Next Sketch Outing

Friday, May 24: Folklife

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Drizzly U-District Street Fair


5/18/24 U-District Street Fair


After a streak of good weather during USk Seattle outings (well, except for soggy Cinco de Mayo), our luck ran out today: The U-District Street Fair was mostly damp to drizzly. Still, I managed to duck under awnings and trees to catch the general fair ambiance of tents and attendees, a balloon man, and two members of a jazz group performing on the stage.


Eventually I got chilly and tired of being dripped on by trees, so I retreated to Ugly Mug Café and Coffee Roasters, where the windows cast a nice backlighting on patrons.

5/18/24 Ugly Mug Cafe


Our luck was back for the throwdown, when it finally stopped raining and the sun even appeared briefly. (By this afternoon when I was back at home, it started pouring! I feel bad for the vendors, who probably lost a lot of sales to the miserable weather.)


For three decades before the pandemic, the annual U-District Street Fair was one of our favorite summer (or near-summer) events. Begun in 1970 with roots in activism for social and political change, this was Seattle’s first street fair and the country’s longest-running festival of its kind. It came back strong in 2022 after a necessary pandemic pause, but we didn’t attend the last couple years. Despite the rain, it was good to be back today, especially with USk Seattle. (The last time USk Seattle met there was in 2019.)

Speaking of USk, Monday is my 12-year anniversary since I joined Urban Sketchers Seattle!

12 years with my tribe!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

UW Quad Protest


5/9/24 UW Quad


The day before USk Seattle’s outing to the University of Washington Biology Greenhouse, student protests of the university’s involvement with support to Israel started heating up. News reports said the pro-Palestinian protest encampment was still relatively peaceful, though, so I wasn’t concerned. I was, however, a naughty USk admin: After leading the group into the greenhouse, I went out to the Quad, where the encampment had been set up. I saw a good opportunity for sketch reportage!

OK, that’s what I told myself, but if truth be known, I just wanted to sketch in the sun. Two winters ago, USk met at the greenhouse when it was chilly out, so the greenhouse’s warmth was welcome. This afternoon, though, the hot, humid greenhouse was less appealing; I preferred 70-degree sunshine!

Even if my primary motivation wasn’t journalistic, I did find it an interesting challenge to tell the story of the encampment on a comics-like page (above). How different the Quad looked, covered end-to-end with tents, compared to the last time USk Seattle met there to sketch the fairyland of cherry blossoms.

After finishing that montage, I found myself suddenly hungry, so I wandered over to the HUB for a snack. I’ve been inside the HUB maybe three times since I graduated in 1985, and every time I’ve been shocked by how much everything has changed since I was a student. I open the same doors I opened nearly daily for six years, but inside, nothing looks the same.

Still, I enjoy the vibrant energy of the UW campus, especially between classes when students stream by in all directions. As I caught snippets of conversations, I realized not everything changes; students still talk about the same kinds of things.




Monday, May 6, 2024

Saturday with the Boys in the Boat


This past weekend was the opening day of boating season in Seattle and the Windermere Cup races at the University of Washington. Lots of people and boats, gray drizzle, but for me, the highlight was getting to sketch the interior of the actual UW Shell House made famous in both the popular book and the recent film, The Boys in the Boat.

That story–a true story–is about a ragtag group of University of Washington rowers who beat the national favorites and traveled to Germany to race in the 1936 Olympics. In front of Hitler, they WON the gold medal! A proud moment for our country and a legacy that is still celebrated here in Seattle and especially at the UW. Drawing this space was an emotional experience, I felt like I was connecting with that legacy and the young men who lived and worked in this very same spot.






This drawing was challenging! It’s an enormous, fairly complicated space that was initially used as an airplane hangar, and the backlighting from the windows made it very difficult to see. Scaffolding was in the way too, but I kept calm, measured with my pencil, and drew in each bay of structure. Then working left to right, I started to draw in the details…some I couldn’t see well enough to figure out, but I think I got close enough!

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Soggy Cinco de Mayo

 

5/4/24 Cinco de Mayo celebration at El Centro de la Raza, Beacon Hill neighborhood

 

As I drove to the Cinco de Mayo celebration at El Centro de la Raza, the rain was just starting, and I thought how fortuitous it was that we had chosen an indoor venue for our second International USk Week outing. The weather got the last laugh, though, when I saw that while El Centro is a former school building, the festival was outdoors! Nonetheless, a few other hardcore sketchers showed up for the festivities, which included lots of traditional Mexican music and dance, food and colorful vendor booths.

