Next Sketch Outing

Sunday, Oct. 17: location TBD

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Seattle Central Library


9/19/21 Seattle Central Library from 4th & Spring

Thankfully, Saturday’s squall dried up in time for today’s USk Seattle outing at the Central public library, but the wind remained harsh. Even though it was 60 degrees, I bundled up like it was full-on winter and took on the library’s crazy angles. It was fun to see several other sketchers bravely taking it on, too!

Library from 5th & Madison

Seattle Central Library is a formidable architectural beast
. I’ve sketched inside the library many times, but I’ve sketched its exterior only one other time back in 2017 from the Fourth and Madison corner. This time I walked one block north to Fourth and Spring (top of page). Knowing that I probably wouldn’t get all those angles right, I had only one goal: To scale it proportionally on my sketchbook page. I think I did, but my 2017 sketch is livelier.

In the mood for more torture, I walked up the hill to Fifth and Madison to sketch the library again, this time at thumbnail size (left). Although this sketch is wonkier, I like it more than the first try.

Tsutakawa fountain

With 20 minutes left until the throwdown, I looked around for something I could finish in that time: George Tsutakawa’s “Fountain of Wisdom” in front of the library’s Fourth Avenue entrance. The wind was so strong that the water was spraying sideways as much as flowing down!

As I write this on late Sunday afternoon, the pouring rain is back, this time punctuated by thunder. USk Seattle leads a charmed life.




Thursday, September 16, 2021


Today is my 9th blog-versary, when I was invited to be a blog correspondent.  Fortunately it was perfect sketching weather so I went out looking for fall color.   Gene Coulon Park, along Lake Washington in Renton, is one of my usual places to find brilliantly colored trees. It's still a bit early for the best color but I did find some.

I sat at the side of the street to sketch the view across.  Bicyclists and the occasional police officer waved at me. 

I found a spot looking back across the beach toward the Interface statue, with some Canada geese. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

forklift quonset


I always pass by this building on my home → studio commute on Airport Way and always wanted to draw it, and finally the day came where it could happen. I adore quonsets, they always have interesting stuff going on in industrial or rural areas. A fun and different shape than the buildings we usually get. Kind of want to draw every one I see in Seattle from now on.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Sketch Daniel Smith and say THANKS, Sunday, September 5 at 10am


Yes, tragically, the center of our creative and arts community, the Daniel Smith Store and mothership is closing. It has been closed throughout the pandemic, although I’m happy to report that they retained ALL their full-time staff by moving them from sales to paint production, which is BOOMING. They are now the top seller of paint in the world! But I have many memories from this place and the wonderful staff who became friends…book signing opportunities, workshops from amazing people from around the globe, not to mention the beautiful, tall, sunlit space with aisles to explore and tools that you could actually hold in your hand and even test before you bought them. Gone are those days. But here are two ways to say THANK YOU for all they have done for us over the years.

  1. If you are from this area, consider this is an invitation to say THANKS to phenomenal Daniel Smith store staff: Join Seattle Urban Sketchers this Sunday, September 5 from 10am-1pm for an opportunity to sketch the store!!! Yes, inside or out, wearing masks.

2. Post your sketch on Instagram, or any sketch or photo you have–maybe of a workshop you took–and story you’d like to tell, or even just say “Thank you” and then tag #thankyoudanielsmithstoreseattle so that the staff can read all the stories and know how much they are appreciated.

Me in teal, then the fabulous Patrice, Lin, Thom the store manager, and Janice…all creative people and artists who helped us for so many years. You are appreciated and will be missed!

PS, I’ll be personally signing copies of my 101 Sketching Tips book there on Sunday!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

South Park Initiation


8/28/21 South Park Bridge facing north

As a native and lifelong resident, I thought I had visited, however briefly, every Seattle neighborhood. When we started planning a USk Seattle outing to South Park, though, I realized it was one that I had somehow missed. I’d never even driven through this working-class neighborhood (not a “park” at all) on the west bank of the Duwamish Waterway.

Like Georgetown across the Duwamish, South Park has a funky vibe with the added bonus of the modern new bridge across the waterway (I say “new,” but it opened in 2014). Replacing the hundred-year-old original bridge due to safety issues, the new bridge has intriguing design elements. Gears and other parts from the old bridge were retained as decorative elements around the neighborhood.

