Epilogue to Chicago

The Urban Sketch Symposium was officially over July 30. But of course I’ve left so much out of my story. . .like KK’s (Kiah Kiean Chng) demonstration of his “stick” and ink drawings and Rita Sabler‘s inspiring lecture titled “Urban Sketch as a form of Protest”. And then there were the demonstration tables with all the vendors who filled our “goody bag” with materials to try!

chicago36Contents of the goody bags!

Bettina and I were staying at Roosevelt University housing on the 21st floor where there is a study lounge with floor to ceiling windows and a 180 degree view of Lake Michigan, Millennial Park, and well, many of the coveted architectural wonders and city views. So we invited a couple teacher friends up to enjoy sketching. And the next morning the room filled up with many of the Symposium teachers, each approaching the scene in his/her trademark way while we watched and did our own.


Rob Sketcherman here on his iPad. Gail Wong finishing a several foot long accordian fold sketchbook, Virginia Hein doing her color magic, Shari Blaukopf getting it all in with freshness and detail, Uma Kelkar painting those beautiful soft edges.


My sketchbook was not wide enough for the other side of the room where Marc Taro Holmes was painting the entire scene with brush only, Suhita Shirodhar appeared at some point (check out her blog posts about the Symposium), Laurel Holmes and Joel our treasurer, Bettina and Cathy McAuliff. And to add to the excitement of the morning a helicopter was delivering an air conditioner to the roof of the Art Institute next door! A handy bit of orange accent to include in the sketches!


After that we took the time to eat an actual full midday meal, which we hadn’t had time for previously in the week! And then headed to one of the other iconic sketch spots, the Chicago Theatre.

And then the for last sketch of the week, one of the lions in front of the Art Institute Chicago, where we indulged in a full day of art viewing. My favorites, Gauguin, Saul Steinberg, and The Paintings of M. F. Husain.


(The tail was a necessary after thought!)

But I’d missed sketching a scene I saw daily, mostly because it involved sitting under the train with its deafening roar and smelly eructations. So I did the next one from a photo at home.


And so I’ll end it there, with the very same train that took us to the airport the next morning for only $3. What a bargain!

Chicago: Part IV

On the last official day of the Symposium, there was time for a few more sketches while things were winding up for the big picture taking (of all 570 people from 34 countries and then the evening festivities.

But I thought also to share some of the small sketches/thumbnails I did to get my bearings while in the city, using water soluble graphite in a cake form with my water brush and pen.


I often liked these small ones better than the finished pieces. When the visual scene is most complex is the best time to go super small to simplify it.

The soaring green “gargoyles” on the library had been calling out all week to be drawn!


And then in the afternoon the final sketchwalk with all participants while the city was busy closing down the public areas by the lake in preparation for the big Lollapaloosa music festival.


The city workers were hanging the sign, piece by piece as many of us dashed off a sketch of the brave native on horseback. My friend Cathy read my mind as she commented, “Is this the Indian they stole Chicago from?”


Once again here I am trying to prove myself as an authentic urban sketcher (even if a country girl at heart), seeing how many buildings and traffic I can pack into a quick sketch while on the corner of a busy intersection!

Then we were all getting ourselves arranged on a grassy hilltop for the grand Symposium picture, made more fun by a drone that circled around filming us from all angles.

Followed that evening by the closing party and announcement of the location for next year’s Symposium, in Porto, Portugal. Maybe you’ll be there?!

But there’s more! An epilogue, as we stayed a couple more days in Chicago. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to join me and the Ready, Set, Sketchers! in Sebastopol this Saturday, we’ll be meeting up at 10am and sketching the Gravenstein Apple Fair. All are welcome!

Join us at the 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair for the next “Ready, Set, Sketch” meet-up!

Saturday August 12 from 10:00AM-1:00PM

We’ll meet at the entrance to the park at 10am.

Ragle Ranch Regional Park

500 Ragle Road

Sebastopol, CA 95472



Chicago: Part III

The next morning I skipped the sketchwalk meet up and just went right to one of the locations on the walk in the financial district. Settled myself on my little stool on the busy sidewalk. Towered over by imposing buildings waving their American flags of commerce, I shrank into a little pool insignificance. To put it simply I was intimidated. So I picked one small section of the overwhelming scene above me and soon had calmed myself down a bit and regained a modicum of that lost confidence.


Something made me pause and decide to not to paint the colorful red and blue of the flag, even though it would liven up the sketch, and leave the colors off the next one as well.


This one, sketched while sitting in front of Brooks Brothers and the Rookery Building , was a counter-phobic plunge into the most complicated street scene I’ve attempted so far. While inhaling the smoke from an employee taking his cigarette break in our shared alcove (twice in that hour)and feeling the press of people and cars rushing by, I seriously questioned whether I was up for this particular sort of urban sketch scene.


The top of one of the grand buildings on the Chicago riverfront, the London House, viewed from way below on the other side of the river, was an attempt to recover through simplification. Drawn with paint first and then pen.

But then I plunged into the river again, figuratively speaking. . .

chicago14The Chicago city planners let the developers build skyscrapers on both sides of the not-very-wide river running through the city but required that there be a public walkway under the buildings along the river. And the river, at least on that lovely July day, was positively teeming with people in river crafts, from kayaks to pleasure boats blaring dance music, from architectural boat tours to water taxis. I finally found a narrow, but relatively unpopulated spot on the river walk to set about sketching some of the story.


That evening the Symposium folks reserved an area on the grass in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a picnic dinner and a world class choral and orchestral performance. About the Frank Gehry design I wrote , “the performance stage opening is like a colossal beetle mouth with two tiny eyes, random pincers, ruby red mouth and white teeth. A hungry creature like ourselves.”

Stay tuned for Chicago: Part IV and the end of the Chicago visit.

And don’t miss Suhita Shirodhar’s post and free download about teaching at The Bean!