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Beacon Hill Station
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Mega Pity Party Weekend!

8/11/17 Part of Calder's Eagle at the Sculpture Park
When we heard that the 5th Annual West Coast Sketch Crawl in Vancouver, B.C., had been cancelled, many of us in Seattle were very disappointed. I had a great time in Tacoma last year and in San Diego the year before, and I had been looking forward to another terrific long weekend of sketching in that lovely Canadian city to the north.

The USk Seattle admin team decided that we weren’t going to cry over lost sketching. For the same weekend that would have been the Sketch Crawl, we scheduled an extravaganza of outings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not intended to be a formal replacement for the cancelled event, it was just a way to give everyone as many sketch outing options as possible as we move toward the waning days of summer.

8/11/17 Space Needle




On Friday we met at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which has become something of a summertime staple. Although I sketch Calder’s Eagle just about every time I visit (last yeartwice in 2014 and in 2013)I was magnetically drawn to it yet again. This time, however, I chose a partial view, and as I sketched, I remembered fondly Calder’s similar but much larger Flamingo in Chicago.

I wandered around the park a long time, simply enjoying the not-too-hot sunshine and not feeling particularly compelled – until I saw the Space Needle peeking over some buildings. Then with only a few minutes before the throwdown, I made a quick sketch above the amphitheater with Richard Serra’s Wake in the background. The empty space on the page was a good spot to hold the badge that Kate had playfully given to participants.

8/11/17 Amphitheater and Richard Serra's Wake

8/12/17 Sketcher on the ferry
For Saturday, Day 2 of our extravaganza, we chose Bainbridge Island for an entire day of sketching. Meeting up on the ferry, most of us started sketching right away, and I spotted a woman I didn’t know who looked like she was sketching, too. When we talked to her later, it turned out Martha was aware of Urban Sketchers but didn’t know we would be on the ferry that day. A life drawing student, she simply enjoys sketching people on the ferry. Imagine meeting a sketcher in the wild who isn’t part of Urban Sketchers while we’re on our way to a sketch outing!

After the initial meetup in Winslow, I headed for the Bainbridge Farmers Market, where I was lured by music and the smells of good foods cooking. I had to leave the house so early to catch the ferry that I had skipped breakfast, so I ate a big piece of carrot cake while sketching Good Karma Blues, a lively band with a terrific vocalist.

8/12/17 Good Karma Blues at Bainbridge Farmers Market
8/12/17 Eagle Harbor
That was a lot of fun, and I could have stayed all day sketching nothing but the market, but I was on an island, after all, so I found myself gravitating toward the water. At Eagle Harbor, the sun started to break through the overcast sky as a few lazy boats knocked against a pier. 

After the sketchbook throwdown, the group split up – some going to Rolling Bay to take part in the art studio tour and some staying in Winslow for lunch and whatever. I opted for the latter, and after a leisurely lunch of symposium gossip, half the afternoon zipped by on island time. A few of us went to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, where local artist Bill Hemp has an exhibit of pen and ink drawings of island locations. Interestingly, the pieces are reproductions of his sketchbook pages that look like they are torn right out of a spiral-bound book.

While I often have opportunities to sketch ferries, I see them only when they are either stopped briefly at a dock or a long distance away where it’s hard to see details. I took advantage of a moored ferry near the Winslow terminal to squeeze in one last sketch before hopping on the ferry back to Seattle. I think being able to take my time to observe and draw all the details on this one will help me fake it a little more realistically next time I need to sketch a ferry on the fly.

8/12/17 Washington State Ferry at Winslow terminal

For our third and final day, we chose the West Seattle Farmers Market, one of Seattle’s few neighborhood markets that are open all year round. As I was driving across the West Seattle Bridge, the drizzle on my windshield started looking like it could be “measurable” rain, which made me wonder if we had finally ended our record-breaking spell of consecutive dry days. I also started wondering if our sketch outing would end in a soggy mess. As it turned out, we did end our dry streak with 56 consecutive rainless days, but I needn’t have worried about sogginess – the measurable drizzle stopped as quickly as it had begun, and it was my favorite sketching weather – a comfortable temperature, not windy, the sun darting in and out of clouds just often enough to provide shadows or light, whichever you need at the moment.

