Next Sketch Outing

Saturday, Dec. 9: Wallingford Center

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Rainy UW, Cozy Suzzallo

11/19/23 Gerberding Hall, UW campus

Other than my weather app lying, USk Seattle had a terrific outing at Suzzallo Library and the University of Washington campus. Seeing that it would be dry all afternoon, I took a confident walk around campus to see what color I could still catch in the trees. As soon as I found a composition I liked, it started sprinkling. Taking cover, I looked around for something to sketch and spotted Gerberding Hall’s tower behind a tree with some yellow leaves remaining (above).

It stopped raining, so I ventured out again to the composition I had been attracted to first – University of Washington Tower peeking behind some yellow and orange trees. Halfway through, it started raining again, and this time it was serious. In denial (“It’s not supposed to rain today!” I shouted to no one in particular), I kept going until more of my sketch was running off the page than staying on (below).

UW Tower and campus trees

Holding the book open but cover side up so that the wet sketch wouldn’t smear the one on the opposite page, I dashed into Suzzallo Library, where smarter sketchers had been all along.

While my drenched book and I dried off, I sketched a few students in the graduate reading room, where an impressive number of brave sketchers were taking on the room’s daunting Gothic vaulted ceiling. I stayed with the relatively safe stained glass window and a few of the beautiful chandeliers.

Suzzallo Library's graduate reading room
Suzzallo window

Even when the weather app lies, it’s hard to complain: With possibly one of the best turnouts of the year, USk Seattle filled two large tables with their sketchbooks at the throwdown. And with four A5-ish size sketches, it was one of my most productive USk outings.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Don't forget the UW Quad in Autumn!


Everyone crowds into the Quad at the University of Washington to see the cherry blossoms. So it astonishes me how empty it is during the fall when those very same cherry trees burst into flames. The tree trunks - as always - make for interesting sketching but the colors were the big draw for me.

Lots of folks - students, tourists, all kinds of folks - stopped by to comment and chat.  It was a gas.  I'd recommend it!

Warm gathering on a blustery day at SODO Starbucks

What a great turnout on this blustery day for Urban Sketchers Seattle. 26 of us found seats inside (mostly) and outside (for a few brave minutes) and sipped and munched and then got down to the serious business of sketching.

Quite a few tackled sketching the bakery in back. Others were drawn to capturing other customers in their reveries or conversations. Still others focused on the cooooool decor. Shout out to Jan Satterthwaite for snagging the back conference room for our throwdown! Lots of skills on display from folks of all ages and experience - the best kind of gathering. 🧡💛💚 #uskseattle #urbansketchers #starbucks #sodoreserve

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Chilly But Sunny at Swansons Nursery


10/26/23 Swansons nursery

We’ve had all kinds of weather this week, including a sudden turn toward winter temperatures, but USk Seattle lucked out today at Swansons Nursery. Although it was cold (I had to get out my down parka for the first time this season), the sun warmed us whenever it popped out from behind spotty clouds.

One of our favorite fall and holiday season venues, Swansons always gives sketchers plenty of colorful displays. I found a stack of pumpkins next to a spray of fall colors and a cone (which makes any scene sunnier).

After walking around and chatting with friends for quite a while, I needed a warm-up inside the nursery’s Barn & Field Kitchen café. Always a bit daunted by the jungle of greenery surrounding the tables and yet attracted to it, I tried a tonal study this time.

We’re all looking forward to getting back to Swansons for the holidays!

Barn & Field Kitchen 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Sunday in Ballard

Before the USk Seattle Meetup at the Nordic Museum, I stopped in Ballard a couple hours early to draw the neighborhood.

The art/frame shop nearby on Market St, Annie's Art & Frame, carries some of my prints for sale, and they have been asking me for a while for artwork of more Ballard spots. So I finally got over to the Farmer's Market and found a nice area out of the way to capture some of the activity there. Some friends met up with me to draw too. I exaggerated the orange of the trees with my tempera paint sticks.

