Next Sketch Outing

Saturday, Aug. 31: Feriton Spur Park, Kirkland

Friday, August 23, 2019

Leschi Nostalgia

8/23/19 Leschi Market in the Leschi neighborhood

On warm summer days when I was a kid, my older sister and I would walk the half-mile or so from our home to Leschi Market, where we’d buy popsicles or ice cream bars. Then we’d spread a blanket on the grass at the adjacent park to eat our treats with a view of Lake Washington and the marina. Of course, when I was eight years old, that view that others would call “breathtaking” or “sweeping” (especially when Mt. Rainier was out) didn’t impress me much. We had the same view from our livingroom window. I took it for granted. It’s only now, many decades later and no longer enjoying such a view in Maple Leaf, that I realize how fortunate I was to grow up in the Leschi neighborhood.

8/23/19 Leschi Marina
Indulging in such reminiscence while I sketched was a rare treat for me with USk Seattle today. Although Leschi Market is not a storefront I would choose to sketch under any other circumstance, I did, purely out of nostalgia. While nearly everything about the area has changed since I lived there, that store still remains (though I’m pretty sure they didn’t offer organic chickens when my mom shopped there).

Next I wandered over to the marina, which apparently inspired many sketchers. I walked partway out on a rickety dock that made me a bit seasick when the water suddenly went rough, but I liked the composition of the boats with the I-90 bridges behind them.

Leschi neighborhood

By the time we met for throw down, over 25 sketchers came to sketch the Leschi neighborhood, on the shore of Lake Washington. There were a few first timers, too.

Our sketchbooks filled 2 picnic tables!

I decided to drive back south about a mile to Mt. Baker park. I'd noticed this view a couple times. That's the I-90 floating bridge in the background. I tried sketching in watercolor and added the pen lines after.

There was a team of King County Fire Department rescue divers training as I sketched. The trainer stopped to look at my sketch and told me they had a couple new members so were training here as they get many calls to this location. On the other side of the dock is a swimming area.

I walked up to the street level to sketch this set of steps. This was done in pen with no pencil draft. Both sketches are on Stonehenge Aqua 140# coldpress watercolor paper, 5.5x8 inches (A5-ish).

Monday, August 19, 2019

Amsterdam: A Sizzling Symposium

As soon as I arrived, I could see immediately why Amsterdam had been an easy win as a symposium host. Its extraordinary architecture, well-designed urban spaces, geographic compactness and humanely flat terrain all made it an extremely appealing city for sketchers.

Amsterdam skyline sketched from inside NEMO cafe

Arriving a couple of days ahead of the symposium, I awaited the event with excitement and much anticipation (as I’m sure my 600-plus fellow participants were also feeling). In retrospect, I’m very happy that I had the days before and after the event to sketch, because we were all in for unexpectedly harsh conditions.

Sketches made at dusk and dawn to beat the heat.

A record-breaking heatwave broiled the region for four long days – precisely the four days of the 10th international Urban Sketchers Symposium. When I started hearing reports from locals that the temperature was expected to hit 40 C, it didn’t mean much to me (I couldn’t make the conversion to Fahrenheit in my mind). But when I saw the triple digits in Fahrenheit on my phone’s weather app, I fully comprehended the meaning: Lots of sweat and difficult sketching! To make matters worse, Amsterdam typically does not suffer such high temperatures, so many homes, hotels and businesses are not air conditioned. Relief wasn’t easy to find.

Montelbaanstoren, one of the most-often-sketched towers in Amsterdam

Fortunately, workshops were scheduled for the mornings while temperatures were still in the 80s and lower 90s, and shade made conditions bearable. However, I forfeited most of the afternoon sketchwalks, demos and other outdoor activities and instead retreated to whatever air-conditioned venues I could find. A favorite was the NEMO Science Museum’s large upper-floor café, which offered a nearly 360-degree view of the city. (I explored the sketchwalk neighborhoods on my own after the symposium was over and the heatwave subsided, so at least I was able to sketch in those areas – though it wasn’t the same without other sketchers everywhere.)

I missed the Jordaan and Spui neighborhood sketchwalks, but I caught them later on my own. 

Despite the unexpected hardship of high heat, I enjoyed reuniting with old friends, seeing in person those whom I’ve otherwise known only through social media, and meeting new sketchers from around the world. While I value the inspirational opportunity of workshops, the main reason I attend symposiums is to join the camaraderie of my international tribe. For a few days each year, I am fully immersed in this worldwide community that I cherish. And I’m always grateful to the many volunteers who worked hard for well over a year to make this symposium possible.

