Next Sketch Outing

Saturday, April 20, 10 a.m.: Showbox Theater/Pike Place Market

Friday, April 19, 2019

Urban Sketching Victoria with Gabi

4/14/19 BC Legislative Assembly Building
Although I have been to Victoria, British Columbia, several times, all those visits had been before I began sketching. A few months ago, Gabi Campanario announced that he was offering urban sketching workshops in the charming Canadian city. Recalling the historic architecture and lovely harbor, I jumped at the opportunity to visit again – this time with sketchbook in hand.

4/12/19 Gabi and I met up on the Clipper ferry to Victoria. Here
he is finishing up his presentation.
Co-sponsored by Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, the workshop weekend began last Friday afternoon with a free presentation by Gabi about urban sketching. Although I’ve heard Gabi give similar talks at other workshops I’ve taken with him, I always find it helpful to be reminded of his tips, basic practices and principles to get the most out of urban sketching. For example, here’s the order of priority that Gabi places on the elements of a sketch:
  1. Composition (more than 60 percent of the success of a sketch depends on a strong composition)
  2. Tones and values (“squint hard to see them”)
  3. Color (might not be necessary if other elements are strong)
Other words of wisdom:
  • For the sake of speed, keep drawings small (he favors pocket-size sketchbooks; workshop participants received a small Stillman & Birn free) and stay on your feet (you’re less likely to spend a long time on a single sketch if you don’t get too comfy)
  • “Keep your eye on your subject, not on your paper.”
  • “Don’t be intimidated by all the gear. . . all you need is a pencil or a ballpoint pen.” Keep materials simple.
  •  “My sketchbook is a laboratory, not a portfolio.” Gabi encouraged us to experiment and take chances with our sketches instead of trying to make them perfect and precious.
  • “I have nothing against erasers.”
4/12/19 My notes while Gabi gave his presentation.
4/12/19 St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
After Gabi’s presentation, members of Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, “a group of Greater Victoria residents dedicated to improving our region’s shared places,” took participants on a short walk around the neighborhood to experience public urban spaces. They encouraged us to use all our senses to observe without judging. Since urban sketchers naturally observe their surroundings closely as part of sketching, the group’s values – “we focus on what happens in ‘the public realm’” – complement urban sketching well.

Although making a sketch was not necessarily part of the brief exercise, sketching is the easiest way for me to efficiently observe and focus on any space, so I chose to make a quick one (at left) of the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church that I could see in the distance. (Little did I know then that it would be a dry run for the next day’s workshop!)

Gabi offered three workshops over two days: Architecture, People, and Nature. I opted for Architecture, which continues to be my biggest challenge. Saturday dawned wet, cold and windy (much colder than Seattle only a hundred miles south as the crow flies). We were originally supposed to sketch the stately and formidable BC Legislative Assembly Building, but without nearby shelter, it was untenable. Gabi decided to change the workshop location to the same church I had hastily sketched the day before, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, because a building with a deep overhang was conveniently available directly across the street. The overhang kept us all dry and somewhat sheltered (though not warm! We were all frozen by the end of the workshop). All weekend as he had to change plans according to the weather, Gabi noted that being flexible is an important part of urban sketching!

Gabi demo's composition options.
I look cold, don't I?
Thumbnail of the composition I chose.
The street light fixtures had an unusual curved shape that was different from the ones I’m used to sketching back home, so I wanted to include them in my sketch. As we talked about composition, Gabi noted that it might be a better choice to move slightly down the sidewalk so that the light poles wouldn’t be planted firmly in front of the church. Although the rain had slowed by then, I admit that I was reluctant to leave the overhang’s shelter. I stayed put and made my thumbnail. When I told him I had chosen to stick with the original composition, he said that it was still possible to make a successful sketch if the poles were given prominence so that their lines didn’t get mushed together with the lines of the church.

My final sketch is below. In retrospect, I think that Gabi’s idea of moving down the street would have made a stronger composition. But I tried to use color (on the church) and heavier lines on the light poles to distinguish them from the church.

4/13/19 St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

Gabi wrapped up the architecture workshop inside a nearby coffee shop so that we could warm up and share our sketches. He demo’d watercolor techniques and showed us his favorite sketch materials there.

Architecture workshop participants

The next day, the rain had stopped, but the temperature was still not amenable. Instead of following the Nature workshop students to a nearby park as I had planned, I decided to explore the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Thinking I would find an interesting interior to sketch there, I was delighted to find something much better: a fantastic view of the Legislative Assembly Building that we had to forego the previous day! And a cozy, comfy couch to sketch it from, to boot (sketch at top of page)!