8/13/17 Bluegrass band at West Seattle Farmers Market

I hardly sketched any people in Chicago, so today I made up for it. A lively bluegrass band, a young cellist, and a guitarist standing in front of a huge mural all provided the tunes for a fun morning at the farmers market.

8/13/17 guitarist and mural
8/13/17 cellist at the market

8/13/17 Junction Plaza Park near the West Seattle Farmers Market 

Despite the iffy weather, we had a small but stalwart turnout for our pity party finale. And Sue and I get the prize (each other’s respect!) for participating on all three days!

Stalwart sketchers at the Day 3 finale
Sue and I made it to all three days!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chicago Inspired Pioneer Square Sketches


Saul Steinberg drawing at CAI.
I saw the Saul Steinberg exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute and was inspired to try his more minimal, high-contrast style of capturing architecture. I did a couple while still in Chicago, and continue to explore drawing without ink washes now that I'm home. An added bonus is seeing my town through different eyes and a whole new subject to look for when sketching. 

Then for something completely different tried to draw the running water at the Waterfall Garden. 


Pioneer Square Doorway

First Ave Building

Waterfall Garden, Pioneer Square.

Bainbridge Island

Many of us would have been attending the 5th Annual Urban Sketchers West Coast Sketch crawl this weekend. However, several months ago it was cancelled. So we in Seattle decided to have a weekend of sketching anyway! This was the second of 3 intensive days held yesterday, August 12th.  

We took the ferry together to Bainbridge Island. A couple people drove on but most of us walked. We all gathered at the front of the boat to enjoy the ride together.   It was a short walk up a slight hill to the main village on Bainbridge Island, formerly known as Winslow. There were also local sketchers from the island and other(s) from Port Townsend.  

Our base was the Bainbridge Museum of Art. It is a beautiful place with interesting exhibits. The front desk volunteers were so friendly. They were interested, even excited, to have us there.  We gathered there in the morning and then for the sketchbook throw down in the afternoon.

I wandered through town a bit. I just didn't seem enough time to do justice to the number of sketching choices. I settled down on a patio to sketch this restaurant sign that caught my interest. I struggled with the sketch to the point that I really didn't like the result and almost wasn't going to post it. I've cropped it to show the part in which I was most interested. I learned (again) to decide on the focal point and zoom in on that.   I also think it might have been better had I left some areas unpainted



The sign under the fork and spoon is a bit of collage.  




Harris is missing from this photo. 

After we gathered for sketch sharing, I stayed in the Museum while others went to see a Studio show further out on the island. I enjoyed the show of sketches by Bill Hemp, "Bainbridge A to Z". Later I sketched the roof top garden.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Cool in the Sculpture Park

Many of us would have been attending the 5th Annual Urban Sketchers West Coast  Sketch crawl this weekend. However, several months ago it was cancelled. So we in Seattle decided to have a weekend of sketching anyway! This was the first of 3 intensive days.

Several sketchers enjoyed the cool weather as we sketched in this park close to Puget Sound. Except for the smoke still in the air (from the forest fires in BC), it was a perfect day.

My first choice of subject was one of my favorite sculptures in the park: Wake by Richard Serra (2004). "The towering, curved-steel forms were achieved with computer imaging and a machine that once made nuclear submarines. Wake is composed of five identical modules, each with paired S-shapes—gently curving serpentines of convex and concave sections suggesting tidal waves or profiles of battleships."  



On my walk around the park, I'd stopped under a canopy with tables and chairs to look at The Eagle by Alexander Calder (1971). I returned there to sketch this unusual view of the sculpture. It was one that featured prominently in sketches today.