Statue of Rembrandt sketched from inside an air-conditioned hotel bar

For a report on the excellent workshops I took from Norberto Dorantes and Nina Johansson, please see my personal blog. My last sketch made in Amsterdam, shown at the top of this post, is one of my favorite sketches from my trip to Holland (which also included Haarlem and Delft). I incorporated compositional ideas and methods that I learned from both Nina and Norberto as I planned this sketch.

A canal street near my apartment.
Westerkerk's spire

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Garden on the roof

We met to sketch this p-patch located on the top of the Mercer St. parking garage.

By the time we had the throw down, quite a few sketchers had gathered.  It was good to reconnect with the rather large group from Seattle who had attended the USk International Symposium in Amsterdam.  

My attitude is if I'm within view of the Space Needle, it must be included in the sketch! Most people sketched this unusual auto from the front or the side. But I had to do the side with the Space Needle in the frame!

I'm rather partial to Airstream trailers so one of my sketches today had to include the one in the garden.

Several of us gathered for lunch around the corner at McMenamins Queen Ann. I have a sketchbook I've dedicated to the McMenamins lamps. So I got one more.

More photos. 


8/18/19 Space Needle and sunflowers
UpGarden is aptly named: It’s the highest p-patch in Seattle. Noted as the nation’s first rooftop community garden, it opened on the top level of the Seattle Center parking garage in 2012. Now thriving and filled with flowers, fruits and vegetables, the garden is a welcome spot of green in the shadow of the Space Needle. USk Seattle has been meaning to meet there for quite a while, and it finally landed on our calendar today.

I took a leisurely stroll around the garden and noted several fun potential sketches: the Airstream trailer (filled with gardening tools) in front of a crane; corn stalks with the Queen Anne towers behind them; a vintage Ford Galaxy 500 filled with plants. The hard part was choosing! Although the sunflowers were past their prime, I didn’t mind: I liked the composition of the tall plant’s heart-shaped leaves in front of the Needle.

What’s next? I couldn’t decide, so I pulled out the trick that served me so well in Amsterdam: I made a page of thumbnail-size sketches of the compositions I’d spotted earlier.

8/18/19 Views from UpGarden
The first time I sketch again with USk Seattle after I’ve been traveling, I’m always filled with joy and gratitude for my community here at home. I’m fortunate to be able to travel and sketch with people from around the world, but it’s when I do that I am reminded not to take my homies for granted. Many sketchers don’t belong to a local group, so the symposium is their only opportunity to be with like-minded folks. I’m much luckier than that; I can do it several times a month.

Driving home with the top down on the Express Lanes, it was 73 degrees and clear. This is, unarguably, the best time of year to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Ganges, Kanaka Bay on Salt Spring Island, B.C.

Indigenous people have been in the area for over 3000 years; the town’s name has a connection with the holy Ganges in India. The counter culture is alive and, as one writer said, spiritual healers have become an invasive species. Seaplanes roar in and out of the harbor. There are loads of contrasts on this, the biggest town on the biggest of British Columbian’s Gulf Islands. But I was curious about the name of the bay - Kanaka.

It’s Hawaiian; it means “person” or “man”. But why this Hawaiian name here, in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia? It turns out back in early days of white settlement Many Hawaiians came to work for Hudson’s Bay Company as immigrant laborers. Here in Salt Spring they were contracted for a term and then free to do what they pleased after the term was complete.  Some stayed right here in Salt Spring. I tried to find evidence of the Hawaiian culture beyond the name of the bay. A local told me down in the town of Fulsome, there are gravestones with shells on them. “And Oh yes,” she told me there are the Hawaiians themselves. “

So no Hawaiian artifacts, but the island lifestyle is definitely evident. Lots of tourists, lots of boats, lots of music in open air bars and restaurants. One of the more well known is Treehouse Café, with live music nightly, indoor and outdoor seating and a giant tree growing right through the roof.

Strolling through town I passed the Courtyard.  Bagels hung on string across the counter window. Who can resist hanging bagels? Not just any bagels, these were Montreal bagels.  They look more like bialies that I saw on the lower east side of Manhattan. I ordered one covered with lox and cream cheese. It came with a yellow and orange pansy sitting on a hand hewn wood cheese board. Absolutely delicous.

