Next Sketch Outing

Friday, June 16: Danny Woo Community Garden

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Giving Concorde a bath

Well, I missed Global Jet Painting washing the B-17.  When I went over today I discovered they had finished yesterday.

They are waiting for paint for the B-17 to arrive, so they spent the time washing other aircraft in the Aviation Pavilion, which is covered but open air.  They were working on Concorde when I arrived.

I've recently leaned that Museum only allows pencil.  So, by the time I finished coloring the sketch off at a picnic table, the crew had moved to another section of the aircraft.

I plan to sketch them painting the B-17 once I hear the paint has been delivered!


Friday, May 19, 2023

A Sunny 11th Anniversary in Greenwood

5/19/23 Sakya Tibetan Monastery, Greenwood neighborhood

With traditional architecture on quiet streets, the Greenwood neighborhood has a lot to offer sketchers, not the least of which is at least a few houses of worship to choose from. USk Seattle met this morning in front of the bright yellow and orange Sakya Tibetan Buddhist Monasterywhich we last sketched in 2018. The first time I sketched it was in 2014. Another time I sketched one of the entryway-guarding lions in winter from my car. This time I chose a corner with a large white bell and spinning prayer wheels (and a couple of sketchers). I think almost everyone chose the monastery for at least one of their sketches.

On this morning, a service was being held inside, so those of us nearby were treated to soft chanting drifting out to the street. At some point, a thoughtful monastery member came out and offered us tea!

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church

A short walk away is St. John the Evangelist Parish, another church that I’ve sketched before but never seem to tire of. I can see the “bishop’s hat” from my house, which is a couple miles due east. Its proportions and elegant shape challenge me every time, but when the light hits it just right, it’s beautiful to render.

One of the sketchers mentioned yet another church within walking distance, but I didn’t have time for that one. I’m sure we’ll be back in Greenwood again, but I doubt it will be as perfect a morning as this one was – 68 degrees and sunny!

I meant to mention it during the outing but forgot: My first USk outing was May 20, 2012, so Greenwood was only a day off from my 11th anniversary as an Urban Sketchers member. As I am at every outing, I was delighted by all the new members who have joined lately. I wish them as much fun and camaraderie as I have experienced the past 11 years and intend to continue having for years to come!

11 years with my tribe!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

More than One Called her their Best Friend

Yesterday I attended the memorial for Chandler O'Leary of Tacoma, WA. I didn't know her well. I only met her a few times, but my sense was that she was an exuberant lover of life as well as a super prolific artist. I first met her at a sketch crawl in Edmonds back in 2013. I remember her sketch - not the ferry dock - but under the ferry dock with sea stars, urchins rocks, and rafters. And I remember well her bubbly personality. 

The memorial was held at the Old Town Dock which, fittingly, displays Chandler's public art installation, "Droplets" - twenty-four porcelain medallions that identify Tacoma waterfront landmarks. In Chandler's words, "Old Town Dock boasts one of the best vantage points in the South Sound with beautiful views of land, city, and sea in every direction. That's what first drew me to the site. I wanted the chance to encourage people to look all around them because there was something to see everywhere you look." 

And it is that vision the attendees celebrated at the memorial. Chandler's brother and several friends spoke telling stories of her contagious enthusiasm, passion for drawing, and love of travel. Every attendee was offered a small sketchbook and pencil for the "moment of sketching during the service. I used min to take in that view from the dock. 

Indeed even the Dock's banners beckoned us: 

Look Closer
Take Another Look
Look Between
Look Within
Look After
Look Lively
Look Sharp
Look Up
Look Around
Look Here
Look Fast
Look North
Look South
Look Down
Look Twice 

There's so much to say about Chandler's all-too-short life. Her website and blog show much of her history as an artist. And you might be able to catch her interview with Rick Steves, scheduled to be aired on May 20 on Seattle's KUOW. 

A retrospective of Chandler's work is on display at the University of Puget Sound Library and the broadsides from her book Dead Feminists are in the windows of the Woolworth's building in downtown Tacoma through July. 

I end with her all too poignant words that she wrote to a friend in 2018: 

"You will get to the other side of this, even if you're not sure what the landscape will look like when you get there. You won't be alone when you do. I love you, Chandler."

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Ksitigarbha Temple


4/29/23 Ksitigarbha Temple, Lynnwood

 Urban Sketchers Seattle was treated to a unique experience yesterday: an afternoon sketching at Ksitigarbha Buddhist Temple. Lynnwood is a bit farther north than we typically venture for sketch outings, but the experience was certainly worth the extra miles. Open to the public on Saturdays, the Vietnamese temple grounds are a wondrous display of statuary and ornament. The location would have been a fabulous experience any day, but we were also treated to spectacular weather: Clear blue sky and temps in the high 70s!

