Skansen is an amazing open air museum. The sheer size of it is mind-blowing – 75 acres – one of the largest in the world. Just the entrance itself is so beautiful that I had to stop and take a breath. And sketch. The small figure with a backpack was meant to be Lou, my husband, added later for scale.
Inside the experience just gets better and better. A small 19th century Swedish town is situated on a hill. Shops, a post office, an inn, a church (kyrka), a couple of farms with goats and pigs, businesses, a tobacco-growing patch, all complete with shopkeepers and artisans in traditional dress doing the work, showing skills, talking about history and answering questions in multiple languages.
The people working there really impressed me – they looked so authentic, their faces (if not modern dental work) really belonged to the time. So I asked a young woman combing wool (in the sketch above) whether they were actors type casted. She explained to me that people working these jobs are not actors, but are historians and researchers working for the museum. Their duties also include educating the public by doing and demonstrating.
This Stockholm adventure was turning out pretty awesome, not withstanding a hotel room the size of a matchbox. But it reached a new height on August 19 when I met with Nina Johansson to sketch in Gamla Stan – the Old Town.
This is Nina in the sketch! We found this little passageway where we could reach the opposite walls if we extended our arms to the sides. We hoped we would not be disturbed by hordes of tourists. We were wrong. Apparently this was a very important alley and FOUR tours traipsed over us in half an hour we spent there. They were VERY excited to find us there and took numerous photos of us. Two of the tours were English speaking, one Russian, and one – unfamiliar language.
One of the tour guides shared that she lives here in Gamla Stan. The basement of her building is very old indeed – 12th century. Her actual building is much more modern – 1600’s. Just imagine! From another tour guide I learned that this alley – Skeppar Olofs – was already built in 1587, that’s the first known mention of it in the records. It was named after captain Olof who was an important figure in Swedish Navy.
The reason Nina and I only had a half an hour in Skeppar Olofs Grand was that we were meeting Ed Harker at Stortorget – the Big Square. Ed is a sketcher from Bath, England. It turned to be a truly international sketch-meet. We had a great time sitting in a cafe and sketching Stortorget. My view was Swedish Academy and Nobel Museum – the very place where they decide the Nobel prizes every year since 1901.
Stockholm is situated on 14 islands. It really is a Northern Venice. Gamla Stan, which means The Old Town, is located on the island of Stadsholmen. It is a mind blowing place.
Stockholm is one of the very few European cities that did not get bombed into oblivion during WWII. The old buildings and stone paved streets are still there, intact for centuries, they can take you back in time like a time machine. Many date back to 1600’s, with some going as far back as 12th century.
I sketched this sitting in a cafe on the intersection of three streets, Norra Bankogrand is the street in the sketch. It leads to the piers, there between the buildings, and Baltic sea.
Stockholm has a different palette than any other city I’ve been to. It is all painted in natural earth colors. I heard this is a city ordinance of some sort. So I found myself using a lot of yellow ochre, sienna and umber. And my favorite – Palette Gray.
I was sitting in this cafe with my coffee and my sketchbook, working on my drawing, and somehow this made people think that I was local. I was asked directions, lol. In one case a family talking to me happened to be from Chicago, and we had a little laugh about it. Amazingly, I did know – this once – how to get where they wanted to go.
I have just come back! Stockholm is amazing!
But let me start from the beginning. About a year ago The Husband was invited to present at Stockholm University. The topic – Empathy – was his specialty, and of course he said yes. I too said “But of course!” meaning that I was going too, and surprised him only a little.
Now, a year later, we are just back having spent 11 days in Stockholm. And what a tour that was! I will try to tell the story with my sketches.
SAS airline surprised us by being unusually on time! In the last 10 years I don’t remember anything starting or ending at the promised time where air travel was concerned! The second surprise was that the food was almost edible. Still, there were some peculiarities – strange raggedy curtains between classes (we of course flew the “chopped liver” class.)
This is Södertörn högskola – South Stockholm University – where The Husband was a keynote speaker. This giant amazing bazalt rock is the centerpiece of the campus. The conference “What is Empathy and what do we need it for?” was multidisciplinary, which means that, while it was overrun by philosophers, there were also psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, people with the whole alphabet after their names and one artist.
The title of my husband’s talk was “A Heideggerian Approach to Empathy: Befindlichkeit is not Enough.” You can read it again, I’ll wait. But it would not make any more sense than the first time. The talk however was amusing and very entertaining, he made me laugh. I skipped the rest of the presentations (they spent three days convincing each other that empathy is important and we ought to have more of it.) Instead I went sketching, which was the whole point of going to Stockholm.
I have more sketches, but as I am learning any sketching expedition comes with after the show part: sketches have to be tagged, dated, locations cleared, text added where needed, pages cleaned, color corrected or added. Then all need to be scanned and filed. So I will be showing more sketches of Stockholm in subsequent posts until I run out sketches or out of patience, whichever comes first.