The bagel shop was a recent addition to the gallery, Hiro, the owner told me. “ We just opened it 2 weeks ago.” Hiro, is a Polish trader who commissions woodworked objects in Indonesia and brings them to sell in his gallery here on Salt Spring. His Japanese wife, Miro, manages the Montreal bagels. Hiro and Miro.

Just across from the Courtyard is a shiny new airstream mini, the home of Salt Spring Soft Serve. The owner Chris told me, “I mix cocktails for a living.”  He and his family moved to Salt Spring from Vancouver B.C. two years ago. “We didn’t want to raise our kids in downtown Vancouver.” For a while he commuted then just two months ago, after testing recipes for his dairy free, coconut and oat milk based soft serve, he opened his ice cream truck. “It wasn’t hard to go from mixing cocktails to mixing sundaes,” he said.

We really just tapped the surface of this interesting Canadian town and I hope to visit again.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Epiphany at Seattle U

It seems fitting I came to this epiphany while sketching at Seattle University, which is a Jesuit Catholic school. See below.

While the early morning rain kept some away, it was an intrepid group of 8 sketchers who met outside St. Ignatius chapel at Seattle University yesterday. While there were indoor or sheltered places to sketch, the rain stopped just as we gathered at 10 am.
Outside surfaces were still damp at 12:30 so our throw down was inside.

Now to my epiphany. Compare these three sketches. The first I did in my usual way... drawn first in pencil and then inked. The next two were bold and direct drawing in ink. So many experienced sketchers say to draw without pencil first and I've finally seen the difference in my drawing.  With that, the painting is also looser.  And I'm also using a larger sketch book: 9x9 inch Bee Super Deluxe. I think the 10x10 workshop I took last year from David Chamness has finally sunk in!

I found a bit of shelter under the structure of the bell tower to sketch this view of St. Ignatius chapel. The Architect was Steven Holl Architects of NYC with Olson Sundberg Architects as the associates here in Seattle. The contractor was Baugh Construction.

Even though it had stopped raining, I went inside to sketch this quite unusual Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

I found a small, hidden park with a picnic table just outside another building. It held this memorial to those "martyred in El Salvador on November 16,1989".

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Columbia City

We met yesterday in the historic district of Columbia City. There were many good sketching subjects within the main street and a block either side.

We had a sketcher join us from Taiwan as he was visiting his sister in Seattle. He couldn't stay for the throw down as she had to get back to work.  There were a least two others who also left early.  Maybe we should start taking a photo at the beginning, too?

Sketchers seemed to be arriving later than usual...perhaps it was the semi truck overturned on I-5! I waited at our meeting spot for an extra long time and did a sketch of the brunch crowd waiting to get into the restaurant.  Done in the pocket Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook.

After my second sketch on the corner, I walked a block away to sketch the door facade of Columbia School.

My favorite of the day is this sketch of a corner with an antique clock. I'd still wanted to stay fairly close to our meeting spot and this was just across the street.

No more sketchers appeared but I did meet an older couple with a baby in a stroller. She asked, "are you an Urban Sketcher". I think that's the first time I've gotten so specific a question.  Turned out she lives on Vashon Island and had taken a workshop from one of USk Tacoma members, Darsie Beck!. I told her Tacoma was meeting the next day.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Who to Pity?

We sketched together today at the Museum of Flight's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park.

I also used the occasion to host my annual "Symposium Pity Party".  Several of our sketching friends are in Amsterdam now for the Urban Sketchers International Symposium. Gabi, Gail, Stephanie, Tina, Sue, Ellie, Carol, Antonella, Kate, Renee, and maybe more, are all there.

I made little stick-on badges for everyone. My first draft read "I wish I was there" but the second draft was "We want stroopwafel", a reference to the Dutch cookie. When I shared this, several people said they weren't sure who to for not being there or them for being there in 100+ degree heat! We started the morning at about 70 degrees.

The pity party consisted of coffee and stroopwafel. These are waffle like cookies with caramel filling.

At the end of our sketching session we had the throw down in the shade of the massive B-52 as it had gotten somewhat warmer...perhaps 85 degrees! 

Since I've done a one and a half year series on the B-52, I didn't sketch it today. I do want to sketch a rear view but today I didn't want to sit in the sun.

So I did two sketches of the upper rear of the Boeing 747. The Museum has RA 001, the first one made. I used two different techniques and different sized paper. The second one was without line and was smaller (A5).

That's a part of a wing pin I found on the ground. 

Lastly, I sketched a fighter jet.

A few more photos.