San Diego Sketch Crawl


Zig Millenium and Pelican fountain pen and w/c in Moleskin w/c sketchbook

This lady knows how to get comfortable in an airport.  She must be a frequent flyer.  I was heading off from our little Santa Rosa airport on a direct flight to San Diego, for the 3rd Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl,  I still don’t have that mouthful of title memorized, even after spending a day warming up for it and 3 days participating.


My sketch buddy Carole and I arrived in the evening and realized we’d picked the perfect location for our hotel – Little Italy, where the food and espresso and ambiance and stylish people are a pleasure to the senses. Not to mention the climate of course, where a gentle breeze blows all day and the temperature hovers in the 70’s range in the daytime and 60’s at night. I sketched this from our table in the restaurant right by a large open window.


The first morning started out with some excellent Italian coffee, sketching and of course a visit to the Dick Blick art supply store which happened to be one block from our hotel. Honestly. While the workers were washing down the lovely public area where we were planning to sketch, I saw these guys working, and sketched them with my book on the hood of a truck across the street

In case you’re not familiar with the Urban Sketcher movement or worldwide organization (which I wasn’t either just a few months ago), here is the mission statement and manifesto:

Our Mission

Our mission as a nonprofit is to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel. We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time.

Our Manifesto

1.We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

2.Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.

3.Our drawings are a record of time and place.

4.We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

5.We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.

6.We support each other and draw together.

7.We share our drawings online.

8.We show the world, one drawing at a time.

I really wanted get behind the spirit of this, so all of my sketches from this trip are done on the spot and (almost entirely) unaltered later.


In the newly cleaned area by the fountain, looking down the street toward the harbor.


On the side of a delivery truck were the words “One sip and you’ll understand Italian.” This is how I felt spending the morning in Little Italy where life streamed by in many languages. I sketched this gentleman with his hot-rod red motorized wheelchair and canine companion, and practiced a bit of architecture as well.


After a nice nap we headed over to Seaport Village to sketch some more, in the midst of the ever present throngs of tourists. At dinner we met up with sketchers from as far away as Montreal, Oklahoma, Vancouver, B.C., with the wonderful San Diego sketchers as volunteer hosts.

There were art supply giveaways sponsored by various suppliers and after dinner entertainment of a Portrait Party.  The rules. . .pick someone you don’t know (yet) and sketch each other.  The person with the microphone timed each sketch for 5 minutes, and then we moved on to the next person.

You quickly realize that you are both looking up and down constantly, presenting a moving target to the other sketcher!


Some of these were done standing.  I used my mechanical pencil to get the gesture, then Lamy fountain pen with the black cartridge ink and my water brush to melt it and create some quick modeling.


Such a fun way to make new friends!  I’ve tried this with my son at home, but with “strangers” there’s that bit of social awkwardness for a few moments, but then it dissolves into deep concentration, and then laughter.


Pen and w/c, 8″ X 16″in w/c Hand Book sketchbook

Saturday we met up with 100 other urban sketchers at Balboa Park for a full day of sketching. Somehow I wasn’t prepared for the sheer magnitude of attractions in this world class park.  Astounding gardens, ornate architecture, numerous art and history museums, performing arts venues. . .add to that thousands and thousands of international tourists, each of whom has a camera or smart phone.  I found a bench by the lily pond and sat a few moments in stupification and visual overload before launching into this overly ambitious sketch which turned into true story telling at some point as I just kept filling the space until finally my bottom was too sore and I had to move.

Meanwhile groups of tourists stopped to photograph me (The Artist) and I would be surrounded by Chinese language (I’m guessing here) and catch a glimpse of an entire Asian family surrounding me to pose for their appointed photographer. I kept my head down in concentration for the most part and only one person asked permission.  I certainly had no grounds to refuse, since I routinely point my iPhone at people and shamelessly sketch them without asking.

Then the Urban Sketch organizers came around with cameras and video to record me in the event as well, and I began to think I might actually get my 5 min. of Fame from sitting on that hard bench trying to get those Spanish arches right.

Every five minutes or so a plane would fly by, grazing the tops of the trees.  I did my best to remember the shape of the moving vessel and thought I might go back and put it into every other sketch I did in San Diego, since the airport is IN the city and the planes constantly overhead wherever you are.


This is the noon meet up and sharing.  All 100 or so of us put our sketchbooks out for viewing before a group photo was taken and then off to lunch.


After the morning’s experience I needed quiet, shade, and a simpler subject.  Wandering around a bit, I found a lovely shaded arbor with benches all occupied by busy sketchers.  Joining them, for a short while serenity reigned.  Then a man arrived with a white robe and said he was a minister about to conduct a wedding in the arbor. Of course it was time to vacate.


Given the public nature of the park I felt OK about putting my little stool just outside the arbor to watch how this on-the-spot wedding would evolve.  Sure enough within minutes people arrived in beautiful wedding attire, carrying white folding chairs, bride in diaphanous white and flowers, etc.  The vows were made with the dog chorus echoing each phrase, pictures taken, and within 30-40min it was all over and the minister was off for his shift at Taco Bell.  I finally settled down for this memory sketch after they left.

Tomorrow. . .day three of the Sketchcrawl!


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