Sunday, August 14, 2016

7th Urban Sketchers Symposium: Manchester, UK


After a year of anticipation, #USKManchester2016 was finally upon us! The symposium opened on a Wednesday evening with a reception at the stunning Manchester Town Hall. Looking around, I was reminded of how amazing it was to have 500 of us from around the world all there in one place.

M. captured it perfectly in this photo.


I was too busy catching up with friends and meeting people to sketch, but several people had their sketchbooks and pens out already, not wanting to miss a moment.

Even our hotel seemed to celebrate our collective love of line. Check out the headboard in our room at Innside Manchester:



Manchester turned out to be a treasure trove for sketchers -- red brick and glass, canals and cathedrals. My first sketch was the following morning, at Mike Daikubara's workshop "Sketch Now, Think Later."


Mike gave us tips for keeping our kit portable (e.g., try using a sponge to wipe brushes instead of paper towels) and asked us to dive right in. Since it was raining, we were inside the Museum of Science and Industry. I like looking at planes and cars, but drawing them is another story.

Exhibit at Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, UK

I was more interested in the families who had chosen the museum to escape the downpour outside, slickers and galoshes still dripping.

Rainy day visitors at Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, UK

I spent the afternoon getting slightly lost, having comfort food at Indian Tiffin Room, and then attending a fantastic lecture by Brazilian anthropologist Karina Kuschnir on teaching ethnography students to sketch. As I walked to the elevator after the talk, I was drawn to the view outside, so I had to stop for a quick thumbnail.

View from Benzie Building 4th Floor, Manchester, UK

After dinner, a few of us went to what became the "mascot" pub of the symposium, Peveril of the Peak.

Unlike everyone else, I didn't draw the exterior. But I did sketch some of the patrons!

Drink 'n' draw at Peveril of the Peak, Manchester, UK


The day dawned overcast and drizzly. I stole off to the Northern Quarter, a lively area of restaurants and boutique shops. I stopped in at Fred Aldous and H. Blyth & Co., with their drool-worthy sketchbooks and art supplies.



Time to sketch the ubiquitous red brick! I grabbed a drink at Foundation Coffee and set out my watercolor kit for a few sketches.

Northern Qtr sketch

Sketch looking out window from Foundation Coffee, Manchester, UK

Northern Quarter scene, Manchester, UK

In the afternoon, I attended Daniel Green's demo on painting reflections in watercolor. Here he's showing us his custom-cut Plexiglas easel tray.


I also helped out with The Big Crit, organized by illustrator Fred Lynch, where experienced sketchers offer to review symposium attendees' work and share tips for development.

In the evening, the Urban Sketchers board officers and coordinators had dinner at the canalside restaurant Albert's Shed, chosen by the one and only Simone Ridyard, our indefatigable USk Manchester chapter leader. Hats off to her for bringing us all to her fantastic hometown.


The next morning, I was back in the Northern Quarter. I sketched as M. got a haircut at The Corner Barber Shop.

The Corner Barber Shop, Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK

As we walked around, I stopped to get in a few more sketches. One symposium tradition I love is the local logo stamp we have each year, for everyone to add to their sketches. Isn't the Manchester logo great?

Hilton & Tib Sts, Manchester, UK

Dale & Oldham Sts, Manchester, UK

Too soon, it was time to wrap things up. A few of us set up for the silent auction and then ran out to be part of the massive group picture. (Thanks to M. for the pics.) What a huge crowd! It was a perfect opportunity for sketchers with selfie sticks.


The closing party featured a costumed band (which immediately became the subject of several people's sketches).


It was hard to believe that #USkManchester2016 would soon be just a memory. But just as the evening came to a close, we made the announcement everyone was waiting for: See you all next year at...#USkChicago2017!!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pre-Symposium Sketching: London and Oxford

Just one week to unpack and repack between trips, and then we were off to the UK. We landed in London, dropped our bags at our hotel, and headed straight to the last hour of a Wren sketchcrawl organized by Pete Scully.

The idea was to sketch sites associated with the great English architect Sir Christopher Wren. The final venue was the Monument to the Great Fire of London. I sketched it quickly and later pasted on the relevant section from my vintage copy of Muirhead's Short Guide to London (1953). Do you see the collaged part on the left?

Monument to Great Fire, London, UK

M. went up to the top of the Monument to capture the sketchers. See if you can spot me.

After a group photo, a few of us went to Borough Market for a drink before dinner.

Borough Market, London, UK

The next day, M. and I hopped on a train to go up to Oxford. It's always fun to try to capture the fleeting scenes through the window.

Farmland, as seen from train from London to Oxford, UK

It was my second time wandering the Oxford streets, but the first time with a sketchbook. It was hard not to think of Endeavour and the Inspector Morse series as we contemplated the ancient halls of learning. Here's a sketch from inside the Trinity College grounds:

Trinity College, Oxford, UK

And one of Radcliffe Camera:

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford, UK

Did you see the bicycles? They are on every street.

Street in Oxford, UK

We came back to London to meet a friend for dinner near One New Change, a shopping complex whose public rooftop terrace offers a fantastic view of St. Paul's and the London skyline. I saw why my friend had told me to bring my sketchbook!