Normally I would fill the entire composition with a huge building like this, but as I scoped out the scene, I heeded Gabi’s suggestion during the workshop: “Leave extra room in front of the building so people can ‘walk’ into your sketch as if they were walking into the real building.” A bus, a vendor’s umbrella and pedestrians in the foreground seemed like a handy way to give the composition the space that Gabi had advised.

The park in front of the legislative building was the location for the final event of the weekend – a sketchcrawl open to the public. Since I had already sketched the domed building from the comfort of the Empress, everything else seemed like icing. I chose the statue of Queen Victoria prominently placed in the park (you can also see a tiny version of her in my sketch at the top of the page).

4/14/19 Queen Victoria's statue

Despite the rain and cold, I had a very enjoyable weekend meeting sketchers from Victoria, Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia. I learned new tips to apply to future sketches, and as always, I was inspired by Gabi’s enthusiasm for and commitment to urban sketching.

Cathy sketching a totem.

Gabi sketching the legislative building.

Sketchers at Queen Victoria's feet.

Final sketchcrawl participants

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Columbia has landed

Destination Moon is a joint exhibition by Smithsonian and Museum of Flight. It includes many Apollo 11 artifacts from the Smithsonian as well as Museum of Flight Apollo artifacts and some loaned by the family of Neil Armstrong. The highlight of the exhibition is the Columbia capsule which orbited the moon during the first Moon landing, 7/20/1969, with Michael Collins on board.

Columbia, as see through its removed hatch. 

This is the only west coast installation and the Museum will have this exhibition for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing on 7/20/19. There is a huge festival planned. Destination Moon opens this weekend, April 13. I've seen it twice already. On Sunday, Himself and I went to the "members only" preview. This was my day to fully take it in. It was thrilling to see Columbia, re-entry scarred exterior and all.

Yesterday, Tuesday April 9, I went to the "staff and volunteers" preview. This was my sketching day. I scheduled an opening time entry and sped straight to Columbia. I had several minutes alone in order to do my pencil sketch.

Then I turned to sketching Buzz Aldrin's extravehicular visor and gloves.

Sunday photos
Tuesday photos

Note: As of today, 4/10/19, part of the Museum is still effected by the downing of 27 power polls last Friday afternoon: "Partial Closure Notice Due to ongoing work on downed utility lines, the West Campus, including the Aviation Pavilion and Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, will remain closed until further notice.  Our main campus is open, but we are unable to receive calls. Please visit our info page for more details "

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Saturday in Bremerton

I was itching to get out of the city a couple weekends back & realized that I should OBVIOUSLY go take the ferry somewhere...somehow I haven't done this yet! I chose Bremerton instead of Bainbridge because you get more ferry for your fare, and bc I was interested in Illahee State Park & Reserve for their camping potential (in warmer weather). I rode my bike down to the ferry, and as soon as the boat left I already knew I had made a great decision. The mountains were all out and I felt a great sense of freedom! I sketched some tiny views as the ferry chugged across the Sound, then through the passages around the peninsulas. I underestimated how beautiful it would be out here. 

My first stop in Bremerton was kind of obvious - the USS Turner Joy, retired warship, now floating museum. I didn't want to pay the $$$ admission to go on so I sketched "her" from the pier. The first page of this new sketchbook did some unexpected speckling when I added watercolor, but it kind of works? I used masking fluid to save the white of the masts in the foreground and kept detail to a minimum (focusing only on the shapes and darkest areas), which I find to be a counterintuitive but solid strategy for capturing confusing scenes.

I love biking to explore new areas, but I really underestimated those hills around Bremerton. especially since I've been using the e-powered Jump bikes a lot, I am mentally and physically weaker than I once was (also my bike could use a tune up). I spent all the uphills gasping and fantasizing about how much better it would be if I was riding a moped (soon!) instead of a squeaky old road bike. To partially make up for the physical exertion, the views north of town of the foothills and the Olympic mountains (so much closer!) were pretty stunning. I stopped to catch my breath by the small Bataan Park on the way to Illahee State Park and did a sketch of this steep street.

I will be back to explore more when I have my motorcycle license and it's warm enough to camp! If not sooner; I wish I left more time to bike around the flatter Port Orchard area. To get there, you just step onto a $2 "foot ferry" which is a beautiful historic wooden boat - one of the famous Mosquito Fleet of the PNW- and go across the water. You can even swipe your Orca card to pay the fare. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Cherries on the Quad

The UW web page for Quad Cherry blossoms reported "The cherry blossoms in the Quad reached peak bloom today". It seems Urban Sketchers Seattle hit the mark for planning a sketch outing for today. We've come to sketch the peak cherry blossoms for some years now.

