Drawing Dance

Sunday, October 15, 2017


After several days of late-night Inktober sketches from my imagination, I was determined to do something different yesterday. So I got front-row seats to SJDanceCo's performance, Roots & Wings, at the Hammer Theatre in downtown San Jose.


There was just enough light from the orchestra pit and stage to see the paper. I sketched this with a Sharpie pen in a Canson Art Book Universal - Sketch. It's a relatively thin paper; this sketchbook is one that I started in Santo Domingo in 2012 and have come back to every so often. It's liberating to draw on this paper, as it keeps me from getting too precious with the lines. If I mess up, I don't feel bad about turning the page and starting over.


Drawing these dancers was incredibly challenging. They moved fast and contorted their bodies in positions that weren't easy to comprehend much less capture on the page. When I added color later, I tried to keep my washes loose and minimal. I made notes on the page to help me remember the colors, as photography wasn't permitted.

The sketch at the top of this post is of a solo performer -- she used a flowing red piece of cloth as her foil in her graceful, emotional piece.

Another act seemed to involve the dancers' fraught relationship with clothing of various kinds. Still another celebrated the joy of childhood, with props including a large balloon and a tricycle.


Have you ever tried sketching a dance performance of any kind? What are your tips for capturing the fluidity of the bodies as they twist and leap around the stage?


One Each Day

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Still going strong with my Inktober sketches. Here's one from Martial Cottle Park, and then a series of late-night quick captures from my imagination (seeded by the official Inktober prompts).

tractor martial cottle park

Inktober - crooked

Inktober - screech

Inktober - gigantic

Inktober - run

Inktober - teeming

Inktober - shattered


More Inktober!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Santa Teresa Park trail inktober

I'm fortunate that I live in front of a large park here in California; I open the backyard gate and find myself faced with miles of trails -- a convenient subject for an Inktober sketch!


Yesterday's installment of Inktober was during dinner at Jang Su Jang, a Korean restaurant in Santa Clara.

Placemat sketch Jang Su Jang

The day before, it was a quick sketch from TV.

inktober tv sketch


Inktober: It's On!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Heading east, Philadelphia, PA

If it's October, it must be Inktober! It's an annual worldwide activity in which artists draw in ink every day of the month and post their work.

I was visiting my parents in their new home in Voorhees, NJ, over the weekend, so I took advantage of a few hours in Philadelphia to draw the scene above -- from the passenger seat of the car.

Given all we were doing to help my parents settle in, I didn't have a lot of time to draw. Here's the usual last-minute sketch of M. sleeping, aka "Oh, no, it's 11 pm and I still haven't done my Inktober drawing!"

Michael sleeping Voorhees house

If you've seen my previous Inktober posts, you know that M. likes to throw random words at me as prompts. Don't ask.

Alien pizza inktober

How about you? Are you participating in this year's Inktober?


Now Live: My Craftsy Class!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

So excited to announce that my Craftsy class, Urban Sketching in 15 Minutes a Day, is live! It's great for beginners. You'll learn simple ways to quickly convey the essence of a place, moment or passing scene – whether you’re walking to lunch or traveling in a car, bus or train.

What you get:

  • 6 Streaming HD video lessons with anytime, anywhere access
  • Class resources, including a printable supply list
  • Detailed instruction, explanation and demonstration
  • Me! I'll be personally answering your questions in the class

Let's get sketching! Sign up today

in motion

Open Streets: Viva Calle SJ 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Viva CalleSJ westbound

Last weekend, San Jose once again hosted Viva CalleSJ, an open streets event to encourage walking and bicycling. Each time, I discover more parts of the city.

This year we started near Alum Rock, and M. brought along his Box Bike. I had the best seat in the house -- I got to sit inside the box bike and sketched while M. pedaled along the route!

Sketching in Box Bike by during Viva CalleSJ

Viva CalleSJ going east

Viva CalleSJ balloon

We stopped in front of Five Wounds Portuguese National Church -- I've wanted to draw it for some time so was glad to get the chance.

Five Wounds San Jose

Someday I'd love to go down to LA to sketch during a CicLAvia event.

horsing around

We Have Polo!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

South Bay Polo Club - Garlic Cup, Gilroy, CA

Yep, we do indeed, just 20 minutes away. Sketched this during the heat wave, at the South Bay Polo Club's Garlic Cup a few weeks ago. (It's in Gilroy, where everything is made of garlic.)

