Next Monthly Sketch Outing

SATURDAY, March 10 Georgetown Steamplant
See Monthly Outing page for details.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fifth Wintergrass

This is the 5th year in a row that the Friday group of Urban Sketchers Seattle has sketched at the Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival in Bellevue, WA (across the lake from Seattle). It was our friend, Lynn, who first suggested it but she has sadly moved away.

This outing I completed what I think is a record number of sketches. Three of them were in the small, 5.5x5.5 square Pentalic Aqua book. There was also another milestone. I did not use pencil on any of these! All were drawn in ink with the Lamy joy pen.

There were a few new sketchers today. Welcome to all!  we had the sketchbook "throw down" and then a group photo and the end of the outing. 

One or two are missing from the photo. 

As usual, my carpool arrived early so I sketched one of the festival attendees sitting across from me in the atrium.

I found a group jamming in a convenient location with a bench on which I could sit. It's so much fun to listen to good, lively, music while sketching!

During my first walk about, I noticed two vendors of interest. I went back later.  Patrick, of Doc's Banjos,  played one of his banjos while I sketched. Even Daniel Smith's Quinacridone gold couldn't portray the luminosity of the skin on his banjos! He dyes them himself.   

Bent Twig Guitars came all the way from Montana. I was fascinated by the sculpture displayed on their table. I added Brady into my sketch.

I'm looking forward to #6! 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Toe-Tappin’ Sketchin’ at Wintergrass

2/23/18 Wintergrass jammers

It’s hard to sketch when your toes are tapping to lively bluegrass music!

For the fifth year, Urban Sketchers Seattle met at Wintergrass, the Puget Sound area’s weekend-long annual bluegrass festival at the Bellevue Hyatt Regency. I missed it last year because I was out of town, so I was especially looking forward to this year’s event, which is one of my all-time favorite sketch outings.

As I sketched the musicians who had gathered in the hotel hallways for impromptu jams, friends greeted and embraced each other, happily reuniting. Some had apparently come from distant states to participate in this long-anticipated event. I overheard them comparing program notes and planning which concerts and demos to attend. All morning, even as I heard the literal vibes of traditional music, I also sensed the vibes of happy people doing what they enjoy most – playing and listening to music. I don’t play an instrument, yet somehow their excitement felt familiar . . .

And then I suddenly realized what Wintergrass reminded me of: The Urban Sketchers Symposium. Instead of sketchbooks, pens and paints, they used fiddles, banjos and mandolins to express their common passion. Tapping and nodding to the music, I knew how they felt.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beacon Food Forest: Work Party!

On the third Saturday of each month, volunteers from all over the Seattle area gather at the Beacon Hill Food Forest (“BFF”) for a morning blitz of gardening projects and then a community lunch. The Food Forest is an ambitious all-volunteer project steadily transforming a barren, boring grass lawn into two sustainable acres full of edible and medicinal plants, open to everyone. The number of people who attend the work parties make it possible for big projects to be completed in a couple hours.

It feels like a miraculous place, but it's really possible because of an extremely dedicated group of people who organize volunteers, get grants and permits from the city, and generally work their asses off just because they believe in this project. It's difficult to drag myself out of bed and across town on a freezing, rainy Saturday morning, but every single time I'm so glad that I went. Also the lunch is always delicious.

I started this work party by working in the wetlands, pulling out undesirable plants, then pruning a patch of overgrown roses encroaching on a sidewalk.  Once the sky cleared I felt like it was time to sketch. I was a little nervous about sitting around and drawing while the rest of them toiled in the dirt, but the atmosphere of BFF is extremely supportive and they actually loved having an artist around to document the happenings of the day. 
Everything in the BFF has a story attached to it, and next to nothing in the garden is bought directly from a store. e.g., one of the project leaders talked to me about the volunteer who invented these trellises, and how someone else came up with the macramé technique.

After lunch people finish up their projects, or hang out at the gathering space. Peter played guitar and sang by the fire; Tony gave me a sample of his bees' raw honey. The garden space here is a small fraction of the total food forest, terraced on a steep slope. You can see the Seattle skyline!

Continue under the cut for an experimental reportage comic about some of the "real work" I did at the BFF!

