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Sept. 22: Columbia City

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Murphy’s Laws of Urban Sketching


Law No. 1: Sketched in Feb. 2019, this sketch from the viaduct was only possible after it was permanently closed and eventually torn down (open to pedestrians only on this one day). I'd always thought that some of the best views of the city were only possible while driving 60 mph on the viaduct.

Every year on the anniversary of the day I began sketching, I write a retrospective and usually introspective post on my personal blog about practiceprocesslearning and other aspects of drawing that I enjoy thinking and writing about.

A big part of my creative process has been everything I’ve learned specifically about sketching on location – all the ways in which it is more challenging but also more rewarding than working in a comfy studio. Today on my 12th anniversary, I present my learnings that every urban sketcher will be familiar with – Murphy’s Laws of Urban Sketching:

Law No. 2: One more sketch before those clouds
bust open? Wrong again.
1. The best view of what you want to sketch will be from the middle of a busy street – like the freeway. (Top of post.)

2. If you think you can squeeze in one more sketch before it starts raining, you will be wrong (at right).

3. The day you forget your sharpener will be the day you break a lead (below).

Law No. 3: Saved by the mechanical pencil.

4. Ten minutes into your sketch, a large delivery truck will park in front of you for the next 30 minutes (below).


Law No. 4: I was sketching those Chevys back there when this vendor unloaded her booth and all her merchandise from her car.

Law No. 5: That beautiful golden-hour light lasted about 30 seconds.

5. The tiny spot of shade you are comfortable in will disappear . . . and so will the perfect light on your subject (at right).

Law No. 6: He seemed to be writing in a journal, so I thought he'd stay around
a little longer.

6. And finally, the Murphy’s Law that every urban sketcher learns first: As soon as you start sketching a person or vehicle, they will leave.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Arts Festival

There was so much going on at the Museum of Flight today. It's the Arts Festival. I went over see an instructor from Pratt teach drawing. Some of those participating were creating impressive drawings of the 747.  The instructor is Shruti Ghatak from Pratt.  

Then I did my own drawing of the massive GE engine displayed next to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.    The GE90 was designed to power the Boeing 777 and debuted in 1995.  This model holds the world record with 127,900 pounds of thrust.

Plus, today is my "blogversary" as 11 years ago I was invited to be a contributor to this USk Seattle blog.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Quiet Sketch Reportage: Seattle Trees


7/23/23 Luma, a culturally significant cedar in Wedgwood, and an idle excavator on the adjacent property.

8/3/23 This healthy Douglas fir growing where 
a housing development will be built was cut down
11 days after I sketched it. Maple Leaf neighborhood.
While many of us may think that “sketch reportage” involves being in the trenches on a battlefield (as Richard Johnson, former Washington Post artist, became well known for) or participating in large public rallies, it can be quieter, too. This summer Gabi Campanario, editor of the online publication On the Spot, gave me an opportunity to report on a tree that had captured the hearts of Seattle. Named Luma by its supporters, the 200-year-old Western Red Cedar was slated to be cut down to make room for construction of a housing development.

I’m fortunate to live in a city where trees are a prominent part of the urban landscape, and I always enjoy including trees in my urban sketches (especially when utility poles, wires and other human-made features are involved). Working on Luma’s story, however, gave me a much greater appreciation for the sketch reportage process – that it’s much more than just the fun of urban sketching as I have always known it.

In addition, I learned much about my subject matter: Mature trees like Luma are being cut down at an alarming rate all over Seattle, especially in less affluent neighborhoods. Living a comfy, privileged life in Maple Leaf, I had understood the term “climate justice” only peripherally. Suddenly I was becoming aware of how much is at stake when trees that take a century to grow are eliminated from the landscape. The impact is socio-economical as well as environmental.

8/14/23 In the Roosevelt neighborhood, a resident had ordered this 100-year-old Deodar cedar to be cut down to accommodate a new plumbing line. Tree activists gathered on the morning of the scheduled cutting to raise awareness among neighbors.

Using information I’m learning from the organization
Tree Action Seattle, I’m trying to sketch as many threatened trees as I can, especially those near my own neighborhood. The numbers are staggering – I can’t sketch fast enough, and sometimes I’m too late. But every tree I sketch has become an opportunity to express gratitude to all trees that silently provide service to all of us every day.

8/23/23 While technically protected by city code, a heritage yellowwood tree in Wallingford is in danger of being damaged during construction of a multi-level townhouse on the property. Fewer than 500 heritage trees -- of exceptional size, form or rarity -- still exist in Seattle.  

9/8/23 This redwood was planted in the 1930s by Green Lake Elementary School students. Fencing supposedly protects it from nearby construction activities, but the fencing does not comply with city code, and the tree's roots may be injured. City officials are aware of the non-compliance but are not enforcing the code.

9/9/23 Tree Action Seattle informed concerned citizens about this block of trees slated to be cut down in Shoreline. Unfortunately, I couldn't get there before the cutting. Fliers urging neighbors to voice their concern still hung from the stumps.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Visiting Bruun Idun

We met along the beach in Lincoln Park in West Seattle on Saturday morning. It's the first time I've ever been there. I went because I wanted to me the newly installed troll, Bruun Idun.

She is about 20 feet tall and plays a whale-shaped flute to call the Orca. Hair is made of a Madrone branches, saved from a tree that had to be removed. Here is the artist's YouTube about making her.

