Next Sketch Outing

Saturday, Feb. 22: Wintergrass

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Wintergrass fun

This was my first outing to Wintergrass at the Bellevue Hyatt, and it was a treat. Music everywhere -- be it scheduled concerts, or just groups of friends who pulled some chairs together and switched instruments (and musicians!) as they went along.

The first group I sketched had a bassist and a banjo player - amongst many others, but I don’t draw that quickly. Or color that quickly, as I left these as ink drawings. They were a lively bunch and drew quite a crowd.

Then I moved over to a group of three guys playing farther down the hallway. This time, I just drew one and spent a bit more time and added color. I was using my iPad, so this didn’t require any additional equipment - in fact, I didn’t even set up my stool the entire day! I think this is the first sketch outing where I’ve done the whole thing standing up.

I headed upstairs and saw tables set up with a huge number of guitars. I didn't have the time to draw all of them, but since I was drawing digitally, I didn't have to. ;)

I was in a hurry, because I wanted to catch the concert at the KBCS stage -- the radio station for Bellevue College.

After that, I headed back downstairs and caught up with some of the other sketchers, where we chatted about our morning, and also about using iPads for sketching.

Then we got together for the throw down, where we had nine artists! We roped in a friendly bystander to get a group photo.

It was a great day of sketching, and I'll be back next year! (And possibly tomorrow!)

Also, for those of you who were curious about the specifics of my iPad setup, here are some of the details:

  • I’m using the previous model of the iPad Pro 10.5”, which you can still buy "refurbished" from Apple. Most newer models, and all of the "Pro" models, support the Apple Pencil which utilizes pressure and tilt sensitivity. (Most normal styluses don't.)
  • The screen protector brand I’m using is "iCarez Anti-Glare Matte Screen Protector". You have to buy the correctly sized one for your model of iPad. I vastly prefer this brand to the “ClearView” brand protector which is much rougher and harder on pen nibs. However, both are tricky to install without getting dust or bubbles under it. (It can be done - it's just tricky.) 
  • The holder is the “Max Smart Tablet iPad Hand Holder Grip Handle”. Note that there are different sizes for some model iPads. Check to make sure yours will fit the one you order.
  • All of these items are available online and should show up under those search terms. 

Wintergrass Friends

Perusing the lineup for the 2020 Wintergrass Music Festival, I noticed one band named I Draw Slow.   I drew very fast at the festival!  It was of course due to movement of  musician’s hands and the beat of music.  Spun into musical festival excitement, drawing while listening to music was pure joy.  

Stringed instruments


Although I brought my stool, I didn’t use it once.  Instead, I found abundant, comfortable, Hyatt Regency chairs with mostly straight on views of jamming bands.  The woman in my first sketch had a commanding touch with her larger than she was instrument.  The guys on  fiddles moved things along while the guy on guitar sang melody.  Afterwards I asked him the name of their band. He said it was a no name band, they were all just friends. 

Playing nice together

I walked around the upper balcony and listened to some groups playing in a circle.  I couldn’t get the right angle so I moved back to the other side of my band with no name.  This time around, I thought about Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints from the Moulin Rouge series and pushed some of the figures into a flat background shape.  

Cajun music

Before throw down time, I came upon a group with two accordions.  They too were just friends, a no name band.  I loved listening to their cajun style music.  The female guitar player had a beautiful, clear voice.  They were all so friendly and happy, even let me take a picture of them with my sketch in the foreground!  I wished them well in their musical adventure.  

Wintergrass and Urban Sketch friends

Saturday, February 15, 2020

USk Seattle 10x10 Registration Begins Feb. 29!

Urban Sketchers Seattle is excited to announce the 2020 USk 10x10 Workshop Program! All your favorite local instructors are back, many with new workshops: Stephanie Bower, Gabi Campanario, David ChamnessMichele CooperEleanor DoughtySue HestonAndika Murandi and Jane Wingfield. In addition, two new instructors are joining our faculty: Seattle sketcher Tina Koyama and guest instructor Suzala, visiting from New York City! All are offering inspiring workshops for sketchers of all experience levels.

The USk 10x10 program is a worldwide initiative to offer educational workshops wherever sketchers live. Launched in celebration of Urban Sketchers’ 10th anniversary in 2017, the program offers a variety of courses on urban sketching techniques, approaches and media. This is the fourth consecutive year that USk Seattle is participating. With 15 workshops scheduled, it’s our biggest program yet!