Our group photo was taken by the Ellen M. Banner, photographer for The Seattle Times. didn't get her name at the time as she was talking to us about the group and our sketches. She put one of the sketchers in her photo essay, here  (it's the third image).   By the end of our session there were quite a few sketchers.

by Ellen M. Banner, photographer for The Seattle Times

My first sketch of man with camera is representative of the dozens of photographers present today. The UW blossoms are predominantly white with a bit of pink in the center. But I wanted to heighten the effect with splattered pink. During this sketch I sat with two charming families, mothers with small daughters. I gave one daughter a piece of paper as she wanted to draw, too.  They were picking up tiny fallen blossoms and I took one to draw in the corner of my sketch. 

My second sketch was done for the USk Flickr group weekly theme: "fire hydrants". This one is in the colors of the University of Washington. It seemed the perfect choice.

I had just a few minutes left and I wanted to include this ornate lamps in my sketch of more trees. 

Nearly Peak Experience at the Quad

3/29/19 UW Quad

Between the weather and peak blooming, timing an Urban Sketchers Seattle sketch outing at the University of Washington Quad is a tricky matter. Today we hit it just right: While the cherry blossoms weren’t quite at 100 percent, they were close enough, and the sunshine on a cool morning was a bonus.

Roy DeLeon invited me and three other sketchers to participate in a 360-degree sketch. The only other time I’ve done that was at the downtown library a few months ago, and it was a lot of fun, so I came armed with my panorama landscape sketchbook. As expected, hundreds of people milled about, enjoying the magical, ethereal blossoms, and some – like the three ladies in the foreground of my sketch – were having a traditional hanami picnic under the clouds of sakura trees.

Here are my fellow 360 sketchers, and below are our circle of sketches (though I see now that I got one in the wrong sequence).

Peter, Helen, Robin and Roy hard at work.

Sketches by Robin and Tina...

... Peter and Helen...

... and Roy.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

visions of vashon

This weekend, as y'all were drinking at the brewery, 5 ladies (including our own Swagatika and April!) and I were exploring Vashon & Maury Island on an overnight art retreat across the water. It was my first time on the island. Props to them for organizing such a good getaway, it was super fun and we saw a ton (including orcas in the Puget Sound!!) while also having lots of time to sketch/journal and relax. 

Arriving early, we had about 20 minutes waiting on the West Seattle ferry deck before departure. It was so scenic from there, it was difficult to choose a subject! I settled on a small view of the houses along the (private) beach and the long-trunked conifers surrounding them. I noticed a sliver of red peeking out....and realized this modern home was indeed flying the Confederate flag. It seemed really smug to me, waving to us from afar, and put me in a bad mood. I guess we should thank them for putting their racist flag outside so we can know what kind of people they are 🙃

I made several paintings on this trip, but I kinda like the quicker/looser marker sketches I did in my sketchbook more than the more developed watercolors. 
We spent a good long while at Snapdragon in central Vashon, and it had really good vibes. The prices were fair and the portions were extremely generous! 
Lately, I'm finding myself attracted to really blown out scenes; like, when the light is so bright outdoors that everything inside is reduced to near-silhouetted shapes with minimal detail, and the dark areas are very close in value. It's almost hard to look at, but it gives a very specific atmosphere. 

Just before we had to get to the ferry on Sunday, April, Swagatika and I stopped at KVI Beach for a bit, where I was compelled to capture the red and white radio tower. I subdivided divided my page into smaller boxes to fit the super-tall composition as well as to fit the limited time we had there. Looking around from my spot lying in the sand, I captured some vignettes of the scenery, and continued filling in the boxes until we reached the Seattle side of the water.

I recently bought a 48 marker set of Kuretake Zig Calligraphy pens (since apparently they're not sold in singles anywhere any least I can't find them). Having so many colors is such a luxury. I've been taking a few out at a time, somewhat at random, and making these limited color sketches. I like the simplicity of this system, compared to the infinite possibilities of watercolor. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Georgetown Posters

I really like sketching Georgetown. Sturdy brick buildings + grunge. Something about contrasts. This past Sunday, a grey-but-not-so-rainy day I met the Seattle Urbansketchers at the Georgetown Elysian Brewery. It was a wonderful space but I chose to venture out.

Color is usually the thing that catches my eye the most and other than the characters on the streets,  the layers and layers of posters on the telephone poles boasted a colorful contrast to the old brick buildings and grey skies.

I aborted my first attempt, something I don't usually do Instead I started over. So the left side page was a messy blotch of smeared watercolor and pencil; the right a more finished sketch. The next day I went back to Georgetown, found a pole with old posters. (I promise I didn't tear up anything posted after December 2018.) Keeping with the poster theme I decided to plaster my sketchbook with poster samples.

