urban sketching

A Week in NYC: Part 4

By the second day of the “Puzzling Out the Picture” workshop I had a head cold, which might have something to do with having spent a day in wet clothes during the storm. Our meet up location was Times Square. And it was again cold and windy. So I arrived with every bit of clothing I’d brought piled on me.


If you’re a film director you want to have lots of options for the scenes you create. If you’re a sketcher wanting to tell a visual story, it’s the same. In this setting we had everything in such abundance, and packaged in such endless distraction, that at one point, I think I blew a creative gasket!


As a person who loves sketching figures, I was constantly pulled away from the “bones” of city shapes. Some Broadway dancer would dance by or fashion photographer set up his beautiful model posing a few feet away and I would abandon my thumbnails.


Finally I stuck with one scene long enough to tell a story.

By then it was getting cold enough that we walked to Grand Central Station for an indoor location.


And now we really got down to the business of directional flow of people in different visual planes.  And actually, because of the movement involved, we were also recording the passage of time in a single drawing as people entered and exited the scene. Quite hypnotizing actually.


The close-up people were story-worthy. I discovered that having a person walking into the picture from outside the frame helped to see it as a dimensional space.

NYC43 The last exercise was to open up the sketchbook (to 24″ X 9″) and sketch across the scene. This is the left side. (Note the girls on the left pointing at the zodiac ceiling.)


And this was the right hand side. The little elf on the left was for real, with hair spiked up about 2 feet and bright red clothes, just standing there. But my favorites were the workmen/guards in their uniforms, not going anywhere very fast.

At this point it was actually hard to stop drawing, but the workshop was over. Time to look at all the drawings, say goodbye to new friends and thank our wonderful teacher.


NYC, Part 2, Day 2

Day 2 I was on my own until Andrew got off work at 6, so I took my time walking the High Line, a 1 1/2 mile long linear park built on an elevated section of a disused railroad spur in downtown Manhattan. It’s also an extraordinary botanical garden and architectural delight. I would have been impressed even if my son didn’t work on the High Line design team, honest.


It took a while to find a spot out of the wind where I could sit to sketch. The Sunken Overlook puts you on a bleacher going down to a window to the street below.

NYC26There are art installations along the way and a constantly changing view of the city and the Hudson River.


It was so windy that I needed a hat to hold my hair down. And I had to get the High Line pin and a High Line t shirt for my husband. Shameless parental pride.

At six Andrew and I met up to attend the Chelsea art openings, and then went out to dinner. He had a chuckle and eye roll about the hat.


A Week in NYC, Part I

This California girl hit the big city last week for a visit with my son Andrew and a whole lot of sketching. I go to San Francisco as often as I can and would have to rank it as my favorite city, but New York is like, well, S.F. on steroids. I spent most of the week agog at its architecture and people and art and neighborhoods and on and on. I haven’t really done any sightseeing in NYC since I was a child living in Connecticut, so I had a lot of catching up to do.


Lamy Joy fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn, Beta series 5.5X8.5″ sketchbook

First day I met fellow urban sketcher Chris Carter at Washington Square Park. Chris lives in New Jersey but has a familiarity with Manhattan which was reassuring, not to mention her city sketching skills, which I hoped she’d share with me. (Check out her blog for some of her sketches from the day!)

Right away we found a band playing in the park and set to sketching. The Animule Dance plays old-time Jazz, Blues, and country music. OK, so now I was feeling at home!


Not a bad seat for viewing and listening!


Actually, while waiting for Chris to arrive I found the chess players. My husband had given me instructions to sketch them. It was a great warm up!


The band took a break and we strolled around the area, coming to this scene of the old fashioned water tower across from a modern muraled building and we both elected to plop down on stools, hugging the stone wall by the sidewalk and give it a try. I noticed that I have trouble getting the proper scale of the “big buildings” in the city (being such a country girl!) I tend to shrink them down to manageable size. More practice needed.


After lunch we were planning to walk around Greenwich Village, but the sun was out and we headed back to Washington Square. Just to change things up a bit I started drawing with paint and then worked some pen line in.

The fountain was scintillating, the gardens in blooms, the people joyful, and the scene was so divine that I christened it “The Bliss of Fountain-eity”.

Later Chris had a turn to get a quotable from the day. “When you find your line, then you become able to share your unique experience of the external world”  (or something like that) I realized that I am forever in search of my line. It seems that others can usually see one’s “line” more easily than you yourself can.


There was soo much going on: gymnastics/break dancing (shirtless guy on the left with blue pants), tourists taking selfies, hot dog and pretzel selling, tulips blooming and musicians in every quadrant. I gave up trying to put anything in perspective and just kept drawing the stories!


Chris helped me to remember to photograph the sketch in the setting sketched. It helps to have an extra hand to hold the book up while taking the iPhone pic!

Our day ended with dinner at a bistro in Greenwich Village, much philosophizing about the abundant gifts of being an urban sketcher and a vow to meet again for more sketching, in N.Y and other world cities!

Galway bound


I’m off to Ireland on Sunday for three weeks of sketching with my travel buddies. First stop, an urban sketch workshop in Galway. Then we’ll be touring Ireland by car for nine days with the trip culminating in the UsK (Urban Sketch) International Symposium in Manchester, England and more workshops with teachers from around the world.