Built on a steep, wooded hillside, the grounds gave us a good workout as we climbed many staircases to eventually reach the top. All along the way were colorful, intricately decorated religious icons. Most of the ornamentation was related to nature – artificial flowers, birds, other animals – but I spotted a few mythical creatures, too. I wish I understood the symbiology and significance of the amazing sights. Stairway landings often led to small, secluded nooks, most with benches or chairs, which made sketching serene and comfortable.

I had to wander for quite a while to take it all in and decide what to sketch, which was a staggering decision! Overwhelmed by all the color and detail, I started with an icon at the very top of the grounds, which I chose because it was one of the “plainest” displays (above)!

After chatting with other sketchers and wandering some more, I eventually ended up in a studio area where congregation members were having a work party. The large space was filled with more of the colorful ornamentation I saw throughout the temple grounds. Workers were painting items that would be used for more displays.

Congregation members paint items that will be used in future displays. The space was filled with colorful florals and other ormanments.

Filling the few minutes before the throwdown, I made a small tonal study of a beautifully lighted Buddha’s face, which was a relief after trying to capture all the details in the first icon I sketched.

Many thanks to Ksitigarbha Temple for welcoming USk Seattle onto their sacred grounds as we all wandered about with our jaws hanging open in awe!

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Old Scottsdale

 On a visit this spring to the Phoenix area. For the most part, the weather was as cold, cloudy, and wet as Seattle. That didn't make the locals happy, but I've never seen the desert so green. 

Watercolor wash and ink in a Moleskine.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Petal Peeping on Capitol Hill


4/12/23 Capitol Hill neighborhood

My yoga instructor’s blog had alerted me to a new stop on my petal-peeping tour – a long residential block on Capitol Hill with cherries on both sides of the street. Dashing out the day after I read her post, I caught the splendor in the very nick of time: A bit past peak, the blossoms were still glorious, but the drifts of pink snow were deep (above). It’s always bittersweet when pink season winds down, but that’s what makes sketching it precious and special.

But wait – did I say the season was winding down? In fact, I didn’t get enough, and I certainly couldn’t wait until next year. I went back the next day, this time with Ching, Natalie and Suzanne, who concurred that it was a sight to behold.

Once again, walking in the middle of the street whenever possible (where the view is best), I slowly took in the splendor on both sides before settling in for a sketch. At the south end of the long block, a small cherry tree marked the exit from fairyland, and behind it stood Holy Names Academy. All I knew of it was that it was a girls’ Catholic school; a quick Google search told me that it is Washington State’s oldest continually operating school, open since 1880.

4/13/23 Holy Names Academy

Friday, April 7, 2023

Pink, White and Lavender at the UW Quad


Scheduling our annual USk sketch outing at the University of Washington Quad was dicey this year. The cherry blossoms were finally close to 100 percent, but the forecast was iffy. We picked the day most likely to be dry, and the mobs showed their appreciation with their presence.

I’ve sketched 
blooming trees at the Quad so many times now that I try to use different media or approaches each time, and it’s always a challenge capturing that spectacular sight. This year I brought along a 9-by-12-inch watercolor pad to see if it would help to have larger paper (at right). I splattered on some pink gouache, but I’m not too pleased with the way it came out. I think I do better when I stay small.

I like the one I did in my usual A5 Hahnemühle sketchbook better. A girl dressed in a shimmering lavender quinceañera gown was having a photo shoot. Although I knew my cherry tree would look too much like a jacaranda, I took inspiration from her gown for the blossom shadows. (The fact is, the variety of cherries at the Quad has blossoms that are nearly white, not pink, so everyone who sketches them takes liberties with their hue.)

I spent the rest of the sketch outing time (which was short, since I had arrived late) taking in the wondrous fairyland that appears on the UW campus for a few short weeks each year. 

Thursday, April 6, 2023


Every year we hope to pick a week day with good weather for our sketch outing during the peak bloom of the Cherry Trees on the quad at the University of Washington.  Once again fortune was with us.  The trees were at peak bloom yesterday.  We were about 30 sketchers and so much pink on the pages!  

"Hanami" = "flower viewing"

I chose a bench a bit of a distance from the crowd.  I always like to get a bit of the characteristic Neo-Gothic architecture in my sketch.  It adds to the story of place. 

We had our throw down by Denny Hall so as to be away from the crowds.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Cherries for Chandler

4/4/23 Crown Hill neighborhood

Just as I was about to head out for Crown Hill to check out the cherry blossoms, I heard the devastating news: Artist, urban sketcher and author Chandler O’Leary had died suddenly at the age of 41. I was so shaken that I almost cancelled my plans, but I also knew that nothing consoles or comforts me like sketching does, so I went out anyway.

