Next Sketch Outing

Sunday, 12 noon, Dec. 16: Downtown Library

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A 360-Degree View of Seattle Central Library

12/16/18 My 90 degrees of a 360-degree collaborative sketch at the downtown Seattle library.

A couple of weeks ago Roy DeLeon, Gabi Campanario and Dave Morris made a 360-degree collaborative sketch, with each taking 120 degrees of a café view. As soon as I saw Roy’s post in the USk Seattle Facebook group, I wanted to take part in a 360, too! I talked Sue HestonKathleen Keckler and Ellie Doughty into doing it with me at the Seattle Central Library, where USk Seattle met today for our last outing of the year.

After exploring the library for a while to find an appropriate view, the four of us settled on the third floor’s “Living Room” space, which has lots of open seating, including an ideal quadrant of chairs for us. We each took a 90-degree view of the large space surrounded by the iconic diamond-gridded windows of the Koolhaas/Prince-Ramus-designed building. Well, surrounded except on the 90 degrees that I took, which was both a blessing and a curse. I remember how daunting those windows were when I attempted them several years ago, so missing them was a blessing. On the other hand, the view I got was mostly a boring concrete wall and a couple of bookshelves that presented a significant perspective challenge. Curses! Whose big idea was this, anyway!

Once I got started, though, the challenge became fun, and lining up the four sketches in sequence at the throwdown made it all the more fun. I’d like to try it again sometime!

Close-up of my panorama (with the library's cool passport stamp).

The assembled 360: Left, Eleanor; right, Tina. . . 

. . . left, Kathleen; right, Sue

90 degrees each!

Happy holidays from USk Seattle!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Joy to the World at Swansons

Holiday cheer and good will filled the aisles at Swansons Nursery as Urban Sketchers entered the premises to sketch seasonal flora and fauna.
Pick a Perfect Tree at Swansons
The morning was chilly and dry, comfortable enough to weave indoors and outdoors.  Exhilarated by the aroma of pine in the air, I followed the scent to a covered area filled with Christmas trees strung from rafters.  Like picking a perfect tree to chop in a forest, I chose to draw one 6-7 footer and ignored all others.  The Olympic Mountain Range emerged in the background and silhouettes of huge evergreens contrasted against the sky.  Perspective progression of  posts in the barn staging area added some depth to the composition.
Poinsettia heaven
The staff at Swansons are masters at staging eye-catching displays. Made cohesive with a color palette of red, green and cream, poinsettias and house plants nestle together on a metal table.  Poinsettia baskets suspended from the ceiling look like living chandeliers. Tiered tables with multiples of same size plants create visual impact, almost saying, take me home! 
String a tree with moody blue
I returned to the Christmas tree pavilion mainly to warm up and find a quiet spot.  Instead I found two children running and  screeching with joy through the maze of trees.  They probably didn’t notice the variety of display configurations. Some trees are strung up, some are leaning against the wall and some are bound. I think they were just experiencing wild holiday spirit among the trees thanks to Swansons policy of family fun.  Waves of cascading blue light cover the trees beyond Swansons Christmas tree barn. Solid blocks of ultramarine blue lights are a trendy, very cool and mysterious look.

After the throw down, I had lunch with a couple of sketchers in the nursery cafe.  I highly recommend the butternut squash soup, a yummy ending to the holiday Urban Sketch at Swansons.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Reindeer Festival @ Swansons Nursery -12/14/2018

I almost went to this holiday outing every year (since joined USk). As soon as I stepped in this Gift shop, I was attracted by its beautiful lighting, X,mas deco, and holiday gifts immediately. So my first sketch filled with holiday atmosphere!

Next.., of course, Joined all curious kids watch Reindeer as part of X,mas spirit. I'd give space to all little ones who enjoy so much, I sketched from distance with constant laughing around me.
Outside the garden, saw a boy company mom shop winter wonders, his curiosity became mom's shopping targets.

New Reindeer But Same Santa

12/14/18 More kids were present than I've represented here! Way more.
Last year’s post about USk Seattle’s annual holiday visit to Swansons Nursery was entitled “Reindeer, Santa and Mobs at Swansons,” and I probably could have used the same this year. Luckily, the weather was all the way up in the high 40s and dry, so sketching at the reindeer pen and out in the plant displays was reasonably comfortable.

Before the crowds got thick, I started with the reindeer. Instead of Blitzen as in previous years, Dasher’s pen mate was Comet (I suppose even reindeer get some time off during the holidays). Every year I have difficulty scaling their antlers accurately – they seem so unbelievably large! I learned that it takes eight months to grow them each year.

12/14/18 Dasher or Comet?
12/14/18 Santa and a bald pink head.

My next stop was Santa (the same one as in previous years). When I arrived, a tiny infant had been placed in Santa’s arms, and for a few minutes while the older brother finished bawling, I had a good view of them. Suddenly the brother apparently gained courage and joined them, and mom sat on the chair’s arm, completely blocking my view. Whew! That was close.

By then I was hungry, so I went to the café for a snack. Chatting with Robin while scarfing down a scone, I hastily sketched the jungle of exotic greenery in the remaining time before the throwdown.