As a first-timer to South Park, I had to start with the bridge facing north toward downtown (barely visible at left). Standing on the slight incline of the pedestrian/bike lane as continual traffic whizzed by, I was happy that my sketch kit always includes ear plugs.

Next, as I wandered past restaurants and bars, I looked down an alley in the residential area. I am always attracted to the fun shapes of shadows I usually find in alleys.

South Park alley

With the half-hour remaining before the throwdown, I made small sketches of a couple of South Park icons: a gearwork at the south foot of the bridge and the pink elephant (sadly monochromatic in my sketch because I ran out of time for color) promoting the Big Top Curiosity Shop (it was closed when I had walked by, but a huge bear was being hauled out to the sidewalk to greet customers, so I’m guessing it opened shortly thereafter). South Park is full of inspiring surprises even for this native.

Gear at the foot of the bridge and the Big Top elephant
Can you tell we're smiling behind those masks?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Bittersweet Shopping at Daniel Smith

8/26/21 Daniel Smith store and First Avenue South ramp

When Daniel Smith’s Seattle store announced that it was finally reopening after its 18-month pandemic closure, we sketchers were overjoyed to have our favorite art supply store again. Our joy was short-lived, however, when that announcement was followed by another that the reopening was only temporary: The store would be closing permanently in November. Unrelated to the pandemic, the closure supports expansion of Daniel Smith’s paint manufacturing and wholesale business, which is the company’s bread and butter. Although I was relieved to know that DS wasn’t going out of business, that didn’t soften the blow of the store’s closure.  

Much more than just a retail store, Daniel Smith offered workshops, demos, vendor days, book signings, presentations and other events that had brought the art community together for 45 years. It was also very supportive of Urban Sketchers Seattle. I will miss the knowledgeable, helpful staff. We have other art supply stores here, but they will not fill the hole left behind when DS closes its doors.

Through my various casual art forays over the years, I wandered many times up and down the aisles, both dazzled and bewildered by all the possibilities those art materials represented. When I began urban sketching and learning to draw in earnest a decade ago, I started attending demos and workshops. The last few years, I even had ambitions of someday offering demos or classes there myself.

This morning I did my best to help DS clear remaining inventory (the 20 percent discount didn’t hurt) by stocking up on favorites, but as my final shopping trip there, it was probably the saddest art supply shopping I’ve ever done.

(Incidentally, Daniel Smith’s logo and signage include a saguaro, which I’ve always thought was strange for a Seattle-based store. I’m sure there’s a story there, but I’ve never heard it.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

They're BACK!

The Daniel Smith Seattle store, which I've called "the mothership", reopened today after 18 months closed due to the pandemic.

But not for long.   The owner has decided to close the store permanently in November.  This is not the paint manufacturing. DS paints will still be available. 

I went early to sketch, arriving at 0915.  I was surprised to find a line developing.  By the opening time of 1000, there were over 60 people in line.  Everyone was masked as required. I saw several people I know from past demos and workshops.  There was a feeling of a community party but bittersweet.   

I went in to say "hi" to some of the staff.  I wasn't even going into that watercolor aisle!

 Remember, we're going to meet at the store for a Thank You sketch outing on Sept 5. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Let's say THANK YOU to Daniel Smith, September 5 at 10am

My fellow sketchers and artists, 

You've probably heard the very sad news that this pillar and center of our arts community in the Pacific Northwest and beyond is closing permanently in November. 

For decades at the Mother Ship of the world famous Daniel Smith Fine Art Materials, its wonderful staff and management have generously nurtured and promoted our arts community--from bringing in world famous artists to offer a constant stream of incredible workshops and demos, to hosting book signing events to support local authors (like me!), to providing a place where local talent can teach classes on a regular basis, to providing a meeting space for organizations like the Northwest Watercolor Society, to constantly and creatively offering support and learning opportunities to our arts community in countless ways both big and small. 

