Next Monthly Sketch Outing

Dec. 17, 10 am, Seattle Center Armory for Winterfest
See Monthly Outing page for details.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Seattle Center Winterfest

12/17/17 Seattle Center Winterfest miniature train and village

Although the Friday sketchers tend to end up in the Armory whenever we meet at the Seattle Center for one event or another, I think it’s been almost exactly five years since the main USk Seattle group has met there for Winterfest.

12/17/17 Shane the caricaturist
The Armory’s primary visual Winterfest attraction is a miniature train and turn-of-the-previous-century village, whose centerpiece is a train station and clock tower that look remarkably similar to King Street Station (above).

I had a great table for sketching the train station scene that I didn’t want to lose as the Armory started filling. I looked behind me and spotted a caricaturist at work, so I simply swiveled my chair around. My intention was to include his client in the sketch, but he finished drawing her just as I had finished drawing him.

Although a little reluctant to give up my warm, cozy spot inside the Armory, I knew it wasn’t raining, so I pulled up my hood and ventured outside. Like that USk outing in 2012, it was bitterly cold and windy, so I spent no more than 15 minutes sketching the top of the Space Needle covered up with colorful tarps and scaffolding for remodeling. (Waiting at the bus stop for my ride home, I spotted the Space Needle from the opposite side, so I sketched it again as an inset. From that distance, I could see more of the construction equipment on top, plus the Christmas-tree-shaped lighting on the needle.)
12/17/17 Space Needle wearing its top-heavy hat

Even in my down coat, I was shivering and ready to retreat indoors again. At the Armory entrance, though, a pair of buskers called Fascinator Jazz Band was performing, and you know I can’t walk by buskers without sketching them. I decided that if these hardy musicians could play in the cold (the bass player kept stopping to rub her hand warmers between songs), I could shiver for another 10 minutes to sketch them. 

Considering that it’s the week before Christmas and probably the busiest weekend for holiday activities, we had a great turnout of sketchers, including Anya from Anchorage and Juliana from Londrina, Brazil! 

12/17/17 Fascinator Jazz Band


Similar to the Gingerbread village, the model train village at Seattle Center's Winterfest is a sketching nemesis. I've never done a sketch of either that I've liked. So today I mostly practiced avoidance.

I was there so early, though, that I felt I really should sketch something while I sat at a table awaiting the arrival of other sketchers. So I did a small sketch of the "King Street Station" clock tower the the model train engineer.

Still wanting to sketch in the holiday theme, I next turned to this tree decoration.

I wandered up to the "Armory Loft" to see the view of the scene from above. This amused me: the Armory logo with it's own ribbon hanger made it look like it belonged with the holiday wreaths.

The throw down.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Good Day to Draw at Winterfest

2017_12_17 USk Seattle Center

The crowd was still small at 10am, when Urban Sketchers Seattle showed up at the Seattle Center Armory to draw the annual Winterfest activities. The big attraction was the holiday village and miniature train display. But I decided it would be much more comfortable to get a coffee and a good seat and draw the people who came and went, meeting, waiting for their kids, and even another sketcher who had a better view of the trains than I.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Caffe Fiore

12/15/17 Caffe Fiore patrons and Kathleen's painting of Elephant Car Wash
I’ve been meaning to get up to Caffe Fiore on Queen Anne Hill to see urban sketcher and painter Kathleen Keckler’s show, “Signs You Live in Seattle.” She has a lovely collection of sketches and acrylic paintings of city landmarks, including several places we’ve sketched together. The show is up the rest of the month.

Although Kathleen has managed to sketch the cafĂ©’s interior beautifully, I found the seating to be awkward and not particularly conducive to surreptitious sketching. The main seating in the small coffee shop are a few large community tables and a bar along one window. All the table seating was taken, so I sat at the bar and swiveled around to face the room, which made me feel a bit self-conscious, but everyone had their heads buried in laptops, so they didn’t pay me any mind.

12/15/17 Too close for comfort, and yet I dared.
I was sketching a couple of guys across the room when a man sat down right next to me at the bar. Although he was a little too close for comfort, nonetheless I couldn’t resist sketching him. Since I was already facing the room when he took his seat, he must have assumed I was still sketching in that direction. In any case, he was engrossed in his book and never noticed me, either. 