Sketching at Swansons with my USk “family” is a holiday tradition I cherish (we’ve been going every year since 2012).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

vendors of pike place market

If you see someone walking through downtown Seattle carrying a bouquet wrapped in white paper, they probably got it from one of the flower vendors at Pike Place Market.

Follow the aromatic scent to the central area of the market to find a hallway lined with mostly Asian-American ladies selling gorgeous, very reasonably priced bouquets, surrounded by white plastic buckets of stems of seasonal sprigs. As they craft the arrangements, they place them into black plastic vases/holders for passerby to purchase. You can request a bouquet made to order on the spot, or even ask for a particular single flower which caught your eye.

The flower ladies’ stands are all family affairs. The reason that the bouquets are so cheap - as low as $5 - is that they also own the farms, which sometimes also grow vegetables and other produce. Also there is a lot of competition! I love that the Pike Place Market bouquets don’t look like the kinds you see at the supermarket; they’re more of a seasonal variety, and way more interesting than the premade bunches at a chain store.

 I captured these hard-working ower vendors in mixed media: watercolor pencils, ink, waterbrush, graphite, and transparent and acrylic markers. Both drawings took about 20 minutes each. 

Nearly every time I come to Pike Place Market, I get myself a greasy brown paper bag of these freshly fried mini doughnuts. But as the market is usually so crowded, I just grab my snack and get out as soon as possible.

As I arrived at the Daily Dozen, everyone was packing up for the evening – I always forget everything closes surprisingly early here (around 5pm) – and the two people running the joint were selling off their remaining stock of mini donuts at a discount as they closed down for the night. Eventually, there was only powdered sugar left, and not for long!

As they closed up, I got to take in some very charming details of their stall I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t stay to sketch:
• Top left: a menagerie of figures above the doughnut case - including Captain America, Jesus Christ, and some Star Wars guy on an alien horse.

• Lower right: a row of plastic rats, which the owners acquired at rummage sales, gaze out at the customer. Someone had forgotten their dentures among the rodents!!

• Other fun details: social justice signage (right) and a demon mask tied to a pole (center)

After the Daily Dozen shut down for the evening, I was left in an empty market. I had never noticed many of these super interesting spaces, like these whimsical archways – the dense crowds prevent me from lingering in corridors like this one. Several groups of tourists came up to me and asked if the market was closed, and also where to find the Gum Wall. perhaps one reason that horrifying attraction is a Thing is because it doesn't close at 5pm like the rest of Pike Place Market.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Perspective? Daniel Smith this Sunday 11am!

A familiar Seattle scene? 

Please join me this Sunday at the Seattle Daniel Smith store for

"Simple Tips every artist (and sketcher!) should know about Perspective"
     Sunday, December 2
     11am-12:30pm (note, a Seahawks game starts at 1:25pm)
     Daniel Smith Artists' Materials, Seattle

Yes, many people fear or fake perspective, so it's my mission to show how easy it can really be! The talk will be an interactive lecture, so bring your sketchbook to draw and take notes--followed by a quick perspective and watercolor demo. 
I'll also bring lots of my recent India and Asia sketches!

Hope to see you there!!

Urban Sketching as Improv

11/29/18 Gallery space at the Pocket Theater in Greenwood

How is urban sketching related to improvisational acting? Before Thursday evening, I would have shrugged trying to respond to that question, but thanks to urban sketcher and University of Washington urban design student Robin Hunt, the answer for me is now clear: It can be an innovative, creative evening of art and interactivity.

A few weeks ago, Robin invited USk Seattle members to participate in an exhibit of urban sketches in the Greenwood neighborhood’s Pocket Theater. I considered participating, but I didn’t get around to prepping my work. However, very curious about what the “interactive gallery” would be, I decided to attend the event.

I was glad I arrived a few minutes before the exhibit officially opened so that I had a chance to start sketching right away before it got too crowded; the small gallery space filled instantly. Sketches of Seattle by Robin and several other local urban sketchers were displayed on two walls. Beneath the rows of sketches were long, horizontal strips of tape, sticky side exposed. Hmmm. . .

On tables around the room were stacks of small slips of colored paper. The slips began with various open questions that could be prompted by a sketch: “Share a memory that you are reminded of.” “What is a lesson you learned in this place?” “Write a note to someone who shares memories of this place with you (please include a name).” Event attendees were invited to write their responses on the slips and then adhere them to the tape on the walls beneath the sketches they were responding to.

A-ha! Suddenly my initially passive viewing of the sketches when I had first walked in was insufficient. I went through the exhibit again, looking more closely at each sketch, thinking about the last time I had visited the familiar locations – Fremont, Pioneer Square, Swanson’s Nursery – or whether I had recently visited at all. I picked up a few slips, wrote my thoughts and memories, and adhered them to the walls. Then I walked back through the whole exhibit to read what others had contributed. I had a few conversations prompted by what we were reading and viewing, and the whole room became livelier once the interactivity began. While viewing sketches of familiar places often prompts memories and associated feelings, people rarely share those thoughts. Titled “Your Where,” the event encouraged that sharing.