I moved on searching for another inviting scene and again the plastered posters caught my eye. Coupled with telephone poles and wires, freeway overpass and more brick buildings, it seemed if not quintessential, at least emblematic Georgetown. When we met up as a group I only had the line work done. I added color later.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Urban Sketchers Seattle met at the Elysian Brewery Tap Room in the Georgetown Neighborhood of Seattle. I'd scoped it out a couple months ago.  Besides the taproom, it's close to the very interesting main street in funky Georgetown.  

We had a good sized group of sketchers attend. Was it the beer?  ;)

It required a large table to hold all our sketches.


Thanks, again, to Sean for taking the group photos!

Jason, the manager, let us go into part of the production area to sketch the large casks. These three used to hold wine in California but for the past 4 years, they've stored beer.

Bee Creative 100% cotton watercolor sketchbook

Chavoya's Hot Dog cart was outside. I enjoyed a tasty dog and chatted with Rod, the owner. He might be interested in bringing his father, a draftsman, with him to one of our outings! I hope to see them.

The day was warm and dry enough for sketching outside. This is a water tank. 

Stonehenge Aqua watercolor paper in my handmade sketchbook

More photos.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Elysian Taproom, Seattle 3/24/2019

It was a great turnout at today's sketch outing, I met some of new sketches who are all talented with full of enthusiasm. Of course, chatting with old faces like we have seen for decade. Most important, I love beer..
Therefore, at the end..after glass of beer, had super fun Today!

First sketch,..barrels are almost everywhere in various size.  Kate sat on the floor sketched with her favorite drink behind. Okay! get to work before ordering my beer...

After 2 of beer testing, I ordered "The noise" Pale Ale (Right one).
It test like dark Chocolate with wheat sweetness (not much Hop) it!
Fellow sketcher order the other one, I think is Winter Ale (maybe), its golden color so translucent and float spring-like smell, so attached a logo as to remember this enjoyable sketching day!

Brew and Draw at the Georgetown Elysian

3/24/19 Tanks on Airport Way

While starting a lazy Sunday afternoon with a decaf espresso is more my speed, I’m not opposed to making that drink a Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout instead, and that’s exactly what I did in Georgetown. USk Seattle was in full force (maybe close to 30 sketchers?) at the Elysian Taproom and brewery, which was very accommodating as we took over most of the taproom with sketchbooks and paint.

Before settling down with my brew, I walked across the street to sketch a couple of the brewery’s painted tanks visible from Airport Way. Behind them are Interstate 5’s Corson Street ramps.

Behind the taproom, rows and rows of kegs filled the warehouse (below), and I had to make sure I bit off only a small piece, or all those circles and ellipses would drive me bonkers. Fortunately, by that time I was enjoying my stout, which kept everything in perspective.

Warehouse of kegs

Looking around at all the sketchers, I started to capture a few in front of Elysian’s 20 taps (and Jason serving up the brews), and my intention was to include an inset of my fancy schooner glass. But then I realized I had only 12 minutes left before the throwdown, so it turned into a small value study instead.

Sketchers in the taproom

Throwdown in the taproom

Welcome to first-time member Tim, who
made this delightful sketch of me!
Tim's sketch of me and my fancy schooner that I didn't
have time to sketch.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hint of Spring at Bellevue's Botanical Garden

A group of ferns and a tree stub on the other side of the Suspension Bridge

Yesterday Scott and I visited Bellevue’s Botanical Garden for the first time. It’s a slightly wild and yet very urban park, with a pretty small Japanese Garden. The Garden was built in the 80's after Cal and Harriet Shorts donated a 7.5 acres of “arboretum” land to the City of Bellevue.

It was a great day to visit the Garden. The plants were full of buds and the air smelled and felt like Spring, even if Spring was not quite there yet. 

The Suspension Bridge at the “Ravine Experience”

We walked around for a while, then we crossed the wobbly suspension bridge that marks the "Ravine experience." I placed my stool in front of the bridge and sketched it as the sun was getting lower at the horizon. It was a beautiful, "suspended" moment. I thought how Nature is still so beautiful and inspiring.

I had with me a sketchbook that I made with Fabriano Artistico Hot Press watercolor paper and it made me think how much easier is to paint on real watercolor paper instead of the sketchbooks I normally use. 

Night Blooming, a sculpture by Taiji Miyasaka and David Drake on the Lost Meadow Trail.
It was a great afternoon. I want to come back later in the season, when all those buds will open up into beautiful flowers and the air will be even warmer and more fragrant.