Next Sketch Outing

Sunday, March 24, noon: Elysian Brewery (Georgetown)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hint of Spring at Bellevue's Botanical Garden

A group of ferns and a tree stub on the other side of the Suspension Bridge

Yesterday Scott and I visited Bellevue’s Botanical Garden for the first time. It’s a slightly wild and yet very urban park, with a pretty small Japanese Garden. The Garden was built in the 80's after Cal and Harriet Shorts donated a 7.5 acres of “arboretum” land to the City of Bellevue.

It was a great day to visit the Garden. The plants were full of buds and the air smelled and felt like Spring, even if Spring was not quite there yet. 

The Suspension Bridge at the “Ravine Experience”

We walked around for a while, then we crossed the wobbly suspension bridge that marks the "Ravine experience." I placed my stool in front of the bridge and sketched it as the sun was getting lower at the horizon. It was a beautiful, "suspended" moment. I thought how Nature is still so beautiful and inspiring.

I had with me a sketchbook that I made with Fabriano Artistico Hot Press watercolor paper and it made me think how much easier is to paint on real watercolor paper instead of the sketchbooks I normally use. 

Night Blooming, a sculpture by Taiji Miyasaka and David Drake on the Lost Meadow Trail.
It was a great afternoon. I want to come back later in the season, when all those buds will open up into beautiful flowers and the air will be even warmer and more fragrant.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kite Hill

3/16/19 Kite Hill at Gas Works Park

I’ve sketched at Gas Works Park probably more often than any other Seattle city park. The massive gas works themselves are almost always my focus; it’s hard to resist those mysterious, steampunkish structures. Today, though, I wanted to focus instead on all the happy locals reveling in the sunshine on Kite Hill. It’s been a long, record-breakingly cold winter, and just being able to take a walk without a down jacket felt like a celebration.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

a station without a train

Stepping into Union Station on Friday Morning, a building I have walked past without a thought dozens of times, I had that feeling of "wow! I didn't know this was here!" It was dazzling walking into the white tiled Beaux-Arts space, lined with parlor palms in perfectly spherical planters.

Inside is a generously sized, open public space with immaculate restrooms. As others mentioned, there's no café here, but true free public space in Seattle is so limited I think it's nice to not have an obligation to buy anything. It's a waiting room for nothing. A relic of the old days of the ample rail-based public transit in the city, so much of which is gone/disused/buried in the asphalt now. 

And naturally, Seattle's homeless/mentally ill folks congregate in public spaces like these, for good reason...I'd certainly come here too. While we were sketching, a man entered shouting and ranting, the sounds bouncing off the tiles & the vaulted ceiling, amplifying his unintelligible anger into an echoing roar as everyone hunkered down and tried to ignore it. Eventually he was guided out by a security officer. it reminded me of the outsized impact of a relatively small number of homeless and transient people in Seattle, and the how most of us notice these sad situations, feel bad about it, and move on with our lives in our different spaces. I wondered where the man ended up going after he was escorted out.

On the other side of the space, another man quietly read a newspaper on the pew, surrounded by plastic bags stuffed full of things.

I was trying out the Viviva Color Sheets, which are like swatches of dry watercolor pigments that come bound in a little book. The color from them is! Quite saturated! I asked the rep who sent these to me about their lightfastness, because they remind me of liquid watercolors (dye-based pigments that look SUPER bright like these, but they fade fast) ...haven't heard back yet.

After the sketching meetup & errands, I went up to my studio in Belltown. But first, I needed to abate my caffeine headache, so I got an americano at nearby Bedlam Coffee - one of those lovely places stuffed full of whimsical, curated junk! I wanted a window seat but they were all taken. Instead my view was of a muttering bearded man sipping one out of several paper cups. He was curious about my drawing but also shy; I don't know what he would have thought if he realized I was drawing him. Two ladies chatted in the sunshine by the window, and next to me I listened in on a painfully chipper corporate interview.