Registration begins Saturday, Feb. 29, 9 a.m. The cost for each 3½-hour workshop is $60 through our “early bird” date, March 27, 2020. After that date, the price is $70 per workshop. Registration will be processed by the event management website, Brown Paper Tickets. Please see the program schedule and workshop details and read the FAQ for registration information.

Have questions? Read the FAQ first, then send email to:

Friday, February 14, 2020

Out the windows

We spent part of this Valentine's day doing what we love...sketching together in our town. We spread out around Columbia Center, which is the tallest building in the city. The view from the 40th floor Starbucks isn't what it used to be and it now costs $20 to ride the elevator up to the 73rd floor. So I spent my time sketching out the windows of the 4th floor.

Liz and Peggy found warm spots on an outdoor patio with a good view.

Sharing our sketches. The Smith Tower got a lot of attention today. It opened in 1914 and was the first skyscraper in Seattle as well as tallest building west of the Mississippi for many decades. It is 35 floors.

My first sketch was a window view of that same Smith Tower.


Then I moved to the other side of the building to sketch the Rainier club dwarfed by new skyscrapers.

More photos here. 

Fourth & Cherry in Thumbnails

2/14/20 view of 4th and Cherry
Although USk Seattle had met at Columbia Center only last fall, we all agreed then that Seattle’s tallest building offers enough easy views that it wouldn’t be too soon to visit again in the winter. In addition to spacious windows with seating and tables on the three lobby floors, the central stairway challenged several sketchers. Finally, the Starbucks on the 40th floor (the highest Starbucks in the city and, at least at one time, in the country) offers spectacular views for the price of a coffee (a great alternative to paying $22 to ride up to the 73rd floor where, admittedly, the view is even more spectacular).

Last time I was there, I did a full-size sketch of the Smith Tower, so this morning I decided instead to do a series of thumbnail-size sketches from various points in the building. From a third-floor corner facing Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street, I took on the Smith Tower again, an abstract view of another building and the skyway (jokingly called Seattle’s “bridge of sighs”) between the King County Courthouse and correctional facility.

2/14/20 A slice of sky from the 40th floor

Next I rode the elevator up to floor 40 to check out the Sky View Starbucks (at left). The last time I spent any time there, I enjoyed a much wider view of Elliott Bay. With all the new buildings that have been completed in the past several years, the slices of sky and water are getting slimmer and slimmer. 

Not yet ready to give up my prime corner table, I swiveled 90 degrees and looked down. My next page of thumbnails (below) includes the Gothic tower of Trinity Parish Church and Interstate 5. If you look closely at the last sketch, you’ll see some tiny blue dots. That’s a small village of tents where, very sadly, an increasing number of Seattle citizens reside (as well as in many other parts of the city).

2/14/20 Trinity Parish Church and Interstate 5

I’ll leave you with one last thumbnail: I arrived downtown quite a bit early for the sketch outing, so I made a quick stop on First Avenue facing Elliott Bay and the Seattle Great Wheel. I still can’t get over the view that is no longer blocked by the viaduct.

2/14/20 Seattle Great Wheel and Elliott Bay

Friday, January 31, 2020

Good Grubbin’, Gabbin’ & Grabbin’

Natalie shows her favorite sketchbook format -- the Hahnemuhle accordion.

Sheltered from this morning’s blustery wind and rain at the Northeast branch library, USk Seattle held one of its most popular events of the year – our seventh annual Gab & Grab. We show-and-tell about our favorite sketch supplies and swap books and materials we no longer use. This year we tried a new format: We started at noon and brought in bag lunches for good grubbin’, gabbin’ and grabbin’! I forgot to photograph all the goods up for grabs, but we easily filled four of the library’s folding tables.

It’s fun to share and reuse materials and even more fun hear about new things people have discovered. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Alice shows us her favorite watercolor palette.

Anne tells us about the Perpetua pencil, which is made of 80% graphite.

Kathleen shows a sketch she made with the ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil.

Nilda explains why she likes to make samples of colored pencil hues on toned paper.

Roy found a new pencil clutch at the University Bookstore.

Victoria shows us her folding watercolor palette with extra-deep mixing wells and a design that keeps paints moist.