11/29/18 The Collective Improv Troupe interprets viewers' memories
prompted by sketches.
That part of the event alone would have been an innovative way to evoke memories and conversation based on sketches. But the evening wasn’t over yet. An hour after the exhibit opened, doors to the adjacent Pocket Theater opened. Every seat in the 50-seat theater filled with curious attendees.

The Collective Improv Troupe, which Robin belongs to, took on the second part of the program. Using the slips of paper with our written responses, Robin periodically entered the stage and read from them. The improv members would then interpret the readings with humorous dialog and stories they developed on the spot with no preparation or rehearsal. (As someone with no public speaking skills or acting experience, I was so impressed by their ability to perform improvisationally!)

I left the event satisfied that Robin’s production (her senior project for her UW urban design-related degree) had fully answered the question of how urban sketching and improv can come together. The evening was an engaging confluence of art, comedy and audience participation.

Pocket Theater gallery space

Responses to sketches from participants

Producer and urban sketcher Robin Hunt

Urban sketcher Tony Robinson, whose sketches were included in the exhibit

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday at the Fairmont

11/23/18 Fairmont Olympic Hotel lobby
The other admins and I were a bit nervous about scheduling a sketch outing on Black Friday in the downtown retail corridor, but we thought we’d give it a shot. We chose the venerable Fairmont Olympic Hotel, where the 41st annual Festival of Trees was certain to make its grand lobby ornate and colorful. Then we heard that Macy’s holiday parade was scheduled for the same time – right in front of the Fairmont! Commuting downtown could be a worse problem than usual.

With some trepidation, I hopped on the bus downtown, but traffic was fine and didn’t cause delays. When I arrived at the Fairmont in the pouring rain, the parade was in full swing. Leisurely viewing all the beautiful holiday trees, the other sketchers and I had the lobby nearly to ourselves. Then a few minutes later, the parade ended, and hundreds of wet, cold parade viewers poured into the Fairmont!

That was my cue. I dashed up the staircase to the upper floor, where I could look over the railing at the terrific view of the activities below. Families ducking into the hotel to get warm and pose for selfies negotiated floor space with hotel guests who were trying to check out. It was a lively, festive beginning to the holiday season.

After two sketches inside the hotel, I walked across the street to Starbucks. Scoring a window seat, my plan was to sketch a hotel entrance. Directly in front of me on the sidewalk, though, was a “homeless grand pa” and his rolling cart of belongings. I knew he could see me through the window, so I felt a bit intrusive sketching him, yet I also wanted to document what is probably a black day every day for so many Seattle residents. (Although I don’t think he caught me sketching him, to assuage my guilt, I gave him money afterwards the same way I always tip buskers that I sketch. I look at is as a model’s fee.)

11/23/18 a resident of 4th and University

A small but enthusiastic group of sketchers who braved Black Friday!

A soggy parade.

We had the lobby nearly to ourselves for a short time . . .

. . . .and then this happened!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Yul Fest

We gathered at Yul Fest in the new Nordic Museum yesterday. It was very crowded, but everyone found something to sketch.

I spent more time than usual wandering as I looked at all the vendors and around the Museum. It opened a few months ago but this was my first visit. I definitely want to go back when it's not so crowded and I very much want to see the special exhibit from Uppsala, "Vikings Begin".
I found a chair and tucked myself into a corner. I forgot to look at the information tags on this ship and stone.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The New Nordic Museum

11/18/18 the new Nordic Museum
Back in 2013 in the early days of the Friday sketchers, we met at the old Nordic Heritage Museum. A bit dark and dingy, the old building in Ballard had a small selection of traditional artifacts and historic exhibits. In fact, the brightest spot was a large hallway display of architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower (see below) showing what the new Nordic Museum building would look like when it was completed in 2018.

11/18/18 Looking down on the main floor
That seemed like a long way off, but today we completed that circle when USk Seattle met at the newly reopened Nordic Museum near Salmon Bay. A far cry from the old one, the new building is large, modern and bright. Although brilliantly sunny this morning, the temperature was only in the high 30s, but Michele and I decided to bundle up for a sketch of the back of the building from the parking lot. Sketching dark glass and steel that met at sharp angles, I experienced strong déjà vu of last August when I sketched the newly reopened Bell Museum in St. Paul, which had also started out in a dark, dingy building.

In addition to the usual museum visitors crowd, many people were there for Julefest, a holiday tradition in its 41st year. Enjoying traditional music wafting out from the auditorium tent as we sketched, Michele and I were going to make that our next stop. Just as we found seats and pulled out our pens, though, the musicians stopped and took a break. We began wandering among the Julefest vendors and got distracted by all manner of cashmere scarves (which we bought!), grog, handcrafted ornaments and Viking horns, not to mention the museum exhibits themselves.

Whew! With all of that grabbing for my attention, it’s amazing that I got a second sketch done at all! Walkway bridges on the upper level connect opposite sides of the building. I picked one to peer over and sketched people queued up for food and shopping for scarves and hats.

I barely skimmed the surface of all that the Nordic Museum has to offer, so I’m definitely planning to return later for a more thorough look.

Architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower in the old Nordic Museum, April 2013. 
(Photo by Carleen Zimmerman)