I fully intended to scooter over to the Nordic Museum to meet with the USk group, but it started raining pretty hard and we sat down with hot drinks at Miro Tea and I couldn't get myself to leave. Especially since the street ahead was cleared of market stalls and parallel parkers, it was a great view! 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Secret Garden

We met at Pike Place Market. I had planned that we would sketch in the Secret Garden. It's very pleasant oasis of calm in the otherwise still crazy packed Market area! The garden had mostly been put to bed but there were still a couple blooming flowers. I learned that all the food grown there is given to the Market Food Bank. I'd like to return in late spring to see it in bloom.

There are 2 other pigs at the Market. The most seen and probably most popular is Rachel, right out in front. Billie sits in the new-ish Market Front Pavilion. But I've never seen this pig and I also couldn't find a name for her. I later learned that she is covered with chalkboard paint and found an image of text written all over her. From bits of flaked off paint, I could tell she was previously painted pink. I referred to her as the planter pig as there was no writing on her today. 

There are 2 other pigs at the Market. The most seen and probably most popular is Rachel, right out in front. Billie sits in the new-ish Market Front Pavilion. But I've never seen this pig and I also couldn't find a name for her. I later learned that she is covered with chalkboard paint and found an image of text written all over her. From bits of flaked off paint, I could tell she was previously painted pink. I referred to her as the planter pig as there was no writing on her today.

Once again seeking refuge from the crowds, I found an unoccupied picnic table below the Market Front Pavilion. It gave me a view back up but with a riot of still blooming flowers. The skyscrapers of Seattle rise behind the Market.

We had quite the large group of sketchers…almost 30. Plus one visitor from Urban Sketchers Pune (India). She is Shruti Utgikar, on the right.


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

autumn light


I joined the urban sketchers at the Seattle Center on a beautiful October day, the kind that is impossible to resist (because you know there's not that many of those left). The architecture in this area is impressive, but doesn't interest me much for sketching. The trees were looking great though. Recently I've been inspired by artists like Jenny Adam and GEGYjiji to try and capture light in highly sensitive and emotive ways, so this is my attempt.

I liked the swoopy branches on this tree. I only had about 25 minutes before throwdown so I put paint down pretty fast and loose. There was a street performer setting up behind me, and I was kind of excited to be serenaded while drawing. But instead of being a charming musical experience, I was blasted by a wall of sound out of an amp that he played along to. The Harry Potter theme song was so loud I felt like I was in an IMAX theater. People seemed kind of into it, but also kind of annoyed because you couldn't carry a conversation 30 feet away. Maybe that was just me projecting.

While I was waiting for the watercolor in the previous one to dry, and for the street performer to be done (luckily he took very long breaks between songs), I started another quick sketch before our throwdown with the WSU students. I'm liking the way the kakimori dip pen is a little bit uncontrollable.

Monday, October 16, 2023

A Wet Ballard Troll


10/15/23 Frankie Feetsplinters outside the National Nordic Museum

The public and media alike have been falling in love with the giant trolls of Way of the Bird King, an art installation by Danish environmental artist Thomas Dambo. The sixth and final troll in the Pacific Northwest was installed last month. Made of reused, natural materials, the sculptures celebrate “the human experience of art by amplifying the connections of cultural heritage between Coast Salish tribal communities and Scandinavian traditions.” 

While some sketchers like Kate Buike and Allan Andoy Carandang have already finished sketching all five in the Puget Sound area (the sixth is in Portland), I hadn’t gotten around to any yet. Happily for me, the last one was in Ballard outside the National Nordic Museum – a terrific location for a USk Seattle meetup yesterday.

Ballard neighborhood

My weather app said rain would be starting an hour or so after the outing began, so I arrived a bit early to get a head start on Frankie Feetsplinters. It’s a good thing I did, because sure enough, it started spitting by the time I finished. The spitting turned into full-on rain shortly after, but intrepid USk Seattle members kept right on going, some with umbrellas to protect their sketches (see below)!

