I drove around the corner to Sixth and Westlake. In the canyon of buildings, an orange trolley waited; behind it, the monorail track. An ordinary downtown scene that I would not have chosen if I’d had free rein, it thrilled me to pieces: my first sketch downtown in more than a year. I am filled with hope that someday soon, I’ll be safe enough to sketch from the sidewalk again, choosing whatever view I want.

Between news reports of poorly treated employees and other unethical practices, I’ve had mixed feelings about Amazon for a long time now. During the past year, however, I have been grateful each time that the retail monster has delivered something – from kitchen towels to avocadoes to Pepto-Bismol – to my door, sometimes within hours, without my having to risk exposure in a store.

It takes that same level of corporate muscle to partner with a healthcare organization and pull together a “pop-up” site that can efficiently vaccinate thousands a day. Greg said that it was a well-oiled machine. Ambivalent as I may be, today I have another reason to be grateful.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Ninth Sketch-versary


Today is the 9th anniversary of my first sketch outing. It was with Urban Sketchers Seattle at the Stimson-Green Mansion on First Hill.

I had about an hour and a half between the end of a Museum volunteers Zoom call and my grocery pick up. It was sunny and warm-ish so I decided to go out for a sketch. I didn't have anything particular in mind so I just drove down a street on which I'd never been before.

At first I thought I might find something interesting and beautiful to sketch for this anniversary. When I saw this scene, though, I thought about making the ordinary interesting.

The thing about sketching, and the Urban Sketching movement in particular, is it's important to just keep sketching…anything…the subject sometimes hardly matters. What does matter is that there is a spark of interest. I found these power poles interesting and my challenge was how to keep the sketch from being too busy.

charles st. in blue

Obligatory snowstorm sketch! I wish I drew more that day, but I didn't think the snow would melt so quickly. This is the view from the 3rd floor common kitchen in my building (none of the units have their own kitchens, but there's one on each floor) which has a view of a hill I've always kind of wanted to draw but didn't have a good reason to. 

I was in something of a rush that evening, so I didn't pencil sketch at all before inking, so it's kind of chaotic. My favorite part of this was doing the stylized blobby trees and the big lumps of snow covering the car.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

past the mountains


I took a long-awaited weekend getaway with my pod of 4 to Soap Lake, WA recently (pre-snowstorm). The idea was to get out of the gloom of the Puget Sound cloud basin for a few days and get some vitamin D and fresh air! It's always dazzling to clear the Cascade mountains and find yourself in a completely new dry, open landscape. Shelby brought along a houseplant (seen between the front seats) for our journey, which actually felt very comforting. 


We hiked up Steamboat Rock one morning. The Columbia River Gorge is always so stunning. While sketching these scenes, I wished to be a bird 15,000 years ago, to witness the great flood: when the Missoula ice dam broke and blasted about 500 cubic miles of water (!!!) through this landscape.

Later I sketched my pod friends back at the cabin, where we took a singular bath in the Soap Lake water piped in from nearby.


On the way back to Seattle, Alex gave us a short tour of Vantage, where he used to rock climb. I sketched some climbers scaling the basalt columns in pencil & watercolored it at home. Then we got stuck in Snoqualmie Pass traffic for two hours and I reflected on the dramatic change of landscape (dry, open & sunny to a snowstorm in a high altitude forest) that just an hour's drive gets you in Washington.

Sunday, February 21, 2021



2/13/21 Our backyard, Maple Leaf neighborhood

 After more than a week of dire warnings, the big snow finally fell, and high winds came with it. Unusual for this area, the flakes were small and dry; they fell continuously throughout the day Feb. 13, leaving a foot on the ground by nightfall. Temps were in the high 20s and low 30s. Grateful that we were warm, fully provisioned and with nowhere to go, last Saturday was a beautiful snow day.

Almost exactly two years ago during our snowmageddon, which lasted at least a week, I sketched through nearly every window in our house. This view through a window in our back “TV room,” however, was one I had missed. Not much of a view, but even our yard waste bin is pretty when covered with snow.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

looking up second

On an errand to get frozen dumplings in the I.D., I wandered into a little hidden park behind one of the office buildings by the Light Rail station, with a good view looking up 2nd Ave from a slight elevation above the sidewalk. It's very exciting to find places like that, even in an area I think I've explored quite a bit. And I have always wanted to draw the Seattle Lighting Fixture Co

I used a modified parallel pen with blue ink -- which feels so right in the cold winter -- and added some tone digitally. I will probably do a more thorough job painting this at some point.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Mystery Tent


Car sketching again this morning. I stopped at my PO Box at the Post Office in the mall. I noticed this tent. Many of these are used as "outdoor" seating for restaurants but this one is empty and far away from any of the mall facilities. It just occurs to me that perhaps it's going to be a mass vaccination or testing site? The interesting brown building in the distance is a parking garage.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Meet the correspondent: Alex Hollmann

A friend told me about Urban Sketchers about ten years ago and I immediately thought, "That's sounds like what I am doing" and started following and posting on my flickr site (, but only recently joined the Seattle Urban Sketchers Facebook group, which has led to contacts with other urban sketchers. I was delighted to be invited to become a correspondent.

There is so much that I like about urban sketching, but the main thing is going out into the world and losing myself in something bigger by standing or sitting quietly and observing and being drawn deeper into what is in front of me. Looking at and registering details and getting at the larger structure, whether of a person, building, or landscape, absorbing atmosphere and mood, and thinking about the past and present behind that person or object is a wonderful act of meditation.

I was born and brought up in South Africa and was always drawing as a child. Drawing was a way to create a world around me with things I wanted. One of my earliest creations was a version of Disneyland, based on photographs from an old National Geographic, on sheets of paper glued (to my mother's horror) to the walls. Later on I drew steam locomotives, private trains, research vessels, and planes fitted out with chemical laboratories and divans and armchairs upholstered in red leather and velvet, ready to take me anywhere in the world for the sake of science. (I loved 19th c. illustrations and Jules Verne.) As a teenager I drew less and dropped the science and became obsessed with black-and-white photography and printing my own photographs. I took pictures of people on buses and trains, and portraits when I could get a willing subject. I learned a lot about composition and light and shade, and when in my mid-twenties I began to draw again and started painting in watercolour while in graduate school in the U.S, I think that experience with photography helped me a lot.

Ever since then I have drawn more and more, at first mainly while travelling, but now almost every day. In the last year getting a bike and having more unstructured time due to the Covid pandemic has led to an interest in the waterfront of Seattle and an explosion of drawings of water and boats—the older the better. Below are two of my sketches from this month, both drawn at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Google mail group

 Normally we don't include business items here on the blog but this problem warrants a mention.

Our apologies for those who have tried to join the Urban Sketchers Seattle Google Group recently. See box in right margin. We, the Admins, have just realized the function seems to be broken.  You may email usk.seattle at (making the change to an "@" sign) to request one of us add you directly from our end.  

This Google mail group is how we communicate with our members.  Members may also initiate messages.  Despite the "join" function being broken, the email group still works. 

--Kate Buike

Jane Wingfield

Tina Koyama

Image inserted for interest:  it's not a computer, it's a microfilm reader, but you get the idea.