The block of cherries on Dibble Avenue Northwest, which is on my annual petal-peeping tour, weren’t yet at peak; I’d say they were still at about 60 to 70 percent. It was cold enough that I might have been tempted to sketch from my car. On this day, however, I wanted to feel the chill and the wind – I wanted to feel the whole experience of being among those spectacular, old trees. I walked slowly up and down the block, recognizing ones I had sketched previously like acquaintances. Other trees surprised me because I hadn’t noticed them before.

Although I didn’t know Chandler well, I had been a fan of her work long before I took her urban sketching workshop back in 2015. I hadn’t seen her in person in a long time, but following her Instagram account always delighted me. She observed the world with a keen yet quirky eye, spotting things most of us might miss. Indeed, she went out of her way to have experiences that most of us would miss because we’re more likely to travel the faster, more convenient route. Her artwork reflects those observations with a joyful appreciation for nature, small towns, lighthouses and especially life’s many surprising oddities.

From her Instagram account where a family member had announced her death:

She was just 41 years old, and leaves behind an astonishing body of work as an author and artist. In her short life, she filled countless sketchbooks and created public art and signage, paintings, drawings, textiles, artist books, photographs—you name it, she did it. She did it with passion, dedication, and exquisite beauty. “Artist” barely encompasses all her extraordinary talents, as she was also an engaging teacher, podcaster, blogger, historian, travel expert, musician, feminist, and collaborator.

Although it had sprinkled briefly on my way there, by the time I had arrived on Crown Hill, the sky was a painfully beautiful cyan. Sketching these pink blossoms on this cold, sunny afternoon, I thought about how Japanese poets use the fleeting sakura season as a metaphor for the brevity of life. The blossoms weren’t at peak, but with all the rain and strong winds we’ve been having lately, waiting for a better time might be too late. Extraordinary as I stood there, these trees were good enough for me.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Hardy at Hing Hay Park


3/25/23 Hing Hay Park and King Street Station

I know I say this after nearly every outing, but USk Seattle is made of hardy stuff! The temperature was 35 F on cloudy Saturday morning at the International District’s Hing Hay Park, yet more than 30 turned out for it. By the throwdown, we were rewarded with full sunshine.

Although I’ve sketched the distinctive, modern Gateway many times, it’s hard to resist the bright red sculpture at the park’s entrance. This time, I walked (backward, as sketchers will do) up the street a ways so that I could put the iconic King Street Station tower behind it (at left).

That small sketch didn’t take too long, but after chatting a while with friends, I was thoroughly chilled. Across the street, I looked for a café with windows facing the park, and Go Poke fit the bill. Although I’ve had better poke, I can’t complain: A long row of window seats gave me a view of a park shelter with traditional Chinese tiled rooftops (below).

Hing Hay Park shelter from Go Poke
3/25/23 Light rail riders

Violinist Vicki Ault

On my light rail rides to and from the International District, I sketched a few fellow riders. The best light rail sketch, though, was the surprise when I got off: A violinist and a pianist were performing at Roosevelt Station. I thought they were buskers, but their sign said they were with Bach in the Subways, which I learned is a worldwide program from March 21 – 31. The violinist I sketched was Vicki Ault (with Karin McCullough, pianist). How lucky Seattle is to take part in the delightful program – and serendipitous that I happened to be there at the right time.

Hardy as ever!

Historic places in the ID

We met this chilly morning in the Chinatown-International District.  It was barely 40 degrees, cloudy, and threatened to become rain later.  But about 30 intrepid sketchers met at Hing Hay Park in the heart of the ID.  

From there I branched out to sketch an historic spot that has been on my list for years! The original Chinese message board is at 7th & King on the side of the Louisa Hotel.  It was installed in the 1960's and even predates Chinese language newspapers in Seattle.  In 1982 Seattle Chinese Post was first.  It was how the people communicated.  It's just this green board on the side of the building. On the right, in the distance, is the China Gate and the King Street (Amtrak) Station clock tower. 

It was the coldest part of our sketch outing time.  My hands were encased in fingerless gloves covered by mitten ends except my right index finger, used to hold the pen.  It got so cold I gave up, went to find some coffee at Uwajimaya complex, and sat with Roy while I added color to my drawing.  

After getting warm I headed out again to a spot I'd initially noticed on my walk over to the park from the light rail station.  It was a view of the classic China gate with the historic Smith Tower rising over.  It was nearly throw-down time so I decided it looked good enough in just ink.  

It was wonderful to see so many people braving the weather, so many new people, as well as  Nishant again, visiting from Vancouver, BC.
By the time of the throw down, we were rewarded with sun and a little warmer temps.