Next Sketch Outing

Wednesday, Nov. 30: Boon Boona Coffee, Renton

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Winter is coming

We  met at Wallingford center this morning. The weather was crisp and bright.  

I did my first sketch indoors.  While there were Christmas decorations up in the building, I was still in a pumpkin mood and not done using my orange. 


Next I sat outside the hardware store.  It was small but very well stocked.  Displayed outside was a selection of shovels to remind us that Winter is Coming.  

 We were about 25 sketchers today. At least one person is missing from the group photo.

Wallingford Center: For the Hardy, Hardcore or Cozy


11/19/22 Wallingford Center behind trees

Located inside the restored Interlake Public School building, Wallingford Center is a spacious retail and business venue that was originally built in 1908. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s an ideal winter meetup location for USk Seattle because it offers shelter if the weather is bad and an old surrounding neighborhood if the weather is hospitable. On a brilliantly sunny but cold Saturday, a strong turnout of urban sketchers bundled up for the morning, though I must say that not many were hardy (or hardcore) enough to sketch outdoors.

Taekwondo Institute building
Chilled the whole time, even while standing in the sun, I’m not sure I qualify as hardy, so I must be hardcore. I started out with a sketch of an old building at the corner of North 45th and Burke Avenue North, which is currently the home of the Taikwondo Institute (at right). The building is actually blue and yellow, neither of which I have in my secondary triad palette, so I looked at it as a study in cool and warm by using dark violet and orange.

Needing to warm up, I went inside Wallingford Center, where the majority of sketchers had smartly and comfortably settled in. I think some of the center’s boutique shops didn’t survive the pandemic; I saw several shuttered spots and not many shoppers. In fact, I saw almost no one besides sketchers! At the end of one corridor, I found a beautiful, quarter-round-shaped window in the wall between the main hall and a stairwell. It was just the kind of thing I like to take on with a small value study.

Inside Wallingford Center

After that short break, I put my down parka and gloves back on to venture outdoors for one more sketch. The entrance of Wallingford Center with columns was mostly in shade, but from across the street, I got a good view of the airy, orange tree in front (top of post). I wanted to be sure to get the open panel truck, so I put that in first, and sure enough, it drove off shortly thereafter.

The hardy...

... and the cozy!

Not exactly mobbed with shoppers.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Swanson's Nursery

We had a good time at Swanson's nursery this morning. We haven't been since December 2019 and it was good to be back!  Still, some staff remembered us.

It was windy and chilly but we persevered.  I had my one and only Pumpkin Spiced latte this season to ward off the chill.

I very much enjoyed the employee scarecrow contest and sketched two of them.  The Tin Man was my favorite. His heart is a gourd painted bright red. 

The Bat Mobile was my second favorite.  The hanging bats are all tiny pumpkins with cardboard wings added.

I finally got some pumpkin sketching in.

We used Swanson's backdrop for our group photo.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Maple Leaf’s Big Pumpkin

10/23/22 "Magnus" waits to be weighed as neighbors join the festivities.

The Maple Leaf neighborhood is not the kind of place where big things happen. That’s why I was stunned to hear that two neighbors’ pumpkins had attracted media attention: King 5 Evening had featured the humongous pumpkins that were growing next door to each other. The two gardeners had been having a friendly pumpkin-growing competition each year since the pandemic began. The one with the larger pumpkin this year publicized an event today to find out how much the pumpkin weighed. Kate and I decided it was an event worthy of sketch reportage!

Almost more amazing than the pumpkin was the huge crowd it drew. The two pumpkin neighbors had turned the weigh-in into a block party with beer and barbecue. Kids and dogs got their photos taken with the huge pumpkin suspended from a scaffold. Another neighbor walked around with a clipboard taking $1 wagers to guess the weight. The Maple Leaf community usually has an annual summertime ice cream social, but it didn’t happen this year, so neighbors were apparently craving an event.

Named Magnus, the pumpkin weighed in at 969 pounds! I had put my dollar on 798 pounds, so I was way off, although the scale was having issues, so it’s possible the weight isn’t quite accurate. But when a pumpkin is the biggest neighborhood event of the year, who cares about accuracy?

"Jack Skellington," the smaller pumpkin, attracted no attention at all, so we took our selfie with him.
You can buy Magnus' seeds and grow your own
humongous pumpkins next year.

Yesterday morning, I went to see where the pumpkin lived.
Magnus was still asleep in his sleeping bag.