February USk Outing at US Bank Centre

I was happy to finally making it to USk after missing two months -- even if it was snowing! Arriving late after finally finding parking (I don't know why I drove...), I figured that I would 1) sketch in ink since my past few sketches were in pencil, and 2) sketch outside since most folks would probably be inside. Crisscrossing the street a few times to decide on the perspective, I ultimately settled on this view, looking up Pike Street:

Surprisingly, I was comfortable sketching with gloves -- which doesn't happen often -- as they were neither cold nor cumbersome. After about 45 minutes or so, it started snowing, so I immediately came back inside so that the ink wouldn't run due to the snow. Once inside, I walked through the building to get the lay of the land, and decided that the main atrium space -- looking toward the big sculpture -- was the most interesting perspective. Fortunately I found a cushioned seat in the corner, and was able to stretch out a bit while I sketched.
I had to pause the sketch before I was quite done, as 12:30 arrived. After sharing our sketches, I went back to the seat and finished the sketch -- and added a "meta" finishing touch at the bottom.

Notes From Underground

As part of my New Year's Resolutions and efforts towards general well-being, I'm on a bit of a tech-sabbatical. I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone and rarely check my email. It has been a welcome relief reconnecting with the real world and my flesh-and-blood friends in real time.

I haven't slowed down on the drawing however, and have some catching up to do on posting, so here are a few drawings from the last month.

I took my On Location students from Gage Academy to Wallingford Center and drew this scene as a demo. I took a dozen in-progress photos as I worked but I'll spare you all but one.

I'm often asked about my "no pencil" policy, and for the sake of transparency here is the kind of laborious and pains-taking pencil plan I create before inking. As you can see, a long time was spent on this stage (about 30 seconds).

Another scene drawn at Wallingford Center, completed in short bursts between consulting one-on-one with my students who were scattered around the building.

It's a welcoming location where I'll also be teaching my 10 x 10 class on St. Patty's Day.


The class also visited King Street Station with the assignment of finding a viewpoint with detail and depth, and to use atmospheric perspective to suggest distance.

Stimson-Green Mansion is good for students interested in architecture, but the rooms are dimly lit. The spaces with the most natural light tend to be the bathrooms and the kitchen- not the most historic of settings.

In my drive to get students to put down their pencils and draw directly in ink, I did this quick silly drawing of a librarian at Suzallo Library. I wanted to show that a wobbly drawing done as a modified blind contour isn't fatal. I was grateful that the librarian seemed unself-conscious about me staring at her for 20 minutes while I inked my way through this bland setting, trusting that my undisciplined pen lines would add up to something.


And the US Bank building corporate arch-thingie, where I was gently hassled by a security guard who asked me to put my chair back and move along.

If you'll be in Georgetown anytime during March or April, I'll have a show of a dozen large color drawings (17x23) at All-City Coffee. Not technically urban sketches, but using the same technique:

Monday, February 19, 2018


Urban Sketchers Seattle met in the center of downtown Seattle to sketch inside the CityCentre building. There was snow in the north end but cold and wind at our location. Only one intrepid sketcher braved the weather to sketch outside. 

We were interrupted near the end of our time by a fire alarm.  The fire department arrived and the alarm was shut off, so obviously a false alarm.

I only did one sketch today as I took my time with all the angles and bits. I forgot to look below it for any information about it and also couldn't find anything on-line. So I let my imagination go. I was drawn to sketch it (ha ha) because it looked like a Stargate.

Do we have a cleverly disguised access to other worlds here in the middle of Seattle?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

US Bank Centre/City Centre Outing

I don't typically come to work on weekends. But deadline happens so there I was sitting at my desk on a Sunday morning. Fortunately this month's outing location happens to be at the City Centre/US Bank Centre in downtown Seattle, which is kitty-corner from where I work. I walked by and through this building almost daily. Never wanting to miss the opportunity to sketch, I sneaked out to take a break from work to let loose and be sketchy for a bit.

The three story atrium with its round rotunda has always fascinated me. I went straight to the southwest entry rotunda where 'The Jewel of Seattle' is hanging from the ceiling. My goal is to capture the entire height of the rotunda from the ground floor all the way to the ceiling, using the curving barrel distorted perspective. I realized quickly that I bit off more than I could chew. Standing from the second floor, I miscalculated the scale of the scene and angle of perspective from the get go. Knowing that I don't have much time since I have to go back to work soon, I decided to make do with what I have and follow the old mantra: “use your sketch to capture the essence of the space”. Disregarding accuracy, I used quick shapes, lines, and solids blacks to whip out a rough one below. As you can see, ellipses are my archenemies.
City Centre/US Bank Centre_Interior

For the next one, I wanted to do a scene with a bit more details. I decided to sketch one of the two column portals located on the ground floor's southern concourse. I am not really sure what these two portals are supposed to be, but they have just the right amount of details for me to challenge myself. With two sketches, I thought I was done for the day and decided to go back to work.