And of course there is the amazing array of supplies in their huge, light-filled space, the friendliest and most knowledgable staff with whom we've become friends, and much more. I spent many a morning perusing the aisles and finding just the right brush or paint or pen, always staying at least an hour longer than I had planned. If it's possible to be emotionally attached to a store, well, they've achieved it. We will all miss this place so much!

In light of these sad changes, NOW is the time to say THANK YOU to everyone at the DANIEL SMITH flagship store!!!!!

Let's say thanks in our Urban Sketchers way by showing up for a sketchcrawl on Sunday, September 5 at 10am. Wear masks! We can sketch inside or outside, then post our work on Instagram with the hashtag #thankyoudanielsmithstoreseattle (yes, it's long, but worth it!)

Even if you can't make it on September 5, why not create your own thank you post and share it to the hashtag -- a place where the DS owners and staff can see how much they are loved and will be missed. Let's also encourage other artists we know to create their own posts and share their favorite memories to this hashtag. 

As they permanently shut their doors, let's say a huge Urban Sketchers THANK YOU to John, Thom, Patrice, Janice, our own Sue Heston, and everyone at DS!!! 

(And kudos to the store also for maintaining ALL of their full-time staff during the pandemic and beyond, they have all pivoted to working on the production side!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Rip Visits the U-District

8/18/21 Cross & Crown Church, U-District

Other than driving through, I haven’t spent much time in the University District since before the pandemic began. After dropping my car off for servicing, I had a good couple of hours to wander and see what had changed in a year and a half. Rip Van Winkle had another awakening: The sites of old buildings that were being torn down were now big holes or turning into new buildings in various stages of construction. Looking around at the many cranes, I could have stopped anywhere to juxtapose the old and the new, but I chose the corner of 12th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 47th Street to sketch the Gothic Cross & Crown Church with a big yellow bird beyond it (above).

Community seating area at 43rd and University Way

Sadly, many small businesses that were the bread and butter of the U-District closed during the pandemic, but others seemed to have survived. I was delighted to see that Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery at 43rd and University was still open. I got a double scoop in a dish and sat down in the large area of shared outdoor seating. My sketch turned out sloppy because I was trying to eat before the ice cream melted while sketching at the same time!

As I walked past nearby Ugly Mug CafĂ© and Coffee Roasters, I noticed several grimacing gargoyles on the building. I was too full of ice cream for more refreshments, but next time I sketch in the U-District, I’ll remember it.

Gargoyle at Ugly Mug Cafe

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Whale on a wagon

 This morning was another outing together, this time at Ballard Locks. I felt the relief of very comfortable temperature and better air quality.

I'm starting a series of whales on wagons! This is the second one I've seen and sketched.  The first one was in Bellingham and larger.  I always find these wacky things interesting. Scroll down to see the Bellingham one here.  

The Corps of Engineers building

We had a rather big group again of about 30 sketchers.... we're being extra cautious and wearing masks when not social distancing. 

Clean Air at Ballard Locks


8/15/21 Salmon Bay Bridge

Prompting much relief from all of us, the smoke from the past few days blew off, and we could breathe easily for the USk Seattle sketch outing at the Ballard Locks. I knew I hadn’t been there in a while, and my records show that the last time was nearly four years ago – the last time USk Seattle met there.

As I often am, I was again attracted to the Salmon Bay Bridge. When I began the sketch, the sky was overcast, but by the time I finished, I was standing in full sun.

Looking for some shade on the garden side of the park, I found a big banana plant, and I was happy to see that the primary triad I’ve been using gave my sketch a summery, tropical look. It was terrific to see that clean, clear blue sky again.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Rip Visits Lake Union Park

7/30/21 South Lake Union skyline from Lake Union Park

I had another Rip Van Winkle moment, this time at Lake Union Park, which I had last visited nearly two years ago. So many new buildings had popped up or been completed since then that it was disorienting. Thankfully, the Space Needle was still visible, but I wondered how much longer that would be true. Sketching with USk Seattle, I deliberately chose this view with new buildings obscuring it from this angle.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the sketch outing early to get to a class, so in the remaining time, I filled a couple of pages with quick gestures of sailboats. I’ve sketched boats on the lake before, but only as part of a larger scene. My goal with these was to simply capture their movement and varying angles as they went by. What fun!