I walked only 10 minutes to see the big pumpkin, but Kate drove up all the way from Renton! A dedicated sketch reporter.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Very Unhealthy


10/20/22 8:15 a.m., Maple Leaf neighborhood

On Tuesday as the thick cloud of smoke over the Puget Sound region grew heavier, the Air Quality Index kept going up, and the warning went from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy.” By Wednesday, we had the worst air quality on the planet. In my neighborhood, the AQI was up to 249 just before sunset. (If you are fortunate enough not to have to think about the AQI, and you aren’t familiar with what that number means, a normal day in Seattle has an AQI of 15 or lower.) I made a quick sketch of the orange sun at 6:05 p.m. (at right). A few minutes after I sketched, the sun was completely obliterated by smoke.

By this morning, it was still “very unhealthy.” From our bedroom window, I could barely see down the block. I started sketching, hoping that the sun would eventually appear somewhere. At 8:15 a.m., small cracks of yellow appeared faintly (top of post). For a short time, the sun looked like a pale white disc. Then it disappeared again. The AQI was 235 when I finished the sketch.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

SAM with a guest

 With Nishant Jain (@thesneakyartist) visiting from Vancouver, BC I braved the "unhealthy" air (AQI 130+) for our outing with him outside the Seattle Art Museum.

I've sketched the Hammering Man before.  This time I wanted to capture the machinery that makes his arm move.  Across the street are the tiny figures of Ellie and April. 

Nishant was going to teach an afternoon workshop near Pike Place Market.  We walked up there to have a picnic lunch together.  Over lunch, he showed us his sketch books and talked about his approach.  I felt like I had half a workshop then.  Which was good as I left early due to feeling short of breath from the poor air.  


Friday, October 7, 2022

Rose Garden Topiary

10/7/22 Woodland Park Rose Garden

It’s hard for me to resist the topiary trees at the Woodland Park Rose Garden. I sketched one there in 2018 (which was the last time USk Seattle met there), and even during a nature-drawing class, I sketched another one. During Friday’s visit with USk Seattle, I again gave in to the topiary love.

Despite the lingering haze of smoke, the sun cut through with comfortable temperatures – such a treat for this time of year! (A dubious “treat,” of course, since the unseasonal weather is undoubtedly a result of climate change.) Although long past their prime, many roses still dotted the garden with color. 

I walked all around the garden looking for a topiary tree lighted the way I wanted it and something interesting in front of it. Yet again, a thumbnail saved me from choosing too hastily. After I made the one on the left (below), I realized I didn’t like the mostly dark background behind it, and the tree itself was mostly in shade. I kept walking, and eventually spotted the one with the fountain in front of it. That’s the one I sketched in color.

Thumbnail at right is the one I sketched in color above.

Next was a thumbnail of a rectangular-shaped bush behind Ching (below, left). If I’d had time, I would have enjoyed doing that one in color. I had considered sketching the gazebo several times, but it had been in shade most of the morning. Shortly before the throwdown, the light finally came around to illuminate one side, so it was ready for a thumbnail, too. I made a mental note that the next time I visited the garden, it should be in the afternoon so that different topiary trees (and the gazebo) would be in light.

Undeterred by smoke!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sunny Campus and U-District


10/2/22 Drumheller Fountain, University of Washington

Planning sketch outings in October is always iffy. Sometimes it can be crisp and sunny, but more often it’s wet and cold. We hedged our bets by going with the University of Washington campus, where Kane Hall has a wide, deep overhang in front. If it was wet, lots of sketchers could shelter there while still getting a great view of Red Square. Luckily, we didn’t need that shelter! It was sunny with temps in the low 70s, and except for a light haze of wildfire smoke on the horizon, we all agreed it was phenomenal weather for October.

Broken Obelisk

I warmed up with a small sketch of Drumheller Fountain (AKA Frosh Pond for the tradition of dumping underclassmen in) in my bright yellow Uglybook. The combo of colored paper and a white gel pen is the fastest, easiest way to sketch falling water! (I regretted that I didn’t have my red book with me, though, which makes the white gel pen pop even better.)  

Walking through Red Square, I spotted a sketcher with Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk sculpture behind her, which made another fun, quick sketch.

