Next Monthly Sketch Outing

Sunday, May 20, Wallingford Center
See Monthly Outing page for details.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sketchin’ and Chillin’ with Andika

Andika shows us how he makes confident lines.
(Photo by Jane Wingfield)
“Sketch ‘n’ Chill,” the title of Andika Murandi’s USk Seattle 10x10 workshop, is irresistible: Who doesn’t enjoy sketchin’ and chillin’? And the subtitle is even better: “No-stress interior sketching.” I’ve long admired Andika’s sketches of interior spaces that convey depth and complexity and yet stay small and simple. His workshop would be a good opportunity to learn his approach. I signed up immediately!

For the first half of the workshop, we met in Pioneer Square’s Grand Central Arcade, where Andika led us through practicing the very basics of any kind of drawing: making bold, confident lines instead of jaggy, tentative ones. By moving the whole arm and shoulder, not just the wrist, even when drawing in a small sketchbook, lines will be more controlled, continuous and consistent. 

He urged us to forget about erasing tentative pencil lines; instead, he encouraged going straight in with ink and “embracing the mistake.” To reinforce this attitude, he showed us examples from his own sketchbook where he had made incorrect lines initially and then restated them, but left the old lines in place. When he pointed them out, we could see the “wrong” lines, but they otherwise disappeared into the rest of the composition, which was confidently presented.

Line-drawing practice
Rooms can be simplified into trapezoids, rectangles and triangles.

As an architect, Andika pays attention to perspective in his sketches, yet with a casual, “no stress” approach. Most traditional lessons in perspective drawing begin with illustrations of one-point or two-point perspective in which the point where all those lines meet might be way outside the composition and halfway down the street. Instead of starting with a horizon line and vanishing point, he showed us how interior spaces can be simplified into rectangles and trapezoids (one-point perspective) and triangles and trapezoids (two-point perspective). Once you see those basic shapes in a room and form a composition around them, the rest is just details. Stress-free perspective!

With those lessons and line exercises under our belts, we proceeded to our first sketch within the Arcade’s large interior. I chose the two-point perspective of one of the main doorways somewhat complicated by the stairwell in the center of the room. I initially got the height of the stairwell wall wrong, but I drew the lines confidently and left them boldly in place. 😉

4/21/18 Grand Central Arcade

True to his personal philosophy of relaxing with a beverage and sketchbook in a café, for the second exercise we split up into two groups, each going to a nearby coffee shop. I was in the Caffe Umbria group, and I went to a back corner of the café. I again chose a two-point perspective looking toward the front of the room. (I was planning to “chill” with a mocha as Andika would do, but learning to draw always makes me hungry! I sketch ‘n’ scarfed a grilled veggie sandwich.)

4/21/18 Caffe Umbria

Before taking this workshop, my usual approach would have been to focus first on the two men sitting in front of me, then add the roaster, tables, chairs and other details around the men, and finally fill in the windows and walls in the background. But often what happens is that my scale or placement is off on the tables and chairs, so when I put in the walls and windows behind them, the whole room tends to skew. With Andika’s approach, the first lines I made were the shapes of the trapezoids and triangles of the walls, ceiling and floor. Although I probably didn’t get the perspective perfectly accurate, when I used those lines to guide the placement and scale of the details, they tend to look right.

Similar to Gabi’s “Pocket Urban Sketching” concepts or Sue Heston’s “sky shapes,” both learned in last year’s 10x10 workshops and that I find myself using often, Andika’s simple, straightforward approach is one that I could grasp easily in an hour and then practice immediately for reinforcement. I left the workshop feeling confident that I could use his approach for interior spaces whenever I want to show the whole room – without thinking about where all those perspective lines eventually meet up. Sketch ‘n’ chill, indeed!

Final throwdown
A stress-free group! (Photo by Jane Wingfield)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Determined Enjoyment

Sometimes weather conditions are not the most conducive to enjoyable outdoor sketching. This past Sunday was such a day. I haven't been to a sketch outing since January so I was looking forward to Sunday's sketch outing at Westlake Station. I figured the indoor/outdoor option of the light rail station would offer a safe option, protected from left-over wintery winds. However when I met the cool air funneling up from the light rail station, my assumption dissolved. Thinking street-side might have the possibility of added sunshine, I headed up to the street.