Interestingly, the announcer didn't proclaim "We have polo!" every few minutes as seemed to be the norm in Saratoga. Also unlike at our previous polo experiences in Saratoga and Greenwich, the attendees seemed to be a more diverse and laid-back crowd. Fewer UFO-size hats, more coolers. Plus there were tacos and margaritas - fun!

So far I've sketched golf and polo and yoga and ballroom dancing around the Bay Area. Still on the list to sketch: fencing, cricket. What else?


That Time My Birthday Was Eclipsed by ... the Eclipse

Saturday, September 09, 2017

So the whole country decided to throw a party for me this year. Woot!

Yep, I'm one of the lucky ones who happened to be celebrating a birthday at the same time we all collectively stopped in our tracks to gaze at the sun. For one brief moment we forgot about all the crazy.

I celebrated by hitting not one but two national parks. First stop: Lassen Volcanic National Park. What's that, you say? Oh, only the awesomeness of steam vents and sulfur and bubbling springs without the crush of people at Yellowstone.

We hiked around Manzanita Lake. I stopped to sit on a log and paint.

Manzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Direct to watercolor, no sketching first, in a Hand Book Field Watercolor journal.

Then we trekked to Bumpass Hell. The back way, involving a steep, muddy hike, because the easy trail was still closed. Because of snow. In August!

It was exhausting, but so worth it. This painting doesn't really do the scene justice, but it's the best I could eke out with what little energy I had.

Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park

We drove onward to Crater Lake National Park. Sadly, we could barely see it because of the smoke from all the wildfires. We spent the night in the town of Jacksonville, Oregon, near Ashland. It has a very lovely downtown.

Jacksonville, Oregon downtown

For the main event, we went to Roxy Ann Winery in Medford, which was hosting a viewing party. Yes, we didn't see totality, but ~90% while sipping fresh-from-the-orchard peach mimosas? Yes, please!

Eclipse watching at Roxy Ann Winery, Medford, OR

Austin (or Cleveland?) 2024, here we come!


Sketching at the Zoo

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Took advantage of our office summer picnic a few weeks ago at the San Francisco Zoo to sketch. Because, flamingoes!

flamingos SF Zoo

And parrots (I think?).

parrot SF zoo

So what is this awesome toned paper? It's that Daiso kraft paper scrapbook I'd previously used for gouache.

Here's a roadie I had done a few weeks earlier, in the same sketchbook.

Sketch from the road


Camera Ready in Denver

Monday, August 21, 2017

A week after I got back from Chicago, I was off to Denver for a video shoot with Craftsy. More details on the project will be coming soon, but here's a behind-the-scenes look at my days in front of the camera in Colorado.

M. and I arrived in Denver on Sunday. We took light rail from the airport to Union Station (it's the city's transport hub, meeting place, and living room) and got lunch.

We went to the two main shoot locations so I could get familiar with them. We also went to Meininger, the local art materials shop, so I could get some supplies. Next to their pen section, they have this handy guide to tell you which ones are waterproof -- so clever!

Monday was spent prepping. I got my hair and makeup done by the lovely Danica, who's also done makeup for President Obama.

My producer, Stephanie, and I scouted locations and went over the script. I met the crew and learned that the first order of business each day was ordering lunch. (Hey, everyone's gotta eat!)

I also got a look at the studio where we would be shooting the indoor portions. I learned a ton about video production, such as the reason that a clapperboard (slate) is used for each take (the black-and-white pattern and sharp noise help synchronize sound and video).

Tuesday was spent on location in a park, getting as many sections done between raindrops as we could. We'd ordered Mediterranean food for lunch, but while we were wrapping up the first walk-and-talk, a squirrel got into our pita bread! It was quite the picnic.

The afternoon shoot was even more challenging -- we shot that inside a car. The crew had to MacGyver the camera to the dash, which mostly worked except when the car lurched and the whole rig would fall forward. Talk about extreme sketching!

Wednesday, we were back at the park to shoot another section and then returned to the studios to do the last outdoor part. No squirrels this time, just extremely loud cicadas whose music would wax and wane in the background.

The last day was all indoor studio -- had to finish up the remaining portions plus record intros and outros. Time for a few final pics with Danica and Stephanie before heading off to the airport.

Stay tuned: I'll be sharing more about all of this in the coming weeks!


8th Urban Sketchers Symposium - Chicago

Sunday, August 13, 2017

OK Chicago, you won me over this time. Sort of.

Previously I'd see it and think, meh. Yes, it has architecture with a capital A, and a lakefront that pretends to be a seafront. Somehow I didn't gel with it. Well, maybe it was the symposium magic, or because we stayed in a more interesting area, but I could actually see myself visiting again by choice.

25 July
We landed at Midway around lunchtime. My first sketch was on the CTA Orange Line train we took to get to the city. And I got my first glimpse of Willis Tower.

En route to Chicago - CTA

We dropped our bags at the Hotel Blake and had lunch.

From Hotel Blake, Chicago

Then it was time to meet Anna, my editor from Craftsy! (Yes, I'm doing a project with them -- more on that in a later post.) We headed to Navy Pier so I could practice talking about my techniques while drawing on demand. Note: It's hard!

Navy Pier, Chicago

That was followed by dinner and the highlight of the trip: seeing "Hamilton" at the PrivateBank Theatre. The show was amazing.

26 July

After breakfast and a wander around the hotel, Anna and I were off to Wicker Park, where I drew at a cafe and practiced talk-and-draw some more before lunch at Big Star (mmm, tacos de papas con rajas).

In Wicker Park, Chicago

The symposium began with a sketchwalk at the Art Institute gardens, where I did a few quick drawings.

In this one, I tried out the fat Lyra graphite crayons I had received in the goodie bag.

Sketchwalk, Art Institute Gardens, Chicago

Statue in Art Institute garden

I met M. at Metropolitan Barbershop and sketched him getting a shave. My god, if only I could have recorded the conversation! As M. would say, it would have been a YouTube sensation. It was all, "Here's why you should drop everything and watch Game of Thrones," interspersed with "here's why it's absolutely nauseating and like a trainwreck you can't tear your eyes away from" but "OMG you just. have. to. watch. it. is. so. good."

I just cannot do it justice. Watching the barber and his clients talk about it was probably better than anything on TV. And I really have no desire to watch GoT now.

At Metropolitan Barber Shop, Chicago

The day ended with the official start to the symposium: founder Gabi Campanario's keynote address for Urban Sketchers' 10th anniversary celebration.

Gabi Campanario keynote at Opening Reception of USk Chicago 2017

27 July

The first workshop I took was James Richards' "The Grand Illusion." He explained his approach to breaking down the depth of a scene by isolating the foreground, middleground, and background.

Near Art Institute, Chicago

Unfortunately I used a watersoluble pencil to draw this one, so it bled into the color.

View of the el from Art Institute, Chicago

After the workshop, I went to the Art Institute to look around and have lunch. I did some super fast sketches from the Nichols Bridgeway.

From the Art Institute's Nichols Bridgeway, Chicago

While waiting for people to assemble for the afternoon demo, I did a quick sketch of the view from Congress Plaza.

View from Congress Plaza N, Chicago

The demo I attended was Uma Kelkar's -- she's a brilliant watercolorist, and she wowed us with her sweeping, brooding rendering of a scene she'd photographed in Hawaii. I did a quick brush pen sketch of her as she painted.

Uma Kelkar demo at symposium

Dinner that evening was at Fat Rice near Logan Square. We waited for our table a few doors down at their cocktail lounge. Named "The Ladies Room," it has a Macau opium den vibe, so I just had to sketch it.

The Ladies' Room at Fat Rice, Chicago

Do you see the bit of collage I added? I'd brought along some vintage calendar pages, and they were perfect for this drawing.

28 July

My morning workshop was near the Chicago Board of Trade with L K Bing, who uses watersoluble marker and watercolor and other media to create light washed scenes.

I wasn't very happy with my attempt, so here's a crop of my sketch.

Chicago Board of Trade

The afternoon workshop with Pat Southern Pearce was a mix of lettering and roofline shapes. I enjoyed sketching on toned paper (why don't I do this more often?) and did some quick drawings from the window of the American Academy of Art building where the class was held.

View from American Academy of Art, Chicago

There happened to be a protest march on the street below, so I got that in too.

Protest march, Chicago

29 July

My last workshop was with Rob Sketcherman, a digital pro. He showed us tips and tricks for using Procreate on the iPad. So fun -- and, the iPad can go into museums where wet media are often forbidden. Nice! I practiced during the class and then used Procreate to sketch our final gathering in the afternoon, where all 500+ sketchers posed for a group photo!

Practice sketch with Procreate

Final USk group sketchwalk at Logan Monument, Chicago

Another year, another symposium. Next time in ... Porto, Portugal!