For our group photo, we're standing in front of Curve XXIV (1981) by Ellsworth Kelly.  "Although its silhouette at first appears abstract, Curve XXIV suggests an autumn ginkgo leaf or a billowing sail." It was Pam's first sketch outing with us today!  (She is standing behind Kathleen and me, in the pink shirt).  Welcome, Pam!! 



Friday, August 4, 2017

Heat, Haze and Bradner Park Gardens

Five intrepid sketchers braved a heatwave and the smoke wafting through Seattle from the wildfires burning in British Columbia to sketch at Bradner Park in the Mt. Baker neighborhood. The park features borders designed by Seattle Master Gardeners and Seattle Tilth demonstration gardens as well as a lovely community P-Patch. I chose a shady spot under the pavilion to draw this view of the garden's offices.

2017_08_04 USk Bradner Park

We had one new sketcher and one newish sketcher as well as three of the usual suspects...
2017_08_04 USk Group shot
Me, Nilda, Natalie, Sue and Alane. Apologies for any mis-spellings! Alane was fresh from Chicago, and we were all a little envious of the wonderful experiences she had there!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On the Lookout for Ernie Banks

I grew up on Chicago's south side so being a White Sox fan was in my blood. So despite its reputation, I'd never been to Wrigley Field.  After last year's historic comeback I decided I'd better visit the home of the legendary Chicago Cubs.

I skipped out for the day on the organized Symposium events and made my way in the Blue Line to Addison and Clark. After checking in at the biggest Starbucks's this Seattle area girl had ever seen I found a spot across the street from the stadium, plopped myself on my stool and dove in. Later I learned the Sox and Cubs were in the middle of a four-game series - which the Cubs won by the way.



I'd worked up quite an appetite so I tracked down a hot dog joint that sold authentic Vienna Hot Dogs- the best. Poppy seed bun, mustard, onions, peppers, dill pickle and, of course, an "all-beef" Vienna dog.  



Yummm, just like I remembered.


Friday, July 28, 2017

McGraw Square

Urban Sketchers Seattle met this morning at McGraw Square, a tiny park in downtown Seattle. A bronze sculpture of John Harte McGraw, former King County Sheriff and Governor of Washington, presides over the park. He sounds like he had good ideas and stood up for social justice and racial equality so his presence in the park is agreeable.

Bronze sculpture of John Harte McGraw
The monorail stretches along the west side of McGraw Square transporting residents and tourists back and forth to the Seattle Center. Housing retail, medical and business offices,the buildings rising up from each side of the square are a history lesson of architectural styles.

Flower baskets brighten McGraw Square
Steps surrounding the sculpture offer good seating for visitors relaxing or enjoying lunch.  I noticed a few food carts on the outskirts of the square and the food truck parked in the middle of the square had a steady line of customers.  Painted in pretty colors, the tables and chairs scattered throughout the park are welcoming and inviting. 

Times Square Building
The Times Square Building to the west of the square is a registered historic landmark. I’ve admired this building from afar many times. Finding myself on a sidewalk with view of the building, I took advantage and sketched the panorama. One passerby thought I was drawing castles.

Sketcher table
 After sketching, the group met in the middle of the square for a throw down. The rose among sketches is from a floral shop on the square. Given to an urban sketcher in appreciation of her floral shop sketch, the sweet fragrance set a summer mood.
Urban Skethers Seattle ad hoc group
We found someone to take a group photo and parted ways until the next time.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Organic and Metallic

7/22/17 Moore's Vertebrae, W Hotel and a bit of the central library
As much as I think of myself as an “urban” sketcher, I admit that I’m not often inspired by the modern glass and steel skyscrapers that fill so much of Seattle and many other cities. But on Tuesday I’ll be on my way to Chicago for the 8th International Urban Sketchers Symposium, so I decided I’d better get some practice. When USk Seattle gathered yesterday around the downtown central library, it was a good opportunity to see if I had any dormant modern architecture mojo.