After that, I walked around campus for several thousand steps, looking for another subject, but nothing grabbed me. It seemed like all the buildings I was attracted to were either fully in shade or fully lighted, which are both difficult to sketch. I wandered off campus to Northeast 42nd and 15th Northeast, where an old brick building covered in ivy caught my eye (below). The green awning near the center is Magus Books, a used book store that has been in the U District since I was a UW student in the ‘70s. I liked all the contrasts among old, new, brick, steel and foliage. In a few weeks, the ivy will turn, and I’d probably make even better use of a secondary triad if I sketched it again.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Level Achieved at Pike Place Commons


9/23/22 Pike Place Commons

Almost a year since our last outing there, it was great to be back at the Pike Place Market with USk Seattle on Friday. Last year, still in my post-vax frenzy of wanting to sketch people again, I spent the whole outing sketching nothing but. This time I had a different goal: I wanted to make sure I had nailed the concepts I had learned from Gabi Campanario at Gas Works Park.

Post Alley

As a warm-up, I made a thumbnail of Post Alley, where the angles of awnings and rooftops came together in an interesting pattern (at left). Then I made my way north to Market Commons, the newest addition to the Pike Place Market. Looking out toward the waterfront, I was amazed by all the construction that was still going on where the Alaskan Way Viaduct used to be. I thought more progress would have been made since I last saw it a year ago. No problem, though – I found an excavator busily moving dirt from one pile to another (below).

Waterfront construction

It was time to get down to business. Pivoting 180 degrees from where I had made the excavator sketch, I looked up at the Market Commons building, which is full of eateries and shops. I could see its entire span from Old Stove Brewing’s tanks (on the right) to the edge of Steinbrueck Park (the umbrella at far left). Behind it were skyscrapers and apartment buildings. In the foreground were tables, foliage and fencing that kept pedestrians from falling down into the construction zone. It’s exactly the kind of compositional scope that I find compelling but that I would typically avoid. Using the scaling and measuring tips Gabi had given us, I quickly blocked in the extremes of everything I wanted to fit onto the page spread. Most of an hour-plus was spent drawing the complicated Commons building (I should have simplified it even more). Whew! I fit it all in (top of post)!

Although I still had a half-hour before the throwdown, I was too famished from the ambitious sketching workout to make another. I got a delicious snack from Honest Biscuit and stuffed my face with it as I walked to the throwdown at Steinbrueck Park. I had a terrific morning at the Market on a beautiful day!

Fellow light rail commuters

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Learning about Gas Works – in More Ways Than One


9/17/22 Gas Works Park

As often as I have sketched at Gas Works Park, and as much as I enjoy it, I am still daunted by the scope and scale of the gas works structures themselves. I usually bite off a chunk that I think I can reasonably chew (this post shows the typical bites I take). Even when I’m brave enough to tackle the entire main gas works assembly, I don’t scale it on the page to allow space for much context.

When Gabi Campanario offered a Great(er) Seattle Sketching Tour at the park last Saturday, I jumped at the opportunity to see how the master does it while also learning more about Gas Works Park.

After hearing his brief lecture about the park’s checkered history, sketching the gas works along with its context tells a deeper story. For example, I didn’t know that Kite Hill had to be built up over an existing smaller hill as part of the park restoration. Including Lake Union (OK, it’s barely visible at left, but I got a bit in) is also important, because obviously having a water source for the gas works was critical.

Gabi has enhanced his viewing aid!

Guidelines like the sketchbook’s gutter (the horizontal center of the composition) helped to ensure that I wouldn’t run out of space for everything I wanted to include in the composition. My only regret is that I placed the bottom of the gas works too close to the bottom edge of the page, so I didn’t have space for a foreground element that would have added to the depth (the bike riders at left would have been nice to include in the foreground). But overall, using his suggestions, I’m thrilled that I was able to make a sketch that I could not have made the day before.

As I thought about the concepts he talked about, I realized they were no different from ones I learned in other workshops I’ve taken from Gabi. Or maybe I should say, they were no different from concepts he taught – I obviously hadn’t learned them (or at least hadn’t internalized what I’d learned).

I think this is another example of something I’ve observed about my own creative learning process many times: It often takes hearing and practicing the same concepts over and over to make them “stick.” And sometimes I might not be ready to learn a concept until I’ve had a certain body of experience behind me that prepares me to learn it.

In addition to being illuminating and informative, the sketch tour was a lot of fun! This time the participants included two professional architects – that says a lot about Gabi as a teacher!

The daunting gas works simplified by Gabi

Workshop throwdown