After finally getting work done, I went out for a beer with an artist friend, Sarah. Ah, the simple pleasure of consuming alcohol at an establishment at the end of a work week! Pike Brewing, as we know, is another of these Curated Junk places that you can discover many fun details through sketching. There really is an insane amount of Stuff here. 

One last social sketch: my studio coworkers have a plein air club, and I went out to their meetup on Saturday. We sketched a bit at King Street Station, then walked over to Zeitgeist Coffee for more. Again, those Viviva color sheets are SO much more saturated than I'm used to (see: bright red table). Jackie, left, struggled with the Sketcher's Conundrum: sketching food but also wanting to eat the food, and then getting distracted and forgetting not to eat it. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Winter sketching

Oddly enough, and in spite of all my grumbling I've filled over two sketchbooks and then some since January 1. They aren't all beautiful or even finished sketches. Lots of exploration, trying out new materials. Just keeping the engine running basically.

This past week, however I've had two sketching sessions that made me think I either deserve a medal or a mental exam. Admittedly, I wasn't in the midst of the polar vortex, but still... it was pretty cold. Here's a couple of examples:

McMenamins Olympic Club, Centralia, WA

Century Theatres, Ruston Point, near Tacoma WA
 You can read more of my recent adventures here. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

One more time at Union Station

We met again at Union Station. At one time, this was a train station but now it is the headquarters for Sound Transit.  

Union Station was constructed between 1910 and 1911 to serve the Union Pacific Railroad and the Milwaukee Road. It was originally named Oregon and Washington Station, after a subsidiary line of the Union Pacific. It was built in the Beaux-Arts Architectural style. From Wiki: After nearly 30 years of sitting idle, the station finally experienced an expansive renovation supported by Nitze-Stagen with financial backing from Paul Allen. The Union Station renovation was the winner of the 2000 National Historic Preservation Award.

By the time for the throw down, a goodly number of sketchers had gathered.

Thanks to Sean for the group photo.

On my way in, the train wasn't too crowded so I could sketch.  Two sketches on the light rail train ride into Seattle.

Field Notes Signature Sketchbook

A sketcher reported that there were more sketchers over at King Street station next door.  There seemed to be some confusion about at which station to meet.  So I went over and found a couple there. I also decided to get another sketch for the USk Flickr group's weekly theme, which is "vending machines". This is an AmTrak ticket vending machine. It might also do for next week's theme of "trains and train stations"!

Strathmore Mixed Media 5x8

I had a little time left, so sketched this detail that is repeated all over the upper level.  The "O W" initials refer to the station's original name, Oregon and Washington Station.  We were curious about the meaning of "OW" so I looked it up after I got home. 

Stillman & Birn Beta pocket sketchbook

My main sketch of this location was a small section of wall. It was the Beaux-Arts era lamps that attracted me to this view.

Strathmore Mixed Media 5x8

More photos here.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Union Station

3/8/19 Union Station
Almost exactly three years ago when Urban Sketchers Seattle met at Union Station, I chose the fern planters and light fixtures as my subject – with a bit of the architecture for good measure. This time I was less ambitious – no architecture at all!

Although I didn’t sketch it, I did appreciate the building’s lovely restoration (backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen 20 years ago). Built in 1911, Union Station has not been used by trains since 1971. Rented out for events in the evenings and weekends, the building’s main daytime use is office space. Plenty of chairs and tables are scattered about the huge hall, but strangely, no food or beverages are available. That means that sketchers can feel free to use the space without buying so much as a cup of coffee.

Although we sketchers occupied most of the tables, the space was also taken up by some locals. To kill a few minutes before the throwdown, I sketched this man, who seemed to be transporting all of his worldly possessions in a roller suitcase and a garbage bag.