The above picture might imply that I am all organized and packed and ready to go. Ahem. Not so. But it’s a start. This is probably overkill, and believe me, I will not be carrying all this around with me in my little day pack. But one must plan for many eventualities and lost and broken and running out of ink/paint eventualities!

As I did last summer in Italy I shall try to post sketches/pics from the trip as time and WiFi allows.It’s definitely a trip I’m anxious to share!

Windy Jazz


fountain pen and w/c in 9 X 12″ Mixed Media sketchbook

The S.F. Sketchers met up for a jazz festival on Fillmore St. last weekend. The street was blocked off to traffic for several blocks with musicians performing at several locations. A cold and windy July day, just what you’d expect if you live in S.F. (which I don’t). It always seems crazy when I leave my home in the “banana belt” of Sonoma Co. to bring a coat and hat to the city, but it was definitely required last weekend. The winds were at times so fierce that the sheet music on the stands blew free of the clips meant to hold it down!


This was a challenge to sketch.  I sat in the sun to warm up but could barely see the outline of the musicians with the sun shining in my eyes. So I tried a different treatment with a brush pen.


Back to a smaller sketchbook as the wind blew up even more.


And then later, in the warm comfort of my couch I sketched this street dancer who I’d captured on my iPhone.

It was a fun group of 33 sketchers from all over the world!  Russia!  and Finland!  and India! I love the spirit of this Urban Sketcher phenomena, which has become seriously international.

A Day at U. C. Berkeley


Pitt Artist brush pen, watercolor in 7.75 X 9.75″ watercolor journal (dble page)

A day of brilliant weather, a chance to have lunch with my son and his friends, a good friend to sketch with. . .does it get any better?  We were so happy to be on this campus, which always feels a bit like the center of the universe with people of all nationalities and persuasions and lifestyles passing by each moment along with memories of history, demonstrations, a hive of social conscience.  So we sat on a wall by Sather Gate, in the warm winter sun, and jumped right in.  I’ve been wanting to practice architectural sketching, or at least to discover quick versions, so this seemed like a good spot.  But after a few minutes we were both groaning about the complexity of the scene.  And the sun which was getting too hot.  It’s always easier in theory.


Tombow water soluble pen and watercolor

So we moved to the shade of a dining hall deck for some people sketching.  And what a gold mine it was!  There were enough young people coming and going that when one figure you were sketching moved, you could just wait til another similar one sat down to tack on the missing leg or hand.  And then there were the people on computer, who are an easy mark for the pen.  I find myself making up stories about who they are and what they are doing.  What I hadn’t guessed was that all the young students dressed in ties and dresses (not the normal berkeley school attire) were high schoolers from around the country who were there for a debate contest.  This we learned when one of them from Utah sat down with us to see the sketches and fill us in.


Tombow pen and watercolor

After lunch with Andrew and friends and a fascinating tour of the Environmental Design building on campus, we settled down for some more mind numbing lines and angles and perspective.  Fun?  I’m not sure.  Good for me? Undoubtedly.But the coffee shop across the street beckoned with afternoon treats. Too tired for more sketching and anticipating the drive back to the country, I wolfed down a piece of carrot cake, drank my iced coffee and we called it a day.

46th Worldwide Sketchcrawl


Pitt Artist Pen and watercolor in Strathmore 7.75X9.75″ w/c journal


The Sketch Bug has bitten me again, along with a desire to try new things.  So I jumped at the chance to join the urban sketchers in San Francisco for the 46th Worldwide Sketchcrawl.  That’s right, all over the world people were sketching together and sharing their work on January 31st.

My passion has been sketching people in public places and intimate scenes, but I’ve been wanting to broaden that to include architecture and other city scenes.  I live in the country and enjoy the vineyard, mountain and forest vistas each day, but am a bit bored with sketching them.  The problem however is that I seem to be allergic to straight lines. After my day in the city I at least developed an affinity to cars and power lines, and hopefully I’ll learn to manage those beastly angles and perspective too!


Bernal Heights was the setting for the meet-up in San Francisco.  My friend Carole and I arrived and I was immediately drawn in by the fragrance of the Waffle Shop, wasting precious time to eat my waffle and drink my coffee.  Meanwhile the others starting sketching on the street instantly! It’s so much easier to do this public sketching with others who are doing it at the same time.  Makes it feel as normal as walking your dog or pushing a stroller.


Japanese brush pen and w/c in Strathmore journal.

After a long lunch break when we met up with an old sketch friend Jana Bouc, we found a busy spot on the street with traffic, trams, people of all shapes, sizes and preferences (oh how I love this about the city!) and even a Chinese Lion Dance for the children.  And we plunged in with our pens and colors.


When  I found a sketcher and a building with a round edge (hallelujah!) I knew what the next sketch would be.  And then, way too quickly, the day was done, and we convened at the library  to share our sketches. . .

sketchcrawlsharingand to marvel at the different styles and techniques, not to mention the subject matter gleaned in this setting.  One sketcher even invited herself into a beauty parlor to do a glorious sketch of a woman under a hair dryer!  Am I inspired for more?  You bet.