I did a thumbnail or two of the Westin Hotel with the Monorail in the forefront - a classic scene, but the best angle was from the middle of 5th avenue, so I kept scouting. I was determined to enjoy a morning of sketching even if it was through chattering teeth.

When I entered Westlake Center to warm up I noticed City Dog's hot dog stand sitting across the street. I'm a sucker for bright colors in a sketch scene, so I gave it a shot.

Actually two shots, one from a distance and one closer-up.

By the time I was finished I was shivering so I treated myself to a white chocolate mocha before meeting up with the group again. Sometimes enjoyment of Seattle's spring weather only comes through determination . . . and a little coffee.

Later I popped in to Seattle Art Museum. While listening to the docent tell the story of a remarkable show, "Figuring History", I sketched the visitors.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Westlake challenges

Urban Sketches Seattle met at Westlake Station. It's in what's known as the "bus tunnel" under downtown Seattle. I think it's the largest of the tunnel stations and is under a major shopping area.

It sheltered us from a day of frequent drizzle. At least 3 sketchers left early and aren't in the final group photo:

I struggled with my sketches today. I tried a larger format on a hot press 8x10 Fluid 100 paper. Hated it and thus unhappy with the sketch, too.

I did one sketch I liked on the good ole' Legion Stonehenge Aqua. It's a sculptural light fixture that's all along the station.

A few more photos here

Westlake Station and the Monorail

4/15/18 Westlake Station platform level
Westlake Station, in the middle of downtown Seattle’s retail corridor, is also the hub of the city’s public transportation system. You can catch buses and light rail trains from this station. You can walk over to Westlake Center and hop on the Monorail. Or you can just stay and shop.

Despite all that is going on there, it took me a long time to find a composition I wanted to sketch. Maybe I was just feeling picky, but everything inside the station seemed too dark, too plain, too fancy or just too difficult. I started questioning why we picked this location for a USk Seattle outing! Finally I leaned over every railing that looked down on the platform level to find a view where two women were waiting for the train.

4/15/18 Fifth and Pine

After wandering around the station a bit longer, uninspired, I zipped up my jacket (thankfully I wore my down) and went out to the street. Lending light but not much warmth, the sun appeared occasionally. On the corner of Fifth and Pine, I found a street scene I wanted to capture: The Monorail and the round twin towers of the Westin Hotel (plus a lot of scaffolding that seems to be marring much of the view in this area). With all the buildings that have been popping up (as well as torn down) over the past decade and especially the last few years, at least those two icons haven’t changed much since I was a kid.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jane’s Workshop Captures People at the MarketFront

4/14/18 Kay focuses on people, not the pig, in Jane's workshop.

On a drizzly morning mobbed with the usual Saturday crowds, the Pike Place Market’s MarketFront sheltered Jane Wingfield’s 10x10 USk workshop students as they sketched people “inside-out.” Eavesdropping on Jane’s lessons and demos as I snapped photos and sketched her students, I found myself almost unconsciously following her principles: Focusing on essential lines of action and drawing in a fluid manner to capture gestures and movements.

4/14/18 Jane and her students hard at work.
An interesting and useful exercise Jane used was to hold a pose (see photos below) for several seconds as students sketched her. When she no longer held the pose, they were to continue finishing the drawing from memory – an essential skill to develop when sketching anything that moves constantly (I try to do this frequently with people as well as animals). She told me later that she gives her students this exercise because most people in public places like the Market are not making a wide variety of poses other than milling about or standing.

4/14/18 Queued up for piroshky

Stopping for a quick bite at Michou Deli, I grabbed a stool at the windows looking directly out onto the sidewalk, where a long line of people waited their turn at Piroshky, Piroshky. Queuing people usually aren’t very active, but I still tried to capture their individuality by focusing on their posture. If you observe closely, there’s a line of action (or inaction) even when people are doing nothing but standing.

Jane holds a pose for a few seconds so that her students can keep it in memory and continue drawing after the pose is gone.

Another pose Jane holds for a few seconds for her students to capture from sight and memory.

Jane offers feedback to Kay.

