Next Sketch Outing

Friday, May 24, 10 a.m.: Folklife Festival

Sunday, May 19, 2019

50th Annual U-District Streetfair

5/19/19 Didgeridoo busker
While the summer season offers a multitude of community festivals and fairs, the University District Streetfair holds the distinction of being the country’s longest-running festival of its kind. USk Seattle helped celebrate the fair’s 50th year on 10 city blocks of art and craft vendors, street food and music.

As I usually do at street fairs, I found myself irresistibly drawn to a wide variety of buskers. A classical cellist, a tuba and clarinet/washboard duo and a didgeridoo player (whom I had caught a couple of years ago at Folklife, too) were among the musicians performing for the crowd.

While sketching the guys on tuba and clarinet, I was standing near a very colorfully dressed balloon man who had created an eye-catching palm tree (I think?). He asked me to guard his prop and supplies while he went to use the restroom, so I obliged. When he returned, he told me a lengthy story about how a competing balloon vendor at another fair had stolen a hundred dollars’ worth of balloons from him, so he has been extra-cautious ever since. “I don’t trust just anyone to watch my stuff, though,” he assured me. “Usually I ask first if they are from Vashon Island to make sure I can trust them.” He had more stories to tell, but he was interrupted by customers (though he didn’t seem particularly happy about it).

5/19/19 Colorful balloon man with stories to tell.
Meanwhile, the tuba player came over to see what I was doing. Relieved that I was only sketching, he and the clarinet player had been afraid that I was writing them a citation.

The other balloon vendor I sketched had no drama to impart. A young man who was good with kids, he first started making what I thought was a tall purple crown, but he suddenly had so many customers that his headwear remained unfinished while I sketched. Later I saw in Swagatika’s sketch that it wasn’t a crown at all – it was the foundation for a well-designed unicorn. 

After all that, I got hungry, so I explored the food booths, which are getting more and more state fair-like. Deep-fried PB&J, anyone?

Langostino sushi burrito, didgeridoo, and balloon man drama: Something for everyone at the U-District Streetfair.

5/19/19 Jazz and blues from clarinet/tuba players

5/19/19 classical cellist
5/19/19 This balloon vendor began by making his own
headgear, but he got too busy to finish.
P.S. Although I forgot to mention it there, today’s outing was a personal celebration for me: It was my seventh anniversary since joining Urban Sketchers on May 20, 2012!

Swagatika sketching the cellist


Friday, May 10, 2019

Another Shot at Rainier Square Tower

5/10/19 Rainier Square Tower under construction and Rainier Tower
Back in March I sketched Rainier Square Tower from a handy, secluded terrace at Fourth and University (thanks to Andika Murandi for the tip!). It looked like an ideal spot for an Urban Sketchers outing: Lots of tables and chairs, most in shade, and views of assorted buildings – old, new and under construction. It was, indeed, ideal today, when the temperature hit the 80s. In the morning shade, it was downright chilly!

I took a second shot at the twin towers – the new one and the old Rainier Tower, built in 1977. The new construction’s stair-stepping looks strange right now, but when it’s completed (see the illustration here), the asymmetrical building will make more visual sense. According to developer Wright Runstad’s website, the “sloping design echoes the lines of Rainier Tower and allows for panoramic views.” They’ll make an interesting pair, for sure.  

Next I turned 180 degrees to sketch the top of the 27-story Seattle Tower (below). Built in 1928, it was known as Seattle’s first art deco building. I thought that using my red/blue editing pencil might help me to identify and draw the slender slivers of light and triangles of shadows. But mostly I got confused by all the ziggurat layers that gave me a stiff neck.
5/10/19 Seattle Tower

Growing on the terrace were several Japanese maples. A different variety from the ones in my ‘hood that stay red year-round, these were green (and are probably lovely in the fall). Practicing their similar umbrella shapes the past couple weeks was helpful here. I also wanted to show that these maples were in the shade, while the tall trees on the street level behind them were in full sun. 

5/10/19 4th and University terrace

Hidden Gem

Urban Sketchers Seattle met at a second floor public patio in the financial district. It certainly was a hidden gem of a location. We had a good view of the oddly shaped Rainier Tower and the surrounding structures and construction site(s). One sketcher quipped that the Tower looked like beavers had been working at it!   

A few sketchers had already left by the time we took the group photo. 

Nearly all of us sketched the Rainier tower and the nearby crane.

Since I had over an hour left, I decided to take on the architectural details of the upper level of the Cobb Building next door.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Reckless Video Redux

5/5/19 Reckless Video in the Maple Leaf neighborhood

It’s not looking good for Reckless Video.

