Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Portland sketches

Urban Sketchers Symposium: Portland, OR USA - Correspondents

I finally managed to post some of my sketches from Portland! It was such an amazing experience to spend time with other sketchers, meet some of the fellow correspondents in real life, and explore the city. This was also an opportunity to try new materials thanks to our sponsors - I tried my hand at accordion-fold Moleskine: to be honest, I favor the watercolor papers a lot more, and I was struggling with this paper until I discovered that Faber-Castell Pitt pen glides well on its smooth surface. I did a line drawing of panoramic views I've seen from the riverfront, and did small portraits of fellow sketchers at dinner in the space underneath it: I was able to capture glimpses of Gerard, Ronnie, Kumi, Tia, Jason, Gabi, Frank, Matt, Lapin, and Isabel. More of my sketches are collected in my blog here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My results from Urban Line session

Urban Line

In this session by Frank Ching, we went to the riverside and I drew Steel Bridge. It was a really unique bridge. The middle of lower part of the bridge is movable: A vertical-lift bridge. I saw it went up and a ship went through the beneath and then it went down. After returning it's original position, then a train ran across it. (You can see the train runs in my sketch. )
Mr. Ching's advice to me was to follow the way how the structure was built.(I don't remember the exact phrase but I understand something like that) And to draw the structure, you should draw not only the thing you can see ( superficial details) but also draw hidden part behind. I'm still not so happy with my result since I couldn't capture the lower deck of the bridge. There are some missing pillars backside but thanks to Mr. Ching, I like the upper part.

Then I drew the buildings seen across the river. This glassy building was a tough one. I couldn't figure out what it was exactly like. After drawing these sketches I realized that how great those fellow architects' understanding of structure is and how skillful seemingly easily drawn lines are! I added colors even though it was a Urban Line session. I couldn't resist my desire to make up my deficiency.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Urban Color Games

I was assigned to lead two sessions of "Urban Color" for the Symposium. No problem, I love color! But I was keen to come up with something more challenging and enriching than "let's all go out and sketch with some colors." Luckily, the folks in my sessions were up for playing along with my games.

The first exercise we did was to draw with a non-black line. When you use a colored line, a few magical things happen, including: the line is no longer necessarily the darkest part of the sketch; objects that are the same color as the line take on a special power (as in the blue streetcar below); the mood and light of the scene shifts to be warmer or cooler, etc. Here's two views looking in opposite directions on 11th Avenue, one with a sanguine line, one with a blue line:
View in each direction, different colored lines

And here's a pink line. (I borrowed what I thought was a colored pencil for this one. Turned out to be a watercolor pencil, so my line dissolved as I colored. I did my best to work with it.):
Pink dissolving line

Next, we tried drawing the same scene twice, but coloring the two sketches differently. The first sketch was colored in a literal or realistic fashion, really trying to match the existing colors as seen. The second one was colored with an impressionistic or fantasy scheme. It was great to see people having fun with this exercise. In many cases, the sketch with the "wrong" colors was more successful. I suspect this is because you can convey more of the light and feel of a scene when you are not tied into trying to communicate color information.

Two sketches, different colors

Two sketches, different colors

The final exercise was the really awesome one. Find a friend and try this yourself! We each did a line drawing, then handed it off to another sketcher, who did the colors. It was wonderful to see how someone else would color your drawing, and also wonderful to color a drawing you didn't have to do yourself. I was lucky enough to get paired with Kumi Matsukawa. Coloring in her sketch, I forgot it wasn't my own (except for a scary moment when I realized I'd painted a sculpture as if it was a tree--saved by some panicked blotting and scrubbing). And looking at Kumi's colors on my sketch, I find it hard to believe it's really my drawing.

Here we are, hard at work (Photo by Don McNulty:
Kumi and Me

Here's Kumi's sketch, as colored by me:
collaboration (Jason's coloring on my line work)

And here's my sketch as colored by Kumi (and so much better than if I'd colored it myself!):
Kumi's colors, my lines

Cool stuff, right?