As I was taking a quick stretch between tasks, I stumbled upon a nice exterior view of the corner entry rotunda from the second floor window of my pod. Again not wanting to miss the opportunity to sketch, I decided to do another quick one while waiting for my files to save, using shapes to represent the major forms within the scene. Once I got home, I borrowed my daughter's white gel pen to add contrasting lines to the solid blacks in order to represent the window mullions. I think I am going to need my own white gel pen in my arsenal :).

City Centre/US Bank Centre_Exterior

Saturday, February 17, 2018

lake union drydock co.

Lake Union Drydock Co. is one of my closest neighbors in Eastlake, occupying a couple blocks on the banks of eastern Lake Union. I'm working on getting inside the facility and onto their docks for closer sketching, but for now I'll be content capturing interesting land/water scenes from the many viewpoints on shore.

They've been in operation for almost 100 consecutive years, and are one of the only all-wood docks left in the city. LUDD has mostly been in the boat repair business, but back in the early 20th century they made a few dozen patrol & recreation boats, and even several minesweepers in the 1940s. [source]

LUDD leases some of their dock space to Seattle Seaplanes, as well as for moorage for recreational boats.

The Sandra Foss, a tugboat, has been docked for several weeks, presumably getting repairs. The boats here become such a fixture that it's a little sad when you go out one day and see a big hole where they used to be. 

A quick sketch of some administrative buildings, accessible by bridge.
I want to come back and do a better drawing here when it's not raining!  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Floating Home Explorations

Recently, I've had the good fortune of meeting some folks who have the good fortune to live ON the water in Seattle. I had no idea before moving here that water living is such a Thing - and apparently there used to be way more floating homes before the city cracked down on regulations. After mentioning my interest in them to Gabi Campanario, he generously hit up some of his acquaintances with interesting watery living situations and arranged some visits.

A brief context: The floating homes started as a scrappy working class housing necessity (built by sawmill workers during the timber boom), now it's a gentrifier phenomenon – a place on the lake is now easily over $1 million. The houses float on big old timber logs, some scavenged from the mills over 100 years ago. Actual houseboats (live-aboards) require a hard-to-get permit & you have to find/rent moorage. There are pros and cons to each! Being able to easily move your home around seems pretty great, but you sacrifice certain things, like having convenient access to toilets, running water, internet, etc.

The floating homes & live-aboard boats are probably my favorite thing about this city so far, and seem culturally unique to Seattle. Getting to explore them makes me feel happy that I moved here. I'm also grateful for sketching, which has led me to meet these people who are gracious enough to invite me onto their docks (which aren't open to the public) and into their homes.

1. A's floating home in Eastlake

This floating home is in Eastlake, just a 10 minute walk from my apartment. It's occupied by a renter who didn't want to be named. His house apparently used to be a brothel! The kitchen, with the skylight, was my favorite part of the interior.

the view from A's patio, with fellow sketcher Gabi Campanario doing his thing on the left. Being able to walk out the door & jump in your kayak and paddle out would be so convenient! 
It was raining during the visit but I took advantage of the covered area make a quick watercolor before my hands froze.

2. Ann's floating home in Westlake

Ann is a Seattle native (I think - she's lived here for decades, at the least) who has lived in her lovely floating home for decades & was also introduced to me by Gabi. We weren't able to go inside her house, but there was plenty to explore on the dock and patio. This one is on the other side of Lake Union in Westlake. I love how the docks themselves feel very lived in - potted plants are everywhere & there are plenty of chairs available to lounge in. Ann even swims off her dock in the summer! Apparently Lake Union is clean enough these days.

Our host remarked on the new boxy home that recently moved in a few docks down. Apparently these new "luxury" houses are assembled elsewhere and floated in to the lots! So there isn't that connection of the materials to the land that the older homes have, and a lot of charm is lost. Seattle should recognize the value of its history in these floating homes and do something to preserve the aesthetic before it's lost.