Friday, July 30, 2021

USk at SLU

It was a scorcher as it eventually got to 93 degrees, which is too hot for us here in PNW.  We started in the morning with a cool breeze off the lake.  Urban Sketchers Seattle met at South Lake Union Park today.  

I stayed in the shade of the large MOHAI* building. I always like to sketch a view of the space needle.  If there's a crane in the frame, all the better.  Still so many cranes in SLU. 

Not wanting to walk around much in the increasing heat and unrelenting sun, I spotted this worker painting "Innovation". 

We had a goodly number of people attending. Tina left early but I think everyone else is in the photo. 

* MOHAI = Museum of History and Industry

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Farewell, Reckless

7/22/21 Reckless Video in the Maple Leaf neighborhood

Greg and I have been renting movies from Reckless Video since the days of VHS more than 30 years ago. One night during those early years, the building where Reckless was a tenant burned to the ground (insurance arson was rumored). Not too long afterwards, Reckless rose like a phoenix across the street, and we continued to rent movies there throughout the DVD and BluRay eras.

A couple of years ago, owner Mike Kelley, who opened the store when he was 31, let his loyal customers know that he was operating in the red. Over the years, it had become increasingly difficult to compete with streaming services, and most video stores had closed years ago. Unless he had a turnaround, his shop would be going the way of the Beta format. Saddened and alarmed by this news, I sketched the shop, Seattle’s last family-owned video rental store. At the time, he had signs up that said, “Burn Netflix” and “The Internet is not a neighborhood.”

We didn’t think Reckless would make it through the pandemic, but it somehow managed to keep its doors open – until now. Mike announced in May that the store would be closing for good. In his farewell message to customers on Facebook, he wrote:

Reckless is where I met my wonderful wife Kathy and we started a home and a family for our boy Joe. The video industry held unprecedented excitement for the first 20 years. The annual conventions in Vegas (aka world’s best party) are where Kathy and I met stars like Leonard Nimoy, Mary Tyler Moore, Martin Sheen, John Voight, Dennis Miller, Jeff Goldblum, Ice T, Nina Hartley, and the Fourth Ghostbuster!

In addition to Reckless, Mike’s family owns the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware store next door. He donates all the ice cream bars for the neighborhood Ice Cream Social every summer and contributes in many other ways. He’s the kind of business owner who helps a neighborhood feel like a community.

Last month Reckless rented its last video (we still had a couple of punches left on our pass, so we sadly made our last rentals). It’s now open till the end of July to sell off its inventory of discs.

I decided to make one more sketch of Reckless before it closed, this time to give to Mike. That same day, we walked over to Reckless together and perused the shelves for the last time. We bought a stack of movies we haven’t seen, but mostly I wanted them as mementoes of Reckless.

Shown below are the sketch from 2019 and the first one I made in 2014.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Back Out Again

It was wonderful to join a large group of sketchers for the 12th Anniversary of Seattle Urban Sketchers!

I choose to sketch a couple of the older shed buildings in one of the working areas of the terminal.  The Seattle Ship Supply Co. is no longer open for business since 2018.  The building was built in 1914 and is made from old-growth heavy timbers for its structural frame.  I painted it a few months back, but wanted to come back in the morning time to get the sunshine on the east side of the building.

 The other sketch was of some older shed buildings almost under the Ballard Bridge at the Fishing Vessel Owners Marine Ways, Inc. boatyard.  I was attracted to the yellow-colors and wanted the "Sacajawea" in the foreground of the sketch.  Looking forward to the next outing.

The Four and the Fifty

 As Tina explains below, today was Urban Sketchers Seattle's 12th Anniversary.  

From that first outing, 12 years ago: 

Today's group photo, courtesy of Stephanie Bower.  As Tina noted, about 50 people here represents what is likely our largest gathering ever!


 These four artists were at that first outing and have continued to participate over the ensuing dozen years.  Unfortunately, our founder, Gabi Campanario, was unable to join us today.  

 Frank Ching, Gail Wong, Frances Buckmaster, Mark Ryan

Oh, right.  I did do a sketch today.  Many people picked the Vernon as their subject and all of them are different.