It's raining, but Jane's students stay dry under the shelter of the Pike Place Market's MarketFront, which is surrounded by natural light.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Roastery’s Complexity Still Challenges

4/13/18 First Covenant Church
When we planned our sketch outing at the Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room, it was impossible to know if the weather would allow us to sketch outdoors, too. Our dry-weather contingency plan was Plymouth Pillars Park and the First Covenant Church, both within a block of the Roastery.

4/13/18 One of the Roastery's several tasting bars
Rain was in the forecast, and it was already spitting when I got off the bus. Since I had arrived a little early, I ducked under an overhang across the street from the church and grabbed a quick sketch of that beautiful golden cupola before the rain got worse. And worsen it did, so I gave up my plan of grabbing the pillars, too.

I spent the rest of the morning inside the Roastery enjoying my Costa Rican pour-over and marveling as I always do at all there is to see there. As many times as USk Seattle has visited the Roastery (most recently just about a year ago), I haven’t yet tired of the complex, overwhelming interior of warm copper colors, snaking pipes and tubes and people everywhere.

4/13/18 Interesting lines, shapes and contrasts all around

Our turnout today was triple what it was a year ago at the same location!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Lower & Upper Antelope Canyons

View of the mountains from I15 North route towards Page
This Spring break we visited Page, Arizona. The drive from Las Vegas to Page was 4 hours 30 minutes. It was amazing to see the change of terrain, vegetation and weather. Whenever I was on passenger seat I sketched most of the roads. The roads were with less vehicles and as far as the vision goes one could see barren land, blue sky and mountains in background. Curvy, bumpy and straight roads. The bright sunshine was throughout with us which I literally enjoyed.

While seating on passenger seat, I sketched these roads. These curvy roads making their way through red rocks.

St.George, in backdrop was green mountains and in front red rocks rocked!

Antelope Canyon lies on the Navajo land east of Page and the only way to see them is by taking a guided tour. Antelope Canyon is a breathtaking destination. Two different slot canyons make up Antelope Canyon and both offer very different experiences.

For Lower Antelope we opted Ken's Tours and time slot was 4:00-5:00 pm, 60 minutes tour. Pre-booking of these tours is a must! A group of 8-10 people is allotted to each guide. Our guide Christen escorted us to Lower Antelope. It was very windy and sandy. No backpacks, purses, sling bags are allowed inside the canyons. Only cameras, cell phones and things that fit into your pockets and in mine, I carried Field Notes, white gel pen, Pentel paint brush pen and pigment pens. Field Notes are very handy and I thank Tina for making it available for me. Lower Antelope is famous for its ladders. To get there, you have to descend through the steep ladders. The space inside the canyons is very narrow and all the time sand particles are falling from the upper surface. It was thrilling experience to climb down those ladders. 

Industrial Park which is visible at a distance from Lower & Upper Antelope 

Sketching inside these canyons was wonderful. These are very quick sketches as we have to stick to our guides and follow them. To save my time on coloring I chose Field notes(Red) to give sandstone effect and used white gel pen for light. Though all sketches might look similar but the feel through these curvatures was stunning! I was drawn by the unique topography and sweeping red curves. Its beautiful to see the sunbeams shinning in through the canyons and I felt connected with Nature. Lower Antelope is a one way hike and comparatively less crowded.

Upper terrain(contours) of Lower Antelope Canyon
The curves are formed by water and wind rushing through the middle of Canyon. Lower Antelope also referred as 'The Corkscrew".

The beautiful red curves wanna be a part of today's world.
Through our imagination, these curves resemble a 'Smiling Shark'
from Finding Nemo and many more such fictions.
The black dots are Iron oxide deposits.
Next day at 10:00 am was the time slot for Upper Antelope Canyon. It was 90 minutes tour with Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours. The military truck took us to the entrance of Upper Antelope Canyon. The ride was adventurous, lots of sand and dust in the air. Gib our tour guide narrated entire history of canyons and helped us taking photographs.
The sketching experience inside these canyons was different as it was flat ground and more crowd. Upper Antelope Canyon is a mix of warm colors - reds, oranges, yellows and browns. The entrance and exit is same here and hoards of people can be seen. The beam of light through the slots is worth seeing.

The Roller coaster ride of Military truck till the entrance of Upper Antelope.
Sandy, dusty and hot weather.
Layers of rocks and vegetation is still making its way.