The last independent video rental store in Seattle, Reckless is where we have been renting movies in the Maple Leaf neighborhood for nearly 30 years. Although we subscribe to Amazon Prime and occasionally stream entertainment that way, we still enjoy walking up the street a few blocks, chatting with the staff and other customers about their recommendations, and occasionally running into neighbors there. Even the rack of candy for sale and posters on the wall feel more friendly than scrolling through titles on Amazon. As a sign at Reckless says, “the Internet is not a neighborhood.”

One by one, as other video rental shops have closed their doors during the past decade, Reckless has somehow managed to stay open. However, a recent article in The Seattle Times reported that Reckless is now operating in the red, which can’t continue forever. “But I don’t want to just close down and not let people know this is happening,” owner Mike Kelley is quoted saying.

I felt very sad reading this news. Maybe Netflix, Prime and other streaming services are just the way of the world now, and it’s time for Reckless to die. When it does, we’ll just stream our entertainment on Prime, so it’s not as if we’ll miss out on the latest movies or TV series. But I’ll certainly miss our ritual of walking up there to pick out a movie and chatting with the staff about their favorites.

I sketched Reckless five years ago, and even back then I wondered how much longer it would be around. But it has hung on so far, and I wanted to sketch it again. Mike has some new flags out front. One says, “Shop Local.” The other says, “Burn Netflix.”

Monday, April 29, 2019

San Diego Maritime Museum

Russian sub and vintage wooden ships at the San Diego Maritime Museum.


We make an annual trip to Bellingham, WA for Linux Fest NW. It's a conference about the free and open computer operating system.  Himself spends all day Saturday and Sunday there. I usually sketch and visit some interesting shops. I pick and choose what I attend at the conference.

During the drive north on Friday, we took a short detour to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This was the last weekend and most of the tulip fields had been harvested. I found one smallish field at Tulip Town.

After dropping Himself at Linux Fest on Saturday morning, I joined the Urban Sketchers Bellingham for their outing at the Farmers Market. I was early so walked around a bit but the wind was chilly. I stopped at Woods Coffee to warm up and sketch.

The B'ham Farmers Market has a lot of good artists and crafters. It was hard not to spend my sketching time looking at their work. I did do so after. My first sketch was of Jesse, a teen aged violinist with a busking permit for the Market.

The sketchers planned to "meet at the goat". This small statue of a working goat seems to be the easy spot to meet. It was a challenge to sketch because so many people were meeting. And sitting. And climbing. That chilly wind was ever present... note the blowing hair.

We met to share sketches at the side of the Market building, out of the wind.

The afternoon was spent in the charming Fairhaven neighborhood. I sketched the Dirty Dan statue again. There was a brief sprinkle but I was able to shelter under a covered lanai to finish the sketch.

On Sunday I spent most of the morning at Linux Fest.  But the afternoon was for sketching. I went to the new Waypoint Park. This area was under construction when we were here last year. The "Acid Ball", circa 1938 is part of the park build out. The concept creator was Mutuus Studio of Burien. "The Acid Accumulator from the defunct Georgia Pacific mill on Bellingham's waterfront has been transformed into a new art installation".  The title is "Waypoint".  It is covered in sprayed on, reflective, tiny glass beads. I added more industrial structures but I don't know what these are.

And then it was time to pick up Himself and head home.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Jasmine Air

One reason I enjoy traveling is because of urban sketching opportunities.  Unfamiliar places inspire creative action in my sketchbook!  Although I was happily busy with family, my recent trip to Southern California had room for sketching in moderation.

Upon arrival to Orange County, I had a short window of time to sketch the geometric clean lines and  palms at the John Wayne airport terminal.  The sunshine felt good and the air smelled of lavender. 

John Wayne Airport, California
One rule in Orange County is beach time. I drove to North Beach, found a parking spot and carried my beach chair down to the edge of the ocean.  Just like me, there was another solitary figure on the beach gazing at the surf. She looked content. She soon flipped over and took out an iPad. 
North Beach, San Clemente, CA
The sound of surf and seagulls crying is a tonic.  I could have stayed for hours. To the North, a house precariously situated on a spit of land looked safe propped up by boulders.  I imagine ocean surround sound day and night is worth the risk. 
Pacifit Ocean view, North Beach, San Clemente, CA
My next beach excursion was to Dana Point Harbor Baby Beach.  Filled with families, an extended group with lots of babies lined up in front of me.
Dana Point Harbor Baby Beach
During a visit to a resort next to Dana Point City Park, a little boy playing mini golf in a white terry cloth hotel robe experienced a day of luxury.  Covered with yellow wild flower blooms, the  normally dry brown hills in the background looked like undulating yellow-green velvet. 
Marriot,Dana Point, CA.
  With enough sand in my shoes, I headed north to Los Angeles on MetroLink.  Slowly but surely, the population density and concrete increased.  I arrived at Union Station and would have enjoyed sketching the historic venue but had to hurry along to my destination.  