These exercises are all worth repeating and also work outside of the Urban Sketching context. I encourage you to try them out. Whether or not you love all the results as stand-alone pieces, it'll be fun and provide some new perspectives and insights.

Kumi and Pete Scully both did posts about their experiences in my color workshop--go check those out. (I suspect some other folks also blogged about this; drop a link in the comments and I'll add you!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Addendum: Tanner Springs and more

Almost a month after the Symposium....and I am still harboring images and thoughts about all the people and sketches that filled those three memorable days. Thank you all for posting your comments and sketches....both before and after! They are truly inspirational. I could say 'ditto' to most everything that has been said. The instructors and participants, in my mind, are all first rate!

The wonderful sketches of Tanner Springs prompted me to add my interpretation. I have always loved this unusual park that is sometimes misunderstood by the public.( I'm a landscape designer, and live just outside of Portland) In quiet, contemplative contrast to Jamison Park just a few blocks away, Tanner Springs holds Nature quietly in the palm of it's hand. When Simo brought our group there for our final sketching, I was honestly worn out from three fantastic days of a non-stop symposium.... but determined to loosen up a bit and see things from a different perspective. Now I can't wait to go back this Winter...for an entirely different experience!

I generally work in pen and ink but have had a period in my earlier years of working in watercolor. Somehow life got in the way, and I recently have only found time to sketch or dable in artistic endeavors when we were off on vacation. No more! I have always known that drawing enables you to really see the world and all of those great details that the average person misses. Drawing is such a gift, and makes your life so much richer. Thank you all for bringing it back to me as an everyday habit....the moleskin now joins my camera as a constant companion. I look forward to coming to Lisbon next year!

You can see more of Portland and what keeps me loving it, on my website and linked blog.... http://www.gardenaesthetics.com/

Linda Engstrom

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Struggling with Tanner Springs and The Fields

I think everyone at the Symposium was involved in at least one field sketching session that went to Tanner Springs Park. And why not? It's near the school, and it offers a real slice of (simulated) wild nature in a city block. It's a great park. But I don't think I'm the only one who found it frustrating to sketch. Something about the park's low vegetation, even lower water features, complex skeletal constructions, and the boring modern condos that surround it made it tough to find a satisfying vantage point and balance of detail and background. This frustration may have to do with why so many of us wandered up to the vast empty field to the north, the future site of The Fields Neighborhood Park Project. This less-planned space presented open vistas, a great view of the Fremont bridge, several abandoned factories, the Pearl District's iconic water tower, a giant yellow sculpture called "Rational Exuberance", dogs running exuberantly free, and (if you really missed them) more boring modern condos.

Here's the main sketch I did of Tanner Springs with one of my Urban Nature sessions. I guess it's fine, but I don't love it. And I really hate the paper I did it on (The blue Canson XL "Mix Media", one of our freebies; I like the other Canson papers we got quite a lot, but this one just does not jibe with my watercolor technique).
Tanner Springs

Halfway through the session, my group and I all discussed how danged challenging it was to sketch the meadow of the park. So that made it clear what our next exercise should be--sketch the meadow! Dive right into the hardest part and make it work! Here's my meadow sketch, done with a very nice Kuretake brush pen lent to me by Don Colley:
Meadow, Tanner Springs

Then we cut out of there for the yellower pastures of the Fields. Here's the first sketch I did up there:
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

I wasn't too happy with it--the broad perspective and my desire to get everything in there led to an unbalanced result. Later on, I realized I like this sketch just fine if I crop it to a narrow strip:

Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park
Much better!