3/8/19 Union Station

Only the man at far right was not a sketcher!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Lunar NY Festival

Happy Year of the Pig! Urban Sketchers met at Hing Hay park in the International District to document the belated Lunar New Year celebration after it was postponed due to snowpocalypse. I'm so glad I went to this, it was a great time, and I ate so much. But first, I sketched this view of three landmarks you can see from the park: the archway, the gate, and King Street Station. This was pretty ambitious and I could have planned the composition better but it was fun! My favorite area is honestly the simple little spire from the train station. It was convenient to keep an eye on the time by looking at its clock.

I was also pretty psyched with this found work surface, which allowed me a great view and relative comfort while working on this fairly long sketch. The ubiquitous No Parking sign stands at hip-height for me and has a gap at the top just wide enough to balance a drawing board (actually it's a 12x15" shipping envelope with a piece of cardboard inside, works great!) on top of, and just narrow enough to keep my watercolor set stable. And the top of the triangle is a perfect hook for keeping my backpack off the ground! What more could you ask for?

After finishing the top sketch, which took about 1 hour 15 minutes, I rushed away to try to get another drawing in quickly before throwdown time. That arch is striking from any angle! The shape is very clean and clear, the color pops, and you can add as much/as little detail as you want and it still is recognizable. I used another of my new fountain pens, not realizing the ink was not totally waterproof. Blue and brown is always a good combo in watercolor...but overall this one kind of got away from me!

The organizers had put together a $3 special food menu with dozens of restaurants in the ID participating. You got a stamp for each dish you purchased, and if you got 5 stamps you could enter into a raffle for free tickets to Hong Kong. My bf and I both filled one out and stuffed the slip into a very full box before we left. 🤞🤞 I love that they made it so easy to sample all the great local restaurants, and I wish more neighborhoods had such accessible and fun festivals.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Vending as the weekly theme

Did you know that the Urban Sketchers group on Flickr has a weekly theme?  You have to look at discussions to see it but it's usually the first post "stickied" at the top. 

The weekly theme now is "vending".  I don't always do a new sketch for the theme but this time I had the time and opportunity to do so. I would have preferred to sketch a tech vending machine at the airport or the office supply one at UW Tacoma library.  But this is the one I could get to easily today.  

This is on the second floor of Southcenter mall in Tukwila.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

let's convene at the conservatory

 Last week, a few friends and I met up at the Volunteer Park Conservatory to take advantage of the last week of free admission! For the record, sketchers are more than welcome here (as long as we dispose of our paint water properly and don't block walkways, the standard stuff).

The CEO of and his family donated the free period to the community in honor of their parents. Apparently it used to be free all the time, back in the day, and they wanted to give the community the same opportunity they had growing up. I wish more million/billionaires did stuff like this! Fun fact: with his net worth, Jeff Bezos could cover the admission of every single human on earth 17 times and have plenty (and I mean PLENTY) left over 🙃

Anyway a few of us regular folks met up to sketch some plants. In addition to standalone flora (does this count as urban sketching?), I captured the above scene near the entrance, making sure to get in one of their excellent hand painted signs (did not do it justice). I had collaged a brochure from a Napa winery I visited a few weeks ago - it was too nice to recycle - onto this page, which worked so well for this composition! The tree in the top left happened to be right where a tree in the photo was, and the brick sidewalk lined up well with the floor. I used paint markers and whiteout and a new Lamy fountain pen April's friend gave me.

On the other side of the conservatory, I found a cactus I liked for its cute pink flowers and white danger fuzz, called Mammillaria Rhodantha. While standing & painting in this room for a while, I overheard the same conversation over and over: people really want to touch the cacti, even though they know they shouldn't. There are a lot of neat textures on those plants, and I think people are attracted to the dangerous aspect despite knowing better. I can tell you from experience that some of those needles are too small to see and you don't notice your finger is full of them until it's too late.

I enjoyed the delicate cantaloupe color of these mounted orchids. Actually all the colors in this view were really attractive to me - a light sage of the staghorn fern behind, the teal of the fence the mount was hanging on. I left an impression of these but my values/composition got a little out of control here so I felt like it would only take away from the orchid if I did any more.