Meet the correspondent: Helen Todd

Sketching at Swanson's
Sketching at Swanson's Nursery.
Photo by Tina Koyama.
Hello, fellow sketchers! My name is Helen Todd, and I’m thrilled and honored to be a new correspondent for Urban Sketchers Seattle! I was born in England and grew up in Northern Virginia, but my husband and I moved to Seattle in 1998 and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My professional background is in Computer Science, but I’ve always had an artistic streak lurking underneath, and I took various art classes over the years.
I discovered plein air painting about twelve years ago. While it shares similarities to urban sketching (in that you’re painting from life, outdoors), the vibe for me is completely different. When I happened across the Urban Sketchers outings in 2018, I was blown away by how much more connected I felt with the environment and people I was painting -- and also how much more focused I had to be with my paintings given the time limit! That part was a real struggle for me at first, but it has definitely helped me grow as an artist.

Buddha, Swanson's Nursery
Buddha amongst the potted plants, Swanson's Nursery

My first Urban Sketchers Seattle outing was in June 2018 to the Anderson School in Bothell. To be honest, I was a little intimidated about going. I’d taken a long hiatus from anything artistic and the thought of drawing -- in public! -- and sharing it with a bunch of strangers, was slightly terrifying. But to my relief, everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming, and I was hooked. I eagerly went back for the outing at the Seattle Chinese Garden, and many more. Living in Carnation - definitely the ‘east’ part of the Eastside - rush hour and parking make it difficult for me to attend all of the Seattle events. (I am, however, now familiar with my ORCA card!) But this has given me opportunities to find additional places to sketch (and people to sketch with) on the other side of the lake.
sketch on a receipt
In the waiting room...
One of my favorite things about urban sketching is that it’s changed my entire attitude towards drawing. It isn’t something I have to ‘wait’ to do -- everything is an opportunity for a quick drawing. One of my favorite recent sketches was done while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, on the back of a receipt because I’d forgotten my sketchbook! I’d also forgotten my glasses, so it was a bit of a challenge in that respect as well! Technically, it’s not the best thing I’ve done, but it made me much happier to spend ten minutes sketching, rather than messing around with my phone. I’ve been working with digital art since the early 90s, and in the last few years, I’ve been drawing on my iPad as well. Some of you have probably seen me at outings with it -- I know I’ve had quite a few questions, which is great! (If anyone has any questions about iPad sketching or the program Procreate, feel free to ask!)
When I started urban sketching, time constraints nudged me away from my previous style of detailed drawings and layers of watercolor glazing to the much-quicker techniques of pen and wash. Similarly, I found I’ve changed my digital style as well. I’ve started doing looser, more expressive drawings, as opposed to the digital animation-style pieces I did before. I struggled with this process for a while, but it finally clicked when I started drawing people -- a subject that has always terrified me. It’s yet another way urban sketching has stretched my boundaries and helped me grow as an artist.

Cart Guy, digital sketch using iPad.
Cart guy.
Digital sketch using iPad and Procreate.

Drawing on a regular basis has brought a lot of joy into my life, both from the actual process, but also from the interactions and friendships I’ve made within the sketching community. I’m really proud and grateful to be a part of the Seattle Urban Sketchers, and of the worldwide Urban Sketching movement. I look forward to sharing my work with you here, and on Instagram at artgeekstudios!

Freeway Park, Seattle
Freeway Park, Seattle

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Burke

Yesterday, Sunday, January 19, I joined Urban Sketchers Seattle at the newly re-opened Burke Museum. The old museum had been torn down and in it's place was this 3 story, massive building.

Since I wasn't sure when I might be back, I spent a good deal of time looking through the exhibits. It's almost overwhelming.

At end we were quite a large group.

As I spent most of my time wandering, I only did one sketch. Though there was no information about this specific canoe, all the types of paddles were identified.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


1/19/20 Mastodon replica, Burke Museum

Somehow the mastodon always calls to me. I’ve sketched it at the Burke Museum numerous times, but I never seem to tire of it. At the old facility, the big guy stood at the end of a dark, narrow exhibit area, so it was difficult to get any angle but head-on. In the Burke’s new digs, the replica of the 10,000-year-old skeleton guards the museum’s lower-floor entrance flooded with natural light. Looking down from the lobby stairway, this was my first attempt at sketching its entire length and girth in profile.

I love drawing all those bones, for sure, but capturing the sheer scale of this formidable monster is the real challenge: I used a full spread in my sketchbook this time, but I still didn’t have room for the tail. But at least I managed to get Suzanne and David in.