When I made a pit stop inside the school, I spotted a Dia de los Muertos display for the social activist Roberto Maestas. One of the floral-decorated skull heads called to me, especially since it was a way to sketch without getting wet.

The rest of the sketches are of some vocalists, a vendor booth and a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (El Centro de la Raza means “the center for people of all races,” so many cultures are honored there). Every sketchbook should have at least one page containing drops of the local DNA.



Mark found a way to stay dry.

I (mostly) didn't.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Seattle Chinese Garden for International USk Week


5/1/24 Seattle Chinese Garden


When I looked at my blog to see when I had last sketched at Seattle Chinese Garden, I was surprised to find that it was six years ago. I think USk Seattle has met there since, but I must have missed that outing. In any case, it felt familiar yet fresh to be back there again with other sketchers.

Since the garden’s annual Peony Festival is next weekend, we were all hoping we’d see some blooms, but our recent weeks of cold must have discouraged the flowers. I know how they feel, since I was fully dressed for winter – sweater, down parka, gloves – and I was still chilly from the brisk wind, even though the sun was out. As a result, my choice of sketch subjects on Wednesday morning were determined by whether I could stand in the sun.

I began with a curved pavilion rooftop where Tom was sketching (upper right, top of post) and a peek of the “Dragon Seeker” stone sculpture (lower right), which was made in Thailand more than a century ago. (I sketched more of the carp the first time I visited the garden in 2015).

Wandering through different parts of the garden, I came upon a bamboo grove with lovely sunlight filtering through. Of course, a scene like this begs for watercolor, to which I sighed and conceded. As usual, I felt the obligatory tug to use a medium that would be a struggle but that also compels me (below).

Bamboo at Seattle Chinese Garden

Relieved to be done with that, I continued wandering the well-tended garden and made two more additions to my main comic-y spread. It’s always satisfying to put a few finishing borders and captions on.In case you cant read the sticker (made by Kate), May 1 – 7 is International Urban Sketchers Week (see the hashtag #USkWeek2024). Sketch groups around the world are having events this week to raise awareness of USk and, of course, to sketch together as we did.


Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Shapes of South Lake Union


4/27/24 South Lake Union

Although the wind and drizzle made Saturday morning feel colder than 51 degrees, USk Seattle made a good turnout at South Lake Union. With rain in the forecast for the throwdown time, I was glad I had gotten a tip from Gabi about The Stumpery, which has a large sheltered area. Part of Amazon’s Urban Arboretum near the Spheres, The Stumpery is a collection of old-growth cedars that originated in the Olympic Peninsula. Some as old as 500 years when they died, the stumps attracted several sketchers (one made a cameo appearance next to the Space Needle in my sketch).

The star of the sketch outing was the vintage Elephant Super Car Wash sign. Amazon received the sign from car wash owner Bob Haney after the business closed in 2020. A beloved Seattle icon for more than 60 years, the elephant gave several sketchers an opportunity for a pop of pink.

In my favorite way lately, I walked around the South Lake Union area dominated by Amazon buildings and tried to capture a variety of small shapes and textures (top of post). Although the Amazon Spheres were another favorite subject among sketchers, I had sketched them often enough in the past that I didn’t feel compelled to sketch them again. Instead, I made a selfie reflected in the Spheres’ geodesic glass panes.

By the time I filled the spread, my gloveless hands were starting to complain. I retreated to Kitanda Coffee to warm them up and finish writing the captions on my urban sketching comic page.

Ameya, Natalie and me at Shake Shack.

After the outing, Natalie and I stopped for lunch at Shake Shack, where we met Ameya. He had missed the throwdown, so it was fun to share sketches over lunch and do a little more sketching as we chatted.

4/27/24 Shake Shack with Natalie and Ameya. (In case you're wondering, SLUT stands for South Lake Union Trolley.)


Despite the cold and rain, it was a terrific day of sketching with my tribe in a part of downtown that’s full of dynamic urban shapes.





Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sunshine, Watercolors and Comics at U Village


4/19/24 University Village

The requested sunshine was delivered for USk Seattle at U Village last Friday, and we all agreed the temperature and conditions were nearly ideal: 66 degrees with a clear blue sky!

Arriving a little early, I found a sunny spot and started sketching immediately to stay warm. The rest of the morning continued apace – one small sketch after another until I filled a spread in my bright yellow Uglybook that seemed to reflect the day’s sunshine (top of post).

4/19/24 Why do I keep torturing myself?