John “Coyote” Halliday, a Muckleshoot Tribe artist who is contributing decorations to the troll, made primarily from bark and shells. Her ear rings are small sections of beech branches. People have left offerings of shells and other items.

I sketched a large side view.

Since there was still some time left, I sketched a smaller close up from the other side so as to better see the flute.

Sunday, September 3, 2023


 From yesterday's Seattle Urban Sketchers gathering at Lincoln Park. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Drizzly Lake Union Park


8/25/23 1904 Swiftsure docked at Lake Union

You can’t keep USk Seattle down with a little drizzle! OK, the drizzle eventually turned to rain, which I happily welcomed if it would clear away the smoke. In any case, we had a good time at Lake Union Park this morning.

I found some cover that gave me a good view of the 1904 lightship Swiftsure, which I’ve sketched at least twice before – it’s hard to resist the red hull and yellow masts. My previous sketches were more detailed, but I don’t think I scaled the ship accurately either time. Standing fairly close, my goal was simply to scale it as accurately as possible on my small A6-size page. I still couldn’t get all of the center mast in, but I resisted drawing it shorter just to squeeze the top in.

Space Needle from Lake Union Park

By the time I finished, the drizzle had turned to rain, but that was when my walk around the park brought me to a view of the Space Needle. It’s apparently a mandatory subject for me whenever I see it.

So this is where all the sketchers were hiding out when it started raining!

Natalie fashioned her wearable umbrella from a tote bag!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Rare StarKrimson


I haven't had time to sketch for something like two years. I don't have time now either but some things are just worth stopping to sketch. This is a rare StarKrimson pear from MSJ Orchards in Cashmere, WA. It is a rare gene expression - a 50/50 split in Starkrimson coloration called a sport mutation or chimera. Here it is in all its glory sitting on my table in my houseboat on Lake Union.  

Up in the UpGarden

We met at UpGarden near Seattle Center.  It's a unique Seattle p-patch on the top floor of a parking garage.  It was a little too warm and a bit smokey but sketchers weren't deterred.   

The flowers were very much in bloom all over the p-patch. 

  I always want to include the Space Needle if it's in view.  It goes well with the tall sunflowers.

That car was a favorite subject for a few sketchers. There is a fruit tree growing out of the roof.


At least 3 people had left by the time we had throw down and took the group photo.  Thanks to Summer for taking it.  

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Wide and Varied Music in the U-District

8/12/23 Polynesian dancers perform at University Heights

The University District’s year-round farmers market is one of the city’s best, and it was especially lively on Saturday for our USk Seattle meetup. We had a great turnout with at least a half-dozen first-timers!

Since I rarely seem to sketch people anymore, I set out with the plan to focus on buskers and other performers, who have always been my favorite sketch subjects at markets. First I found two singing buskers, each on guitar, on either end of the market. Then, in the University Heights parking lot, the Malua Seattle Polynesian Group performed traditional Pacific Island dances with recorded music. Finally, on the other side of University Heights, a large group of traditionally dressed bagpipers was rehearsing. I think they were on their way to a performance because they eventually started climbing into vehicles.

Bagpipers rehearsing

It was a fun morning with a wide variety of music (sometimes heard simultaneously)!

This busker's amplifier wasn't really levitating. . . I just lost the perspective!

Since I couldn't stay till the throwdown, this photo from the initial meetup was supposed to be my group selfie... but I forgot to get in the photo!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Kim Roberts Joins Admin Team

All sketches by Kim Roberts

Kate, Jane and Tina are happy to announce that Kim Roberts has joined the USk Seattle admin team! Kim has been an active, enthusiastic participant for a couple of years, so you probably already know her, but if you don’t, please introduce yourself at the next outing. Here’s Kim:

As a kid, my parents got me oil paints and art lessons. What a gift! All my years working (teaching Japanese language, mostly at Juanita High School in Kirkland), Mom kept asking, "When are you going to do something with your art??" and I would put her off, saying, "When I retire." Again, what a gift! I retired in June 2020 and with the pandemic lockdown, figuring out how to work with watercolors was just the thing for me.

I discovered Urban Sketchers as we were opening up after COVID and have really enjoyed meeting the folks here while discovering (or rediscovering) interesting places in the Puget Sound area. In addition to my portable stool and portable watercolor set, my favorite tool is my Sailor fude pen with the 55° bent nib. Now I take them with me everywhere. 

I live in the Bryant neighborhood of northeast Seattle with Hubby Dearest, one of our two kids, our niece and three cats. In addition to art, I love literacy tutoring, hiking and travel. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Kim with Hubby Dearest

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Mural Project

 I went to the Museum of Flight this morning to sketch the volunteer painters working on the community mural project.  Esmeralda Vasquez created the paint by number design. @esoveresmeralda

The Museum CEO was even painting for awhile. I noted how assured his painting technique was...perhaps from his early experience as a volunteer in the Museum's aircraft restoration section. 


 The high school radio station, C89.5, was there playing very energetic music.  And one food truck.  I imagine it might be hard to find a selection of trucks this weekend what with Capitol Hill block party, Renton River Days, and other events. 

I'm reading Mike Daikubara's Sketch Now, Think Later (which I bought at Sketcher Fest).  So I was inspired to draw directly in ink.  The paper was about A5, so a little small to get much detail of the people.  

 When I arrived early, there were 2 large tour buses parked next to the Vietnam War Memorial, which is on the far west side of the Museum campus.  They were Toronto Blue Jays fans, decked out in their team shirts!