After disappointing myself with the sketch above, I did the thumbnail below to help someone else with their own composition. It was sobering to realize that this thumbnail was better (if much less complex) than the sketch I'd just poured far more time into.
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

It wasn't til I came back two days later that I got my favorite sketch of the Fields. The water tower is what drew me there originally, but it didn't make the sketch, nor did the sculpture. What turned out to be more important was an interesting angle on the bridge and buildings, plus including the people and dogs:
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

And here's a photo of me doing that sketch, alongside Matt Brehm. (photo by Liz Steele):
Sketching with Matt brehm and Jason das

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Me, too, I've finally composed a blog post of my Symposium Experience

  You'll find my 2-part post on either my Painted Cats Blog or the Urban Sketchers Portland blog. This event was such a wonderful experience. I am STILL having dreams featuring random Urban Sketchers talking about sketching or actually sketching. I am also daydreaming about Portugal and how to make that happen, because I just CAN'T miss it!

  Instead of re-writing my posts that I have on the blogs mentioned above, i will make a list of some favorite Symposium moments or quotes:
  • "Woodstock of Sketching", Matthew Brehm
  • "I channeled my inner Andy Warhol", Linda Daily, during Jason Das' urban color session where we mixed it up!
  • Urban Sketchers taking over the street car (and seeing so many sketchers sketching on it!)
  • Day one, first lecture, looking next to me and seeing Suzanne sketching her food and realizing nearly everyone around me was sketching....My PEOPLE!
  • Introducing myself to Pete Scully, Gabi Campanario and Suzanne Cabrera, all people I followed online for a few years!
  • Meeting Lapin, who for some reason feels a bit like a rock star in the sketching world
  • Getting the goody bag full of supplies and just imagining all the sketches that would go in it to record  the experience!
  • Dinner with fellow sketchers, all sketching
  • Meeting lots of local folks who are now starting to come to our sketchcrawls!
  • Seeing all of the Portland Urban Sketchers have big smiles on their face throughout the event!
  • The Sketchbook Exhibit--what a wonderful way to wrap up the 3 day event.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jason Das Finally Gets Around to Scanning Some of His Symposium Sketches

The Symposium was pure magic. Huge thanks to all involved. I'm planning to have a couple of more focused posts after this one, but here's everything that didn't fit into those.

I did a sketch on the plane on the way in. I was pretty sure everyone else would have a plane (or train) sketch and I didn't want to feel left out. I also figured it'd be smart to warm up a bit.
Delta 312, JFK -> PDX

Yes, plunged into sketching pretty much as soon as we hit town. Here's Gérard Michel and Pete Scully as we found them upon arrival, sketching away!
Gérard and Pete

A lot of the sketching I got down during the Symposium was snatched in odd, quick moments. I was so busy, I didn't find time for "proper" sketches. Here's three scattered quick views sharing a page.
Three Portland Views
(If you look closely, you'll spot Gérard on his little stool sketching this view of Jamison Park.)

Here's some more, even quicker ones of Union Station. Three minutes is plenty sometimes!
Union Station

Sue van Etten caught me running up the Union Station footbridge (all of my Union Station sketches are from up there)...moving fast so I can squeeze in a little time for sketching if I'm lucky.
See Jason run

My sketch for Gabi is from that staircase, too:
Thank you!

Below, another view from the Union Station footbridge, and below that, fellow instructors Frank Ching, Isabel Fiadeiro, and Gabi Campanario relaxing after another crazy day.
Crane and Café

Here's photos of that one happening, courtesy Pete and Gabi:
the sketching never stops

I led groups for the first three field sessions, so by the time Friday afternoon rolled around I was so relieved to not be on-duty that I splashed out to the middle of Ira's Fountain (perhaps my favorite place in all of Portland).
Ira's Fountain

Can you spot Suzanne Cabrera, Lapin, and Liz Steele in there? Here's a closer view of Lapin and Suzanne:
Sketchers at Ira's Fountain

And for more sketching the sketchers, here's Elizabeth and Carrie in Jamison Park on Saturday morning:
Urban Sketchers Elizabeth and Carrie

And finally (for this post), here's Lapin and Matt at dinner the final night. Lapin and I were sketching each other simultaneously. The original of this is rather huge, as I drew it right on the table cloth. (Here's his sketch of me.)
Lapin and Matt on a Table Cloth