Dodging the rain for the rest of the outing, I found a doorway of a closed business across the street from a gorgeous maple I had been eyeing. 

Finally, I ended up where most other sketchers did, too – inside the lobby of the Nordic Museum, where I used the last few minutes to capture Alex sketching the lobby. Many thanks to the museum for graciously allowing us to have a dry throwdown there.

Alex sketching in the Nordic Museum lobby

Intrepid sketchers!

Mandatory troll selfie

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Hello, Frankie!

We met at the National Nordic Museum in Ballard today. Most of us sketched the troll named Frankie Feetsplinter. He was built by Thomas Dambo and volunteers. It started to rain very soon after we began sketching and sketchers chose shelter under umbrellas, moved indoors, or just embraced the rain on their paper. 

Northwest Trolls - Way of the Bird King

That's Alexander and Roy behind the troll.  


A few Sketchers had already left by the time we took the group photo

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

All hail the King

I finally had a good day to see the Vashon troll, Oscar the Bird King.  I think he's my favorite so far as I very much like his crown of branches and bird houses.  

Several small groups trickled in and out as I sketched.  I shared what I know of the Pacific NW trolls and Oscar specifically. 

He is "the last of the 10 characters in Thomas Dambo's story, The Way of The Bird King. Yes, we have the king. And he is magnificent."

"The Bird King, in Dambo’s storytelling, is a character admonishing humans to be good stewards of their environment...Oscar’s finger points downward toward the earth and viewers, challenging them to personally reflect on their role in the environment."  Source



A white feather is placed between two long Madrone branches which appear as horns in the crown.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Vietnamese Martyrs Parish

I'm fairly certain this was not there last week! While driving another route home yesterday, I noticed the spires above the tree line, which rather startled me. This morning I stopped there on my way back from the post office.

This is the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish Seattle part of the Seattle Archdiocese

This is apparently a parish church but it looks like it's going to be the size of a cathedral…spires and dome included! And a neo Gothic one at that. I think this could turn in to a series as I sketch the progress. I pass by this location at least once a week. 

I found some history (from Vanishing Seattle on FB): In 2018 it was reported the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in the Central District was to be rezoned & demolished. This particular church community was formed around 1976 with about 50 Vietnamese refugee families and in 2010 officially became Vietnamese Martyrs Parish. It grew to about 1600 families. In 2014, many of the parishioners moved to a temporary location in Tukwila by the Green River, with plans to build a new church & classrooms. I remember watching the new long, narrow, one story building being built about 5 years ago. I never drove in to check but it is that church.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Art and History in Columbia City

9/22/23 Ark Lodge Cinemas, Columbia City

Spirit of Washington at Columbia Park

With days of clouds and rain ahead on the forecast, USk Seattle may have gotten the last of the sunshine for a while on this beautiful Equinox morning. Meandering around the Columbia City neighborhood, I stumbled upon a sculpture I hadn’t noticed before in Columbia Park. Called Spirit of Washington, the 16-foot sculpture by Quinault and Isleta-Pueblo artist Marvin Oliver “takes the form of a dorsal fin of an orca whale depicting Salish symbols of power and rebirth,” according to the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Instead of hitting it face-on, I went around to the side where I could catch the strong shadow it was casting (at left).

On Rainier Avenue South, Columbia City’s main drag, an old Regency Revival style building with Ionic columns (yes, I had to look it up – I don’t know squat about architectural styles) caught my eye. It turned out to be a 1921 Masonic Lodge that has been operating as the Ark Lodge Cinemas since 2012. (One of the films it was showing was Barbie – I couldn’t resist that pink B.) Columbia City has no shortage of historical buildings.

The problem was that the noon sun was nearly directly overhead, so both sides of the building were in the shade. Of course, just as I was finishing the sketch, the sun came around and put some nice bits of light on the building’s front façade. (What happened was a corollary to Murphy’s Laws of Urban Sketching No. 5: The light you were hoping for will appear just as you finish a sketch.)

On a September day when the weather could go either way, however, I had nothing to complain about!