Across the street from the library in front of Safeco Plaza stands (reclines?) an organic bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Called Vertebrae, it’s composed of three pieces, and the Seattle version (there are others) sits in a shallow pool of water. Crouching near the ground to find a way to get both the sculpture and a not-too-tall building in the same composition, I found an interesting contrast between Vertebrae’s organic curves and the W Hotel topped by a glass pyramid. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of the central library’s multi-faceted side.

7/22/17 Vertebrae in front of Safeco Plaza
With only a half-hour left before the throwdown, I had to choose a simpler composition next. I walked back across the street and sketched Vertebrae again, this time showing all three parts (plus Mel sketching on the edge of it).

For a sunny Saturday, our USk turnout was relatively small, but we had some competition: It’s apparently one of the biggest weekends of the summer for neighborhood parades, Seafair events, Bite of Seattle, music festivals and other attractions, not to mention the usual sports. No wonder downtown Seattle streets seemed so empty – everyone was somewhere else.

Urban Sketchers Seattle inside the Central Library

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Counties

Staying almost three weeks in Southern California gave me plenty of opportunity and time to sketch.  My first stop was Orange County where my favorite destination is the beach, especially on overcast days when the atmosphere is soft and diffuse. The muted grey and aqua colors create a relaxed environment for reading books, building sand castles and listening to the rhythmic surf.
Hole in the Wall Beach, Orange County, CA

Most of the homes lining the streets in Capistrano Beach are one of a kind.  I love it when I can find something as interesting and compelling to sketch as Joanne and Mark’s house from the comfort of my own room.  Mark is a contractor and built the house to their specifications right down to the weathervane with the sailboat that crowns the roof. Tropical plantings accent the house with exotic flair.
Mark & Joanne's House, Capistrano Beach, CA

After a week, I moved up into Los Angeles County. The dense traffic, intense sun, and heat were an adjustment after enjoying big spaces and cool ocean breezes along the coast.  While attending a child’s birthday party at Grand Center, I found a shady spot to view Los Angeles City Hall. Manicured and composed, the iconic building glistened white against intense blue sky.  A promenade of tall palm trees framed the building precisely.  Lots of heat radiated up from acres of concrete making the shaded areas prime property. 
Los Angeles City Hall, Los Angeles, CA
I took advantage of my location in the center of Los Angeles by sketching characters on the street. La Brea Ave is a popular destination lined with restaurants, cafes and home design boutiques.  I had a good time scouting the area and found a LA woman sitting outside a coffee shop working on her computer.  Although it was 85 degrees under the umbrella, she wore a red plaid flannel shirt over her short shorts. Her bright yellow curls screamed personality.
Los Angeles woman at an outdoor cafe


Pools are ubiquitous in Los Angeles homes and commercial settings so children should learn how to swim for their own safety. Swimming lessons are big business at massive swim centers throughout the region. Sketching at a lesson in a private pool, I tried to highlight the magic of teaching and learning.
Swim lesson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dancing with KK and Melanie

My head is still exploding from a fantastic weekend learning from Ch'ng Kiah Kiean and Melanie Reim in the Dancing Lines USk workshop! I published full reports on the workshop on my personal blog (Part 1: KK; Part 2: Melanie). Rather than repeat them here, I just wanted to share a few photos and express my thanks to Urban Sketchers Seattle for bringing KK and Melanie to us. It was like having a mini symposium right in our own backyard! Many thanks, especially, to Gail and Jane for their months of hard work in making the workshop possible.

KK carving twigs

KK demo-ing his tools

KK's demo at the Seattle Center


Melanie at the Seattle Center



Day 1 finale: KK and Melanie sketch Chihuly flowers simultaneously!



KK's demo at the Pike Place Market



Final throwdown at the Market