I was having so much fun that I could have immediately started another spread, but I thought I “should” do a watercolor. Since I knew that comfy benches and tables were plentiful at U Village, I felt compelled to bring along my watercolor palette and A5-size Hahnemühle sketchbook. I found a suitable composition and even dutifully made a thumbnail first in my Field Notes, but I admit I didn’t enjoy using watercolors nor the result (at left) nearly as much as I do comic-style urban sketching with markers. I should stop torturing myself with watercolors and just embrace me doing me!

With that over with, I sighed with relief and happily pulled out my smaller A6 Hahnemühle for another comic-like spread (below). White paper enables me to use a little color – I’d be happy with that if I could just let watercolors go.



Saturday, March 30, 2024

Sunny and Chilly at Colman Ferry Terminal


3/30/24 Seattle waterfront from the Colman Terminal pedestrian overpass

Sunshine made the stiff waterfront breeze tolerable when USk Seattle gathered at the newly renovated Colman Ferry Terminal this morning. Although we didn’t need them that day, the terminal would make a great all-weather sketch location because the many deep, wide overhangs above the walkways would shelter us from drizzle.

Looking for a sunny spot instead of the cold shade, I walked out to the middle of the pedestrian overpass crossing Alaskan Way (above). I bit off more than I should have been chewing, but I wanted to capture as much of the waterfront as I could. Those strange frame-like things in the foreground are probably remnants of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct that was taken down in 2019. Right now, they look weird and unattractive, but I hope there’s a plan for them. The yellow excavator is standing where the new waterfront park will eventually be. Since work began quite a while ago, I was surprised to see how unfinished it still is.

After that overwhelming sketch, I walked to the terminal and made a much more comfortable page spread of small scenes (below): a state ferry that had just filled with passengers; my beloved Smith Tower; the terminal entrance; and a sketcher.


It was also fun to fill a few pages with fellow commuters on the light rail trains to the waterfront and back home again. 

LINK light rail southbound train
Northbound train



A fresh view of the skyline from the new pedestrian walkway







Blues skies at the ferry dock

 I think everyone enjoyed sketching the wide choice of subjects which could be seen from the relatively newly renovated Colman Ferry Dock.  

I liked this view from the north end of the large plaza next to the ferry terminal.  This is the fire boat "Leschi". Two freighters are anchored out in the bay.  And the Olympic Mountains are glorious in the sun.


 I used the opportunity to explore a little further away. This is a newly opened pocket park on the beach next to the ferry terminal.  It is a small, delightful spot.  It's not very quiet, though, as it's next to a busy city street. It is Pioneer Square Habitat Beach.


I very much enjoyed meeting new sketchers and having some good chats with several others.




Sunday, March 24, 2024

Pink on Capitol Hill


3/24/24 Capitol Hill neighborhood


Until I had learned about it from my yoga instructor last year
, I didn’t know that this usually quiet street on Capitol Hill needed to be a permanent addition to my petal-peeping tour. I sketched there with a few friends then, but this year I felt greedy if I didn’t share it with USk Seattle. I even ordered up some sunshine that was delivered just in time for our outing on Sunday afternoon. The rain and wind the past few days had already sprinkled pink snow on the pavement, but we caught the blossoms just in time before they passed their peak.

(To maximize sketching opportunities on our limited dry days during cherry blossom season, a second group met at the State Capitol in Olympia the same afternoon.)

To give gouache another try, I found a typical Capitol Hill bungalow framed by pink on this residential street (at left). Then I followed my ears to the other end of the block, where a teenage violinist was busking for all the petal peepers (below). From the looks of the cash in his violin case, he seemed to be doing a brisk business, and he certainly gave a pleasant soundtrack to our pink fairyland.


When I turned around, I spotted a sketcher dwarfed by an enormous cherry behind him (top of post). Frustrated (as usual) by the gouache and watercolor I had used previously, I resorted to my tried-and-true brush pen and watercolor pencils. (I’m not sure why I keep trying paints when I like the results of my “usuals” so much more.)

Although sketching the cherries at the UW Quad will always be a mainstay, I have to admit that I prefer neighborhood streets like this one and my favorite in the Sunset Hill neighborhood. There’s something special about walking slowly down the middle of a residential street (moving to the sidewalk when occasional cars come through, always slowly as their drivers and passengers take in the splendor) lined with these majestic trees on both sides. I imagine it must be especially magical for the residents who wait for their block to transform each spring.

Note: My sketch of these trees last year is dated April 13 – three full weeks later than this year. A recent article in the Seattle Times talks about how the dates of cherry blossom peaks are giving researchers data about climate change.