Invisibility: The urban sketcher’s super power.

Kathleen's sketches and paintings are on exhibit until Jan. 1. (This is the guy in
my sketch at the top of the page. I didn't see his man bun until I took this photo!
I wish I'd been able to sketch him from this angle.)

Christmas Trees with the Ad Hoc Sketchers

2017_12_8 USk Holidays Seattle

I thought about titling this post "Christmas tree photobombed by Starbucks". On the last outing to draw the gingerbread houses - which are sponsored by the Sheraton but located in the US Bank building - I got side tracked by the Christmas tree in the lobby. And then the Starbucks kiosk snuck in.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fifth Friday Anniverary

This is the fifth Anniversary of the Urban Sketcher Seattle's Friday Ad Hoc sketch outings. It might not be the exact date, but it is the same event. It was 5 years ago that just 5 of us gathered to sketch the Gingerbread Village.

It was Nilda, Tina, me, Peggy H. and Carleen that first time. Once we decided to continue, the numbers grew. You might also notice there are no other visitors surrounding the Gingerbread display. In future years we decided it had gotten just too crowded to sketch there.

This year, though, the display moved to a larger area so the Gingerbread constructions could be further apart. We decided to give it another try. There were far more sketchers present, too!

As usual, I was at our meeting location early. In a previous outing, I had noticed this view out the upper story windows. So while I waited, and again at the end while waiting for others to converge back, I sketched that view. 

I walked around all of the displays. The theme this year is " 25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle". I found I did not enjoy them as much as the previous years' Star Wars and Harry Potter themes. From previous experience, I decided to choose a smaller section to sketch. This is the "Historic North Seattle" scene designed created by CallisonRTK & Hargis with Chef Lee Baldyga. It depicts an sailor but it was the gull in matching shirt that appealed to me!

Tina pointed out later that one of the member of USk Seattle works at CallisonRTKL! My thought was that made it an even better choice.

The Gingerbread constructions were starting to get crowded so that was a good time to sketch something else. Last time we met in this building I sketched this arch. I wanted to repeat it today but with the Christmas tree. I see my holiday card for next year!

Photos of all the Gingerbread structures:

A Friday Anniversary at Gingerbread Village

12/8/17 With an emphasis on Seattle's waterfront, this exhibit includes the Big Wheel and an octopus.

Six years ago this month, five urban sketchers wanted to sketch the Sheraton’s annual Gingerbread Village exhibit, but we knew weekends would be mobbed, so we decided to have an ad hoc outing on a Friday. That was the first of what became the bimonthly ad hoc Friday USk meetups, and the group has been growing ever since. To celebrate our anniversary, we met at the event that initially inspired us: Gingerbread Village.

Kathleen sketches the exhibit featuring Ballard.
For this annual fundraiser, Seattle’s major architectural firms team up with local chefs to design elaborate, theme-based dioramas made of cookies and candies (voluntary donations to the event somewhat ironically benefit type 1 diabetes research). Now in its 25th year, Gingerbread Village moved from the Sheraton to US Bank City Centre – a much better venue. Instead of displaying the exhibits all in one row, the confectionary creations were spread throughout City Centre’s main floor, dispersing the crowds into small clusters instead of a single line, which made the displays easier to see (and sketch).

Although I had a better view, I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed. Unlike previous years that had strong visual themes like Harry PotterStar Wars (my favorite), Christmas carolssailing ships, and fairytale castles, this year’s theme was less defined: “25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle.” Each exhibit focused on a geographic area of Seattle and included images of the nostalgic past or the imagined future. The most visually fun was a fat sailor riding an orca in an homage to Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. While colorful and sometimes kinetic, most of the exhibits left me scratching my head as I tried to understand the theme’s interpretation.

I went up to the second floor to sketch this rotating
exhibit of downtown, including the Smith Tower.

Regardless, I enjoy sketching this event not so much for the elaborate sweet creations as for the people of all ages who come to see them. Although I had space to step up close to the exhibits, I decided to hang back as I usually do and focus on the viewers. 

