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Saturday, Dec. 9: Wallingford Center

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Michele’s Visual Journaling

8/25/18 Michele demo-ing the 6-stroke figure inside Grand Central Arcade
Although Michele Cooper has taught First Steps in Visual Journaling several times, I’ve always managed to be out of town when it was offered. Yesterday I was finally able to catch up with her in Pioneer Square to sketch and photograph her popular USk 10x10 workshop in action. Known for her delightful sense of humor, Michele gently eased her students toward documenting their day’s activities with sketches and words.

The exercise I caught her demo-ing was her signature “6-stroke people” – like stick figures but with realistic human proportions – which she uses frequently to sketch people in the middle and far distance of an urban environment. Steering her students away from getting bogged down by facial or clothing details, she suggested that they “indicate, don’t illustrate.”

Michele showing some of her favorite sketching tools.
The smoky sky was back again, which kept her workshop mostly indoors. Undaunted, Michele showed her students that urban sketchers adapt to changing, unpredictable circumstances, and they made themselves at home inside Grand Central Arcade.

After eavesdropping on Michele and her students for a while, I became famished and decided I needed a sandwich from Grand Central Bakery. You know I rarely sketch my food: If I’m hungry enough to have it in front of me, I’m too hungry to sketch it. However, inspired by Michele’s montage style of visual journaling, I stopped myself from devouring the sandwich long enough to make the world’s fastest sketch. After scarfing it down, I looked around Grand Central Arcade to make a couple of small sketches next to the sandwich: Michele giving a demo and one of the ceiling lamps.

Before heading home, I walked out to Occidental Park to fill the rest of the page with some ping-pong players and a flower basket hanging from an iconic Pioneer Square lamp post. I guess the sandwich didn’t have to be quite so prominent on the page, but that’s what happens when I sketch hungry.

8/25/18 Inspired by Michele's montage style, here's my sandwich center stage surrounded by other elements of my day.

Some of Michele's students ventured outdoors to Occidental
Park to practice their 6-stroke figures.


  1. Thank you, Tina, for covering this story about my workshop. It was great to see you try out a montage style sketch. You even captured a person coming into the building from the hazardous outside air wearing a particle mask!

    1. Michele, you're inspiring, even when I'm eavesdropping from a distance! I could tell your students were having a great time.

      - Tina

    2. Thanks so much, Tina! That's so nice to hear. It was great having you pop in and I love seeing the location through your sketches. The sandwich looks delicious!