April was also present and she did a lovely watercolor in the PNW flower room! It's more of a true urban sketch than the plant still lives I was making. I personally love the lampposts they have in this room, it's a nice touch.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Color and Sunshine for Belated Lunar New Year

3/2/19 Gateway sculpture at Hing Hay Park
3/2/19 King Street
Postponed due to last month’s snowstorm, Lunar New Year was as festive and colorful as ever in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District today. Despite temps in the mid-30s, the sunshine helped USk Seattle members stay warm in Hing Hay Park, where the bright red Gateway sculpture was a popular focal point for sketchers.

When the group met at the celebration two years ago, the street closures must have been different, because several of us were able to sketch from the middle of King Street with an unobstructed view of King Street Station and Chinatown Gate. This year, most of the merchant and food booths took up that space. I was determined, though, to squeeze all three neighborhood icons into this sketch at right: the station, the yellow gate and the red Gateway at far right.

The lion dance, of course, was the highlight of the festival, and I tried to capture as much as I could of the blur of red and yellow through the throngs.

3/2/19 lion dancer

As usual, I had a few minutes to kill before the throwdown, so I caught a few people snacking, watching the festivities or just hanging out in Hing Hay Park.

3/2/19 people at Hing Hay Park

Throwdown, including curious passers-by.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Music Everywhere

There was music all over the host hotel hallways and lobbies! We gathered for the 6th year in a row to sketch Wintergrass, a bluegrass festival held in Bellevue, WA.  And we had a good turnout.  On the left is Marcia, visiting from Michigan!  

While sketching the truck, below, I heard a flute! Once done with the sketch, I went to investigate. I found "Hall Crystal Flutes". They're made by James Hall out of glass
 I was enthralled. Have a listen. I was a serious flutist when I was young. I nearly bought one but decided it would be best if I was playing my modern flute more before I add another flute to my collection. Sigh.

Right after starting I went up to the second floor to one of my favorite spots. I found a seat next to a group of musicians and sketched a couple of them.

Next I went to the end of the first floor hall to find the old truck that Loretta mentioned. It is a 1941 Chevrolet 3/4 ton long bed named "Hank". Just as I finished, the two guitarists were packing up. Stuart, on the left, is also an artist so I gave him a USk card.

Lastly I stopped by a large group and sketched just a couple of the players. I noticed Steve's guitar only had 4 strings and he was playing the bass line. Normally, it would be a bass viol. I spoke with him briefly between sets and he said it was specially made for him by Taylor Guitars.

It was a good time. I'm going to think some more about that glass flute!

Still Drawin’ and Jammin’ at Wintergrass

2/22/19 Young musicians rehearsing at Wintergrass
I probably say this every year, but it’s difficult to sketch while your toes are tapping to bluegrass! For the sixth year, USk Seattle sketched at Wintergrass, the Seattle area’s annual bluegrass music festival at the Bellevue Hyatt Regency. It’s an annual favorite for good reason: Lively music is fun to sketch by, and all the jammers seem to be enjoying themselves. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

Guitar vendor
Friday morning seemed quieter than usual this year, and jammers hadn’t gathered yet. Hearing music from an auditorium, I slipped in to see what was going on (sketch at top of post). (Ticketed events are ongoing throughout the festival, but we never attend the scheduled events because so much free, spontaneous music is happening in the hotel’s public areas.) Several musical youth groups were rehearsing for later performances, all at the same time, so the music was . . . cacophonous. Still, it was fun to see fiddles and other instruments of all sizes to fit their owners.

I found a man selling guitars (he had a lot more for sale than I show in my sketch) in the vendor area. Some vendors had beautiful handcrafted mandolins, violins and banjos that were works of art themselves.

By the time I finished those sketches, jammers were starting to form small groups wherever they could fit a few chairs together. This is what I come to Wintergrass for: to sketch and listen to people making music spontaneously. It’s like the musical version of urban sketching!


I wish I'd asked what this instrument was called. . .
maybe a type of steel guitar?