My host’s backyard is a secret garden full of fragrant Jasmine. The mature plant climbing up the wall was pretty to look at and a joy to sketch.  Surrounded by lavender, birds of paradise and colorful sweet-smelling flowers, it’s a secret garden in an endless metropolis. 
Jasmine air
Out the kitchen window, a Bougainvillea stretches its graceful arch of magenta flowers in a spidery web of vines.
Bougainvillea masterpiece
At a nearby park,  nannies line up with their charges for a bit of exercise and socialization.
Robert Burns Park, Los Angeles
No trip is complete without a final airport sketch.
People and carry-on luggage

Palace of the Pacific

The Showbox turns 80 this year. It opened on July 24, 1939 as the Showbox Ballroom and it is legendary for it's history of performers who have graced it's halls and helped put Seattle on the music map. This past Saturday, I joined several Seattle Urban sketchers, including some I haven't seen in a while.

It started as a bright sunny day and I chose a shaded spot almost directly under the sign so it wouldn't be blocked by the spring foliage, lovely, but not my focus. After getting the basic lines on the page, I was shivering. So I retreated to a coffee shop to warm up.

After the throwdown and lunch I emerged into a much warmer afternoon. Thinking about my upcoming workshop, People in Places, I plopped down my stool on the entrance to Pike Place and thought I'd do a quick sketch, this time in the sunshine. Quick on an A-4 sized sketchbook soon becomes a longer sketch. I have to learn to break up the page. 

Bolstered by the afternoon sunshine I went back to the Showbox to finish my sketch. As I sat on the sidewalk next to the bus carrying that evening's entertainment, the Jesse James band and their entourage, a few people approached. One a photographer, Peter Arthur, who is documenting Seattle's streets and asked to take my photo.

We chatted about Seattle's streets and urban sketchers. Soon some roadies emerged from the truck and met up with their co-workers who told them Brandi Carlile and Dave Grohl had just been busking at the market. I missed the epic spontaneous performance by just a few minutes, but finished my sketch. Priorities.

Friday, April 26, 2019

I’m a Magnet for Heavy Equipment

4/26/19 former Key Arena under renovation
Ostensibly this morning's sketch outing was scheduled for the Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion. An indoor venue, it was a safe bet for these iffy spring days. My secret intention, however, was to sketch outdoors as long as the weather was hospitable, and it was. In the sunshine, I would even go so far as to call it “warm”!

4/26/19 at the foot of the Space Needle
In all directions, the Seattle Center is full of things to sketch, but I just followed my ears to the noisy commotion at the former Key Arena, which is undergoing a major renovation. Sitting on the edge of the International Fountain, I caught a crane and a few smaller machines doing their thing. The only problem was that from that distance, I didn’t realize the crane was standing on a lower level, so I couldn’t see most of its base. It looks like a crane without an engine. (Still, I’m pleased that I was able to get both the crane and the arena in the same composition while maintaining the correct proportions on both – all on a 5½-by-8½-inch page. I credit Gabi Campanario’s Pocket Urban Sketching workshop for that.)

I seem to be a magnet for heavy equipment – no matter where I go, I find some. (I realize that’s not a challenge in this city.) At the foot of the Space Needle, I found a machine with nothing to do, but its tire treads made an interesting study of light and shadow, as did the Needle itself.

Welcome to several new members, including two visiting from San Diego!

Back Sketching from a Long Winter

It has been a long time since I posted anything on any blog.  Lately I have been too busy to do it.  
Here are my two sketches from last Saturday's Sketch Crawl  at the Show Box.
I didn't even realize that it was an historic theater or that it was slated to be torn down.  

It was nice we had a chance to memorialize this part of Seattle's history as our built environment is changing daily.  

The weather got a little chilly so a few of us decided to go some place warm to do another sketch.  The sketch below was taken from Storyville Coffee shop in the Corner Market on the second floor.  It was nice, cozy and warm there.

The Show Box
Storyville Coffee Shop