It really is not as exciting as it sounds. Nice – yes, in summer. Interesting – sometimes. Exciting – not really.
I live in Edgewater, a neighborhood of Chicago. Our Chamber of Commerce came out with this brilliant line, and now you can see it on posters and flags everywhere. I see it all the time when I am out sketching. It gave me an idea of series of sketches – Living on the Edge. Here are a few:
Out of the Starbucks window, looking at the historic buildings on Bryn Mawr & Winthrop
The Secret Garden. In the gardens of the Pink Building. I live in the neighborhood for 18 years and have never been inside these gardens until last week. You have to know a resident to take you in.
The Church of Atonement, at the side entrance. A beautiful old church a block away from my house. Even has a table there to spread your sketchbook, pens and palette – heaven, really.
Another historic building – art deco this time – on Bryn Mawr and Winthrop, different corner. Also sketched out of Starbucks, ______________________it was too cold to be ______________________outside.
These are all done on location, Urban Sketchers style, as quickly as I can draw. Which is not very fast at all – one to one-and-a-half hours each.
Hope to show you more of my Chicago as I sketch it.
Urban Sketchers Chicago is a new sketch group and a new chapter of the Worldwide Urban Sketchers movement. Urban Sketchers is a network of artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel to. The mission is to “Show the World, One Drawing at a Time.” Until now Chicago did not have an Urban Sketchers group. For two years I waited – sketched by myself – and waited some more for someone to start the Chicago group so I could join it. Tired of waiting I am starting it myself.
Urban Sketchers Chicago will have its first “Let’s sketch Chicago” meet on Sunday, April 29, in downtown Chicago. We will meet at a starting point – the Art Institute – and sketch, either together or individually, then meet up at an end point to look at each other’s sketchbooks. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on!
Our sketchmeets and sketchcrawls are free and open to everyone, all ages and abilities. We hope to make our meets a regular occurrence, so for the date and location of the next sketchcrawl, find us on Facebook – Urban Sketchers Chicago Facebook group.
Great thank-you and appreciation goes to
Marina Grechanik of Urban Sketchers Israel
Barbara Weeks, a long time Urban Sketcher from Chicago, and
LuEllen Joy Giera, a facilitator of Her Group for WomanMade Gallery
for the support and help they gave me while I was working to make this happen.
Here are a few more sketches. I am trying various pens. I am finding that I love drawing with a pen, can’t believe it seemed to be an unattainable skill to me before.
I drew the perfume bottles with your regular Paper Mates I had in four colors (my daughter gave them to me a while back, they are somewhat dry by now.) The coffee pot is in rollerball ink pen my husband brought back from some conference. The Aladdin-like vessel is drawn with my beautiful new Lamy Safari fountain pen, although I am unsure of the blue ink – would rather prefer brown…
The shell I drew with conte and pastels. Though not in pen, I thought I’d include it simply because it is already scanned.
It is too dark to paint in the evenings… I gave up on painting in artificial light because when I look at what I painted in the morning the color temperature always needs to be corrected. So I thought of getting back into sketching during these long and dark winter evenings. I haven’t done any drawing, except drawing for a painting, since I finished The Sketchbook Project.
Just sketching – for the sake of the process – without being too attached to the result – is very satisfying. I keep my timing to an hour or less, and any piece of old junk is a perfect subject. I am trying different materials – micron pen, conte, pastels. I am thinking of getting a fountain pen, have always been curious about drawing with a fountain pen. If you have a favorite model – please share.
There is a lot of art activity on this front, but I am not sure any of the results are worth posting. I have two portraits in the works, one in graphite and one in watercolor. The graphite may be finished soon… ish… and may get to be posted then. The watercolor one is in early stages, and it is too soon to tell whether anything worthwhile will come out of this.
I have gone to a life-drawing session again and am still wondering if I should post my charcoal attempts. I don’t particularly like them although the model was absolutely great. I am also studying anatomy, specifically drawing/constructing hands working from Burne Hogarth’s book Drawing Dynamic Hands.
To keep up with the blog amidst all this activity here are two sketches from Metropolis café which is next to my gym. There’s wonderful people watching in Metropolis, and I indulge in it while trying to catch my breath after working out or waiting for my daughter.
Watercolor, graphite, sketchbook
The same face I worked in graphite a few days ago – Sly – now in watercolor, a monochromatic study in preparation for painting a full color portrait. I find her face and expression rather out of the ordinary and complex. Interestingly I have heard quite diverse takes on her expression – sly, crafty, furtive, beautiful, b!tch, bored, boring, playful, coy, cunning, just to name a few. It is very rewarding to me to take in all these different reactions, perhaps it means that I produced a portrait complex and unorthodox enough to cause them.
6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm), Burnt Umber on Fabriano Soft Press.