Ummm. . . a Norwegian sailor in Salmon Bay?
A future Seattle waterfront.

Throwdown from a great turnout of Friday sketchers!
Rotating city!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Last Time

This is the 3rd year I've sketched the holiday decorations at the Stonehouse Bakery. In talking with Patrick, the owner and baker, I realized that is each of the Christmas seasons it's been open.

Sadly, this will likely be the last time at this location. I've so enjoyed this unique, field stone building and the warmth of the bakery. Urban Sketchers Seattle is going to miss this place, too. We've enjoyed Patrick's hospitality several times while sketching there.

Patrick opens Patrick's Cafe and Bakery in White Center on January 5.

Bee & Dee are Patrick's dogs

Wright Park - Tacoma

Done during the November Tacoma Urban Sketchers gathering.
Pen and ink with watercolor in a Moleskine watercolor book.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Outdoor Living

For the Thanksgiving holiday, I travelled to Orange County, California for a family reunion.   As always, my sketching kit traveled with me.  While awaiting departure at SeaTac Airport, I caught a mesmerizing performance by an electronic cello musician.   Rich and mysterious, her music transformed an hour wait into minutes.
Electronic Cello Player at SeaTac
Once in Orange County, the sun and water took over my psyche.  As it was 91 degrees on Thanksgiving Day, we joined other families and played on the beach.  An outdoor yoga class happens at Dana Point City Park every day of the year, rain or shine.   I went along with a group not to do yoga but to sketch people doing yoga. However, I could not ignore the view from the city park.  The azure sky expanded the view of red-roofed houses tumbling toward the sea.   I sat in front of about 70 people doing yoga and did not include one of them in my sketch. Since it’s offered everyday of the year, maybe next time I’ll concentrate on the yoga moves.
Dana Point City Park

One morning we woke to cool weather and thick fog rolling in from the ocean.  We decided to go to an inland swim facility in Mission Viejo.  It was a dramatic surprise driving into sun and heat once again.  The fog bank over the beach community could be seen in the rearview mirror.
Mission Viejo Swim

On the last day, I went to Trestles Beach with the surfer in the family. Located off Interstate 5 in San Clemente, we parked our car on the side of the road and walked about a mile to the beach.  Popular with surfers, it was fun to see young and old, male and female, riding bikes with surfboards attached.  The wind was so strong my beach umbrella blew away.  I had to chase it down the beach while it flew like a kite.  Grabbing my gear after catching the umbrella, I moved further back from the beach behind a trash barrel.  A young surfer boy dropped his bike and flip-flops right in front of me and ran off into the surf.  Before I could finish the drawing, my son came in and balanced his surfboard on the trashcan. Now it's finished!
Trestles Beach

It was back to business on the flight home.
Across the aisle

Monday, November 27, 2017


Hollywood is the kind of place you love to hate, unless you're a sketcher. When all you Seattle sketchers were down at King Street station on the 24 Hour Global Sketch Crawl earlier in November, I was braving the sunshine and 70 degree weather with the Los Angeles sketchers in the middle of Hollywood.

Here are a few of my sketches from that visit:

For more  of the story about my visit to Hollywood see my blog. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Mastodon and Elasmosaur Redux

11/24/17 Mastadon, Sage and Tina
The Burke Museum is one of my favorite indoor places to sketch. Full of dinosaur skeletons and other natural and human history artifacts, it’s a treasure trove for any sketcher. Yet, as many times as I’ve sketched there, I seem to gravitate toward the same few artifacts over and over. They never cease to be challenging, and I apparently never tire of them.

That said, it’s been a good two-and-a-half years since I last sketched the mastodon (whose skull I had first attempted the year before). Like last time, today’s visit was with USk Seattle, and I finally caught the mastodon with a couple of sketchers nearby for scale. He’s a massive, formidable form.

Another favorite is the Elasmosaur, a marine reptile with oar-like flippers that are structured remarkably similar to our own hands. The last time I sketched his whole skeleton was three-and-a-half years ago, and that time I used a full sketchbook spread to capture his enormous length. This time I used a single page only, which may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a mark of growth for me because I have always been challenged by scaling large objects on a small space. Then, as today, I marveled at his tiny, tiny head compared to the massive yet most likely graceful body as he swam through the oceans in search of critters to chomp with his interlocking teeth. 

I had a feeling that sketchers would prefer the Burke to Black Friday madness, and I’m happy that I was right – we had a great turnout of USk Seattle today!

11/24/17 Elasmosaur

Not shopping on Black Friday

It would seem that sketchers don't care much for Black Friday shopping. Our Friday group is often just 8-12 sketchers. Today we had almost 30. It might also be that many working folk had the day off.

I arrived at the Burke Museum about an hour early due to surprisingly light traffic. I've always wanted to sketch the UW Observatory. Given that it wasn't raining and was also not too cold, this seemed the perfect chance to do so.  "The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory is the second-oldest structure on the campus. Built in 1895, the Observatory with its 120-year old, 6-inch refracting telescope is still offering celestial views of the wonders of the Universe."

My main goal for this sketch outing at the Burke was their new exhibit...exhibiting the staff at work! Last year the museum acquired a T Rex skull. I've been waiting for it to be on exhibit and now it is, in a way. In a room walled in glass a staff person works on preparing it for exhibit. When the Museum opened, there was no one there. I thought perhaps it was a day off. So I sketched the skull in the framework from a view I thought most likely to also show the worker, if they came in. And so, about noon, a woman arrived and began work. I hastily added her in to the sketch.

Meanwhile, I went outside again to sketch a view I'd noticed when I first arrived. In the foreground is the Northwest Coast Clan Pole. It isn't historic as it was carved in 2006. Just behind it is the new Burke Museum, still under construction. Further back and to the left is one of the neo-Gothic University of Washington buildings. I liked the juxtaposition of an ancient style of art (the totem pole), the brand new building and the older building.

Two large tables were needed for the throw down of sketch books.

As I wrote, we were a much larger than usual group today.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Voices of our City

Many of you know I've been in Santa Monica for the past 6 weeks and will be for the next couple of months. It's been great fun getting to know a new place. One of the things I love is finding out about all the local events. 

Last Saturday I popped into a concert at the Santa Monica Public Library. Billed as a "Homeless Choir", the San Diego based group put on a rockin' good show for a smattering of folks in the auditorium.

A few solo vocalists stole the show and after the performance they sat down in front of the stage and we all had a conversation about homelessness.

Not only do they sing as a group but they advocate for themselves any way they can. They have influenced the San Diego city council to adopt more helpful policies towards the homeless and they have helped find housing for several families. They are building support and community amongst themselves and spreading hope to the greater homeless community.

Not all of the group members were experiencing homelessness. At least three were organizers and advocates that have devoted their lives to making friends, finding solutions and promoting justice for those who are experiencing homelessness.

Whatever the details of their lives may be, they put on a really inspiring and rockin' good show.

See my personal blog for more sketches and info.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

King Street Station, Inside and Out

November 11, 2017--I drove through the typical Pacific Northwest autumn weather sampler on my way to Seattle to participate in the Urban Sketchers Global 24 Hr. Sketchrawl, arriving in a light rain. It was to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of USK worldwide. Although my time was limited, I was excited to document this experience at King Street Station, inside and out.
I sketched the beautiful restored globe chandelier, stalked a passenger while comparing packing styles, then, once the rain let up I went outside to sketch the clock tower.
A pigeon and a few seagulls decided to move around once the rain let up as USK founder Gabi Campanario  sketched the south face of the clock tower. Autumn trees still carried most of their colorful leaves in the grey city landscape.
King Street Station has been called Seattlle's Grand Central since the complete historical renovation when it reopened in 2013. The photo below gives a glimpse of the glamorous 1906 historical restoration of the interior today.
Inside the station you can see Gabi (in his grey cap) at  far left as sketchers crowd around a huge collection of fresh sketches laid out on the marble tile floor.
I lost count, but I'm pretty sure we had well over 40 sketchers turn out for the 24 Hour Global Sketch Crawl on Nov. 11, 2017. Many made a special effort to participate, some flying in from Vancouver, B.C. and other far flung locations.