St Paul's from One New Change roof terrace, London, UK

The next day, I met a former colleague for lunch at Canary Wharf. It was all suits and seriousness there -- not particularly picturesque. I did a quick drawing of some people outside Starbucks.

Outside the Starbucks, Canary Wharf, London, UK

After an obligatory stop at Cass Art in Islington for supplies, including a tin of Winsor & Newton water colour markers, we boarded the train at Euston Station -- bound for #USKManchester2016!

To be continued...

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Week in Japan

Ginkaku-ji Kyoto Japan

Just got back from a weeklong trip to Tokyo and Kyoto. Sadly I was a bit sniffly -- and the weather was by turns hot/humid and rainy (at times torrential) -- so I didn't get to sketch as much as I would have liked. Some highlights:

-The drool-worthy art supplies at Tokyu Hands and Sekaido.

I got a new supply of my favorite Rotring Tikky Graphic pens, a fine-tipped brush pen, and a flat-tipped waterbrush. I also bought some watercolor-paper postcards and a book on watercolors by Japanese master Hideshi Katoh.

-Also bought two traditional brushes at a small shop in the narrow lanes near Tokyo's Senso-ji temple.

-Had great tofu and noodles at O-men (below) in Kyoto, and visited Ginkaku-ji (the "silver" pavilion -- pictured at the top of this post).

O-men Kyoto Japan

-Took a Japanese calligraphy workshop, where the facilitator gave us a choice of various words to practice. I chose "dream."

dream - Japanese calligraphy

-Shopped at Itoya, the ultimate stationery shop. Every floor is perfectly curated and designed.

-Sat in our room at the Keio Plaza Hotel flicking channels and tried my hand at sketching sumo wrestlers. It was a challenge, since the matches only last a few seconds!

Sumo wrestlers drawn from TV in Japan

-Had a sketchbook custom-made for me at Kakimori, with two types of paper. It was fun to pick out the paper, the binding, and the covers and watch it being made on the machine.

And now I have just one week to prep for USk Manchester!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Making Waves in Pacifica

Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA
(8x8, ink and watercolor on Fluid 100 block)

The wind was fierce yesterday at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica. I was glad to have my Helly Hansen jacket -- stood up well to the gale! M. took this picture of me while I was painting.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Taste of Pine & Crane, Los Angeles

Pine and Crane Los Angeles

LA was a mercurial teenager on our most recent trip. The wedding we attended was absolutely lovely, but we spent hours on the freeway getting from home to Santa Monica (expected), then hours again just getting from Santa Monica to Long Beach (not expected).

Biking in Long Beach from our hotel (the Westin) to the shopping strip in Belmont Heights seemed like a fun jaunt, but the day started off oddly chilly and drizzly, and carrying the bikes down to the beach was a slog. Then there was an incident with a less-than-accurate eyebrow shaper at a nail salon, and a display of after-dark public road rage that seemed truly out of place for a seaside community.

But again, the wedding was delightful, and I did love riding my bike along the Pacific with nothing to worry about other than sand and sea (and a dozen groups of people sporting matching walkathon T-shirts).

On the last day we chose to meander back north via Los Feliz and Silver Lake, two LA neighborhoods we hadn't explored yet. Things were looking up! We stopped to get dessert at House of Pies and wandered through Skylight Books.

The friendly proprietor at Mission Workshop put us on to his fave casual Taiwanese-Chinese eatery just up the road, Pine & Crane.

It was fast, simple and delicious. And I finally got a sketch in! Just what we needed before we got on the road home.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Workshop Recap: Strait Color with Randall Sexton

Was excited to take Randy Sexton's workshop "Strait Color," hosted by Arts Benicia, last month. I've been a big fan of his work, plus it was an excuse to explore a new part of the Bay Area.

Randy began the class with a demo of a building in Benicia.

He asked us to concentrate on simplifying shapes into just two values, to start. Painting outdoors, he noted, is like a shorthand language -- it's important to step back and see what works from a distance.

After his demo, we chose locations around the Benicia waterfront to set up and paint. I decided to try a challenging scene of boats and cranes, with Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oils. This was my first time using them for plein air painting. My Strada easel held up well, though the gusty winds meant I had to clamp or secure everything very carefully.

My verdict? I think I could have brightened my colors a bit. I'm happy with the blending on the clouds, which incidentally chased the sun all afternoon and made it difficult to figure out light and shadow.

Benicia, CA - work in progress

The next day, we visited Randy's studio in Crockett, a few miles away. We painted an urban scene this time, and then gathered for a critique and another demo. It was a hot day, so I found that my paints were getting thick as the hours wore on. (Still figuring out how to handle these water-mixable oils!)

I'm fairly happy with the result, especially the composition. The only part I couldn't do on location was the lettering on the sign; I ended up doing that with an oil-based pencil later when I touched up the painting in the studio.

Downtown Crockett, CA: work in progress

Oddly I find oils/acrylics difficult to paint with outdoors -- they are much more forgiving than watercolors, but it means I have to think backward. With watercolor I think about which parts of the page I need to leave blank, but with oils the darks generally go on first.

I'll just have to keep on practicing with both!