The mastodon made a great throwdown location as well as a popular sketch subject!

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Today's theme is "coffee". 

While waiting for a shop to open in my suburb, I stopped in at a new-ish local coffee shop, Boon Boona.  It's East African.   I was glad to see it so full on a weekday morning. 

I decided to switch from ball point pen to pencil.  I used a Faber-Castell B I got in Germany... it has a fancy cap that includes a sharpener. This is a Stillman & Birn pocket Epsilon.

After my errand, I drove on to the Museum of Flight for a Member's event: "Coffee with the Curator."  They had scheduled it into a large room and it was nearly full! Perhaps because this was our first opportunity to meet the new curator, Matthew Burchette.   This issue of the Museum's magazine, Aloft, has an article about him.  The topics included discussion of the planned "refresh" of the World War II gallery in the Personal Courage Wing to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII this year.  At this event there were also WWII artifacts on display from the archives.

And since it would have been my 4th cup this morning, I didn't have any coffee with the Curator!   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Green Lake Arch

1/14/20 Green Lake Park
We got a little more snow overnight, but not enough to write home about. The more significant difference for me was the drop in temperature. Although my weather app said it was 28 degrees, I was hoping that my walk down to Green Lake would have warmed me enough that I could stand to sketch outdoors as I had the day before. But my hands were freezing even with the mitten tops pulled over my fingerless gloves. I retreated to Starbucks.

Thawing my hands around a tall flat white, I picked a window seat facing a row of knotty old trees. It’s one of my favorite views of Green Lake Park, but it had been several years since I last sketched it. The darker areas are the grass already showing through the scant snow.

I’ll point out a bit of history: That classical façade in the distant background at right is a piece of architecture taken from the Martha Washington School of Girls for “neglected and unfortunate young girls.” Built in 1921 near Lake Washington, the school closed in 1957, and the city bought the property in 1972. (Local trivia: Apparently ghosts have been sighted there.) The Green Lake Arch, as it is now called, was taken out of storage in 2009 and placed at the park. I always thought I hadn’t noticed the arch until recent years because so many things escaped my attention before I started sketching. But now that I’ve read this bit of local history, I realize it was erected only a couple of years before I started.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Jointly at McMenamins

Urban Sketchers Tacoma hosted Urban Sketcher Seattle in a joint outing at the new(ish) McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma. It is a unique venue with so much to sketch. This was my 4th time there this year as they opened in the spring. I was grateful for the large turnout from Seattle, given the unpleasant weather for the long drive south.

Thanks to Sean F. for taking the group photo

After wandering up and down stairs, I finally found my way back to this odd mezzanine. The ceiling height is much shorter than the rest of the building.


I have a pocket Pentalic Aqua sketchbook that is dedicated to the lamps of McMenamins...not just the one's at the Elks Temple. Near the end of our sketching period, I sat with a couple other sketchers in the pub to do this ink sketch of some lamps.

This section of the hotel is unusual. There is a block of rooms inside a large, 2 story space. While it was being renovated, I watched on the construction company's FB page the installation of this magnificent chandelier. I talked with a young woman who is a housekeeper there but also an artist. I gave her the USk card, of course She told me McMenamins has one person whose sole job is to by lamps for them, scouring estate sales, antique stores, etc! This is my favorite sketch of the day.

A few more photos here.

by Kate Buike

Lots of Lamps But Not Much Light

1/10/20 Broadway, Tacoma

Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, McMenamins’ newest hotel and pub venue in Tacoma would be challenging fun to sketch from the outside on a warm, sunny day. On a wet, cold Friday, however, we all stayed inside the Elks Temple, where it was cozy. The joint sketch outing between USk Seattle and USk Tacoma attracted a huge turnout, and many sketchers were attracted to the venue’s period-appropriate furnishings, especially the impressive collection of vintage lamps.

Ironically, despite all the lamps, I found most areas to be dimly lighted (authentic to the period, I suppose). After wandering around from floor to floor, admiring the décor, I found a stairwell window with a view of Broadway.

Later I found a seat on the main floor, where I noticed that all the fabulous chairs had clawed feet. I knew I didn’t have enough time for a whole chair, but I had time for one foot (well, three, actually).

1/10/20 One clawed foot and two booted ones.
Dark but full of gorgeous lamps

Lots of clawed feet
At the Elks Temple pub for possibly the
 largest USk lunch turnout ever!