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lost and Found

I meant to ask, did others tend to lose things in Portland? In my excitement, I seemed to just walk away from things. First I lost my sunglasses which I bought especially for the trip. I found them safely held at the delicious Pearl Bakery. The employees cheered for my happiness at finding them. Then when leaving the hotel on Sunday, I left my sunhat. The Marc Spencer mailed it at no cost to me in Seattle within a week. Fine customer service, Marc Spencer folk. Happy endings.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Portland bridges

I've enjoyed Portland so much. The city and all the people I've met there. I'm with no scanner and slow connection here, but I upload my version of the famous bridges. It has been worthwhile drawing (and blogging) in the past few years if, like bridges, it connected me with so many interesting people, all around the world.
I was freezing when we where drawing on the pedestrian bridge on the station. Than I talked with Don and Linda about growing childs and brothers that fight too much, and I got some usefull advise. Amazing things pass trought drawings.
Few minutes before leaving, while Gabi was already worried, waiting for us in the train station, I lost myself in Powells bookshop and bought for 2 dollars this nostalgic souvenir of the city: 1952.
Thanks to everybody, it has been a great opportunity for me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank you!


I just want to take a moment here to thank the people who really made the Symposium a fabulous event: the participants.

You were the ones who made it all possible. Without you, there wouldn't have been a Symposium and I, fellow board members at Urban Sketchers, instructors and PNCA staffers would still be submerged in Google spreadsheets. Your energy, enthusiasm and passion for drawing on location created a great atmosphere of camaraderie that allowed everyone to learn and have fun. So don't forget to thank yourselves for the great experience!

I also want to express my gratitude one more time to our wonderful sponsors Moleskine, Canson, Faber-Castell, Art Media and Legion Paper. I had packed all my sketching gear, as you probably did, but their gifts of sketchbooks and art supplies gave us a perfect excuse to try new things, experimenting with new paper and new tools. I learned a lot from that.

After three intense days, I only regret not having the chance to talk to everyone. That's why, like Don McNulty said in his post, I didn't want it to end!

But let's just say that it doesn't have to end, does it? While we can't sketch together until we meet next time, we can continue sharing and learning together online, here at the Symposium blog, at the Urban Sketchers site and sister flickr group, and on our own individual blogs and flickr galleries.

So let's continue the experience and hope we'll get a chance to sketch together again soon.

Keep sketching and keep posting!

P.S. I don't know how long it will take me, but I will scan the wonderful drawings you gave me during the closing reception and post them here eventually. Thank you for that wonderful gift. It's priceless!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hijacked by a Toothache

It's been almost 2 weeks since I returned from Portland and only now am I finding my way back to joining in with our wonderful online community by scanning, uploading and posting some images from the Symposium.  It was truly an amazing gathering.  Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me quite as well as I had hoped:  I got hijacked by a toothache that now finally has resolved.

The day I arrived in Portland, the day before the start of the Symposium, I got a toothache that kept getting worse and worse.  I was determined to not leave early; like us all, I was so, so excited about coming and meeting and drawing alongside of as many as I could in person.  So I took the maximum dosage of Ibuprofen, numbed the tooth with dabs of Oil of Clove, given to me by my Portland friend John who had picked it up in Malaysia, and ran back often to my room to apply hot compresses to my jaw.  I heard some complain that there wasn't enough time to eat during the day, there was so much happening.  This was no problem for me:  I could hardly eat because of the pain.  If the toothache wasn't enough, I broke out with a mouth-full of ulcers on my lips and gums.  I applied Carmex for some relief to my lips.  I was determined to stick it out and get back  home to my Iowa dentist.  I thought a lot of George Washington and how he suffered terrible tooth pain his whole life and still could be President; certainly I could draw with a toothache for a week!

