A month ago, on June 7-8, we Urban Sketchers Chicago had our first ever Chicago Sketch Seminar 2014. After a year of planning (and fretting!) it was finally here and turned out a success. I managed the planning process for this event and was privileged to lead the finest team of planners one can wish for.
Dozens of sketchers from Chicago, from around the country (Cincinnati, Portland OR, San Francisco, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc), even from Canada came to Chicago and sketched together. They took 8 sketching workshops, I taught a workshop on color. They participated in a number of sketching activities that showed off our beautiful and oh-so-sketchable city. They had one Dinner, Drink and Draw event and it was good!
The Seminar came and went in a flash and left some wonderful memories and lots of new friends. My friend Kordt Larsen produced a short documentary film on the Chicago Sketch Seminar 2014 – shown in the beginning of this post. (Here’s a link to it – https://vimeo.com/100442711)
For more photos and details see USk Chicago Sketch Seminar blog where our Correspondent Andrew Banks published 3 part article on the event:
I am way overdue posting new sketches. I’ve been very busy painting and did not have much time for sketching or posting sketches. Now is a good time to catch up.
In December Urban Sketchers Chicago went to investigate the new Logan Art Center in Hyde Park. It turned out to be a wonderful building with spectacular views on Hyde Park, University of Chicago and even the lake from its glassed terraces on 8th and 9th floors. On the other hand the Center is so new it set my teeth on edge. It smells fresh cement dust.
When I called to check if Urban Sketchers can come and draw there, the event manager recommended the Penthouse views from 8th floor. Then he added that to rent the Penthouse for a group use would cost us $1000. That was pretty funny, and after we chuckled over it, he suggested that we just come and sketch in the Penthouse if it is available, and leave when someone arrives to use it. This strategy worked well. The brick gabled building in the sketch is a view down from the Penthouse. After an hour of drawing some people indeed arrived to set up a show, so we went down to a cafe on the first floor.
The cafe offered a moody and pleasant view on Midway Plaisance – all gray and misty in December afternoon. I’ve never sketched a landscape before and cars are still an unfamiliar business to me. I decided to be brave and try new things. The cars came out a bit wonky and cartoonish I think, but overall effect is kinda nice.
Here’s us in the Logan Art Center cafe with Midway Plaisance behind us:
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 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.
The first day and the first sketch of The Sketchbook Project 2011 which is run by Art House Co-op, Brooklyn New York. A grand thank you to Carol King of Carol King: Painting, Drawing, Complaining who turned me on to this. This is going to be a lot of fun. And in the end my sketchbook is going on a tour and will be shown in several cities to be viewed by people. Is it possible to have more fun than this? Please don’t answer this, it was a rhetorical question.
I chose a theme “A day in the life”, my official bar-coded Moleskine sketchbook has arrived. And just as I began to panic about what my first sketch was going to be, the Chicago Air Show arrived and solved my problem. Here I have for you the Chicago darlings, our homeboys, US Navy fliers – the Blue Angels. Today, as every second weekend of August, they were doing a show on their FA18 Hornets, performing loops and dives over the Lake, flying at a “safe” 2 feet distance from each other after the unfortunate touch incident they had last year.
I also wanted to comment on the Moleskine Cahier sketchbook, the official sketchbook of the Sketchbook Project. