4th Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl: Tacoma, WA

Sunday, August 28, 2016

When I found out that this year's annual West Coast Sketch Crawl would be in Tacoma, Washington, over my birthday weekend, I thought, hey -- what a great excuse to go to Seattle! Well, turns out Tacoma is a great place to explore and sketch in its own right.

Tacoma, Washington

There are picturesque buildings and sparkling marinas framed by the deep greens of the Pacific Northwest's conifers.

Thea Foss Waterway, Tacoma, WA

The Museum of Glass has a hot shop where you can watch the glassblowers in action. I enjoyed listening to the narrator talk about how the teams worked together to create a piece.

Glassblowing at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA

The city is home to UW Tacoma...

Stairs at U of Washington, Tacoma, WA

...and the fantastic Tinkertopia, a "creative reuse" shop that sells all kinds of odds and ends perfect for upcycling into artwork -- wallpaper samples, acrylic offcuts, paint chips, you name it. I rummaged through a bin full of colored pencils and snapped up several vintage Berol Prismacolors for a song.

Tinkertopia, Tacoma, WA

Of course, I couldn't leave Tacoma without sketching the iconic Union Station rotunda/courthouse.

Union Station/Courthouse, Tacoma, WA

Thanks Urban Sketchers Tacoma for organizing this year's crawl and introducing me to your wonderful city!

4th Annual Urban Sketchers West Coast Sketch Crawl - Tacoma, WA

Antonio's Nut House

California Avenue, Palo Alto

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Joined the South Bay urban sketching Meetup group in Palo Alto's California Avenue business district a few weeks ago. There wasn't a whole lot to sketch there, but this bar's umbrellas caught my eye.

Antonio's Nut House, California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

Great Britain

7th Urban Sketchers Symposium: Manchester, UK

Sunday, August 14, 2016


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!!!!


Pre-Symposium Sketching: London and Oxford

Saturday, August 06, 2016

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...