It was the best time to visit those light beams. The light beams are the biggest perk of visiting Upper Antelope Canyon. It was completely different and incredible sketching experience! and Yeah! another tick on my bucket-list!!
It feels like a 'Glowing candle'!

  Sun light passing through cliffs!

              It was almost noon and perfect timing to see the beam of light.
           All photographers were in their positions to capture those sun rays.
     Truly magical!!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Stephanie Puts Everything Into Perspective

4/7/18 Stephanie demo-ing for her workshop students.

I poked my head into Stephanie Bower’s USk 10x10 workshop this morning at King Street Station. Called “Good Bones” for its emphasis on building a strong support for a sketch with confident perspective, it’s a workshop I fondly recall taking myself a few years ago and which was immensely useful and instructive. Her students watched with rapt attention as she demonstrated her principles.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Travel Sketching Essentials, April 21 at 2pm

Have you ever wondered what equipment Urban Sketchers use on their travels? Well, I have bought and tried it all, hauled it to 5 continents, and I’ve seen what inventive things other sketchers use too.

To help everyone get ready for their summer sketching, I’ll be sharing my best tips and tools, showing recent Italy/England/India sketches, and giving a quick demo at an open, free event at Daniel Smith in Seattle.  

Saturday, April 21
Daniel Smith Art Store in Seattle

And come early, as the world-renowned watercolor artist, Alvaro Castagnet, will be giving a watercolor painting demo the same day from 11am-12:30pm.

Hope to see everyone there!

Thanks to Laurel Holmes for this photo taken at steamy Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Inside the Spheres

3/27/18 A view of the top two floors
A couple of months ago Greg and I went to the Amazon Spheres visitors center, which is on the street-level floor of the bubble-shaped complex. Since it was the first time the public had access to the long-anticipated buildings, many were disappointed that they couldn’t go up into the terrarium-like space where all the amazing plants were. I knew that was off-limits to us, so I had checked my expectations, but I still hoped that we would get an opportunity to go inside the Spheres themselves someday. Recently Amazon began allowing the public inside if accompanied by an employee, so our friend Julie invited us. What a cool privilege it was to be inside one of Seattle’s most intriguing buildings!

3/27/18 A conference room "nest" atop the trees
As soon as we walked in, our glasses steamed up! The temperature is kept in the 70s and the air very humid, like a tropical rainforest. Normally I don’t like humidity, but after walking several blocks in the drizzly cold, it felt good to shed my down jacket and be instantly warm.

First Julie walked us around each level of the five-story building so we could take photos and experience the lush, surrounding green. All the exotic plants are labeled as in a botanical garden. Nothing is at right angles or has sharp corners; everything is curved or organic. Tucked in around all the plantings are small seating areas for employees to work quietly or hold meetings. (No employees have offices in the Spheres, but any can use the space whenever they want to. If I worked for Amazon, I think I’d find an excuse to go to the Spheres every day!) A concession area offers snacks to hungry Amazonites. I was tempted by the donuts, but I didn’t want to waste precious sketching time eating.

Julie had generously taken an hour and a half out of her work day to accompany us, so after our walk-through, I had to budget the remaining time carefully. So much to sketch, so little time – and all of it overwhelming! What to choose, what to choose?

3/27/18 Lush and green inside; cold steel and glass outside
I had my eye on the coolest “conference room”: the “nest” perched high in the trees. A meeting had just broken up when I started to sketch it, so I turned around to sketch the larger view of a couple of the upper floors first (top of post). When I had finished, another meeting had started in the nest, so I quickly sketched that before we moved on. The surrounding natural light made sketching delightful.

With only 10 minutes remaining, I had to think and sketch fast. I picked an umbrella-shaped tree with fern-like foliage. In the background of every view are those crazy windows that look like they should form a geometric pattern but don’t. Through the windows of the warm bubbles, you can see the cold canyons of steel and glass that seem so ordinary by comparison.

Soon enough, it was time to put our jackets on and go back out to cold reality. 

The Spheres from outside

The "green wall" is a popular selfie spot

Climbing vines on the pillars
The "nest" from below

The "nest" from above

Thanks, Julie, for a peek inside the fantastic Spheres!