Once home, the toothache ebbed a bit but persisted.  And I realized there was collateral damage:  from taking too much Ibuprofen, my kidneys had stopped working properly and my feet and legs blew up like water balloons!  And the mouth ulcers turned out to be self-inflicted burns from the Oil of Cloves!  Yikes!!  When I finally made it to the dentist 4 days ago, he reprimanded me for self-medicating.  (Yes, Sir!  But he just didn't realize how much I wanted to be @ the Symposium.)  The upshot:  the tooth was cracked front to back all the way through and an abscess had formed around the roots.  Now, I'm minus a molar and finally after 3 weeks pain-free.

The first drawing--Toothache & Takeout--I did in Portland.  The second--My Tooth Saga--is a still life I set up today on my Cedar Falls kitchen table.  I have more drawings to share from the Symposium that are on my Flickr photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/49028620@N04/  I will post them soon.  I also included a picture of a slice of the Pfirsich Torte (peach torte, an Austrian recipe from Burgenland) that my good friend Marie made for me for my 59th birthday this week.  It was a minor miracle:  I could hardly eat anything these past weeks because of the pain, but I had no problem getting this down.

I'm glad to be back.  Marcia

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Learning takes time

Attending the 1st Intl Urban Sketchers Symposium was a wonderful experience. Many times, what I learn at a workshop takes awhile to work its way into my right brain. I think that Frank Ching, Tia and Jason Das are in this sketch with me.I heard Frank telling me to show the viewer where I am drawing from (hopefully you see that I must be across the street). Jason is in there in my trees and and other flora, looking for those shapes and Tia is there because I did not color this all between the lines. All of this is definite progress for me. Thanks people!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Like all the others, I'm very lucky to have been in Portlans for the symposium. It was a reel happiness to meet all these enthusiasts of the sketch, Gabi, Franck, Tia, Jason, Pete, Kumi, Veronica, Liz, Geoff, Kurt, Matthew, Lapin, Simonetta, Shiho, Isabel, Todd... and all the others and to draw with them.
Unfotunately, 3 days were too short for meeting everybody. So I hope to be in Lisbon next year ! ( and that my english will be better !)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

keep on sketching!

steel bridge, portland

Wow, time to start reporting about this amazing experience!

the sketching never stops

As I was on the plane back from Portland to Sacramento, my brain was racing around with thoughts and ideas, my pen busy scribbling them all down. What an exciting and inspiring time we all just had! The chance to meet and sketch with artists whose work I've followed and grown with these past few years, and to meet and learn from new artists I didn't know before, was unbelievable. I learned so much from Gerard, Gabi, Matthew, Frank, Tia, Lapin, Liz, Isabel, Simonetta, Jason, Shiho, Kumi, Suzanne, Don, all the Portland sketchers and so many others too numerous to name. My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to talk to absolutely everyone, because each person I met had an individual way of looking at the world and approach to pursuing their art that opened my already wide eyes up in a humbling way. If we didn't get a chance to meet or chat (or even if we did), feel free to get in touch for some urban sketching talk!

pdx10 day1

And Portland was a great city for this event - interesting to draw, not too big, and full of creative people. (And not too far for me to get to, either!) I think if I'd decided not to go, I would have really missed out. I tried some new things, and learned a great deal. I'm slowly adding blog posts about each stage of the Symposium at petescully.com so pop by for a more detailed story. I'm about halfway through.

me, gabi and gerard

I'd like to thank the tireless Gabi Campanario for being the driving force behind all of this, and for bringing the urban sketching world together. I think this event has given those who participated so much additional creative energy, maybe that we never even knew we had. I for one want to go out now and get everyone sketching, even those that never draw, maybe hand out pens and pieces of paper to passers-by, show them that they can look at their towns and their cities and record them on paper in their own personal way, be it grand vistas or tall buildings, or people eating at cafes, or fire hydrants, poking out of the ground. Draw! Sketch! Paint! Everything is interesting if you take an interest in it.

a portland fire hydrant
So... the next one's in Lisbon?