Ann has a direct view of the most famous floating home - the one used in Sleepless in Seattle (the one on the end of the opposing dock with the bench on the end).

Ann and her neighbors own their dock as a co-op, so parts of it are rented out for moorage to actual houseboats. 

3. Jack's Live-Aboard Sailboat

I met Jack at a party at the Center for Wooden Boats, and he invited my partner & I over for dinner to his live-aboard sailboat! He whipped up a hearty stir-fry for us in his boat's super minimal kitchen. Jack lives aboard the Tachyon (n. a hypothetical particle that always moves faster than light), a 42 footer sailboat moored in the Shilshole Bay Marina, on the Puget Sound (I'm super jealous of the mountain views he gets from the dock). His parents were also boat people back in the day, and though he's a Pacific Northwest native, he's not lived in Seattle much longer than us.

The Shilshole Marina is quite sterile compared to the floating home docks - no potted plants, keyed gates on the entrances - and it was hard to tell how many of the other boats were being lived on. I definitely want to come back to sketch the surroundings here, it was a very cold and rainy night when we visited.

Although he likes to cook, Jack is definitely too tall of a dude to do this too often (he was really stooping over the whole time) – mostly he spends his free time at tea houses on land where there is wifi and comfortable desks to work.

It was roomier down in the cabin than I would have expected. Larger than most studio apts in NYC, though the ceilings are quite low. The space is really challenging to sketch, especially because of the curved walls and ceilings.

Meet the Correspondent: Eleanor Doughty

I'm Eleanor (or Ellie) - nice to meet you! I'm a new Seattle transplant as of September 2017. I moved here from NYC (Brooklyn, Bushwick) for a few reasons, none of which have to do with working for Amazon/Microsoft/etc:
• I was super tired of having multiple roommates, but wasn't willing to pay twice as much rent to avoid it. Also my lease was up, and it's so horrible to move in NYC it was pretty much just as difficult to move across the country as to move across a borough.
• Having grown up exclusively on the east coast, it was time for a change!
• The west coast was the closest thing to moving to a different country before it would be logistically super difficult. I plan to stay here for a few years before moving overseas.
• I wanted to live in a place where you could see mountains. The Pacific Northwest delivers.
• The light on the west coast is different. golden. magical (when the sun is out).

I grew up in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C., earned a BFA in illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and then moved up to Brooklyn for three years. There I co-founded the Brunch Club Sketchers group, which has a similar mission to USK. After the Chicago Symposium, I wanted to get more involved with the global Urban Sketchers community, and here we are!

I currently work as a freelance illustrator (editorials, architecture, private commissions, etc.) and hustle selling prints online & in craft markets around the city. My sketching style is pretty bold and energetic, influenced by my work as an editorial illustrator, where it's critical to use shapes to create striking, attention grabbing images that also communicate clearly. I got really into watercolors last year but drawing is my first love! I especially like sketching scenery from above or from afar, to see the true character of a landscape. The mood I usually try to evoke is lighthearted & a bit wonky and off-balance.

Although I sketch on the daily, I'm looking forward to this opportunity to write more & provide context to the things I draw. I realized that the drawing part is only half the battle in urban sketching – so now I want to work on my journalism skills. So far in Seattle, sketching has brought me many opportunities to explore the city and meet interesting people, as well as a good excuse to get outside and take advantage of nice weather when it happens. 

You can follow my work on Instagram or Tumblr or see my website at

Here's a flipthrough of my sketchbook from the first four months of my Seattle life (Sept. - December 2017), and some highlights below:

the Row House Cafe (left), a lovely Old Seattle style building unfortunately slated to be demolished in the near future, no doubt for more hideous luxury apartments. I really felt it was my duty to paint it...before going inside to catch their happy hour.
My first ever time going to Gas Works Park. There was a big forest fire somewhere that day so the surroundings were weirdly tinted and super hazy - a new thing for an east coaster. 
the Seattle Japanese Gardens w/ Ad Hoc urban sketchers. The fall colors were beautiful, especially in all the maples. Lots of photo takers were present as well, "appreciating" the foliage in their own way.
While we waited for our new apartment be ready for move-in (spoiler: it would eventually fall through), my partner and I went camping on the Olympic Peninsula. This was the view from our tent – pretty much unbeatable. A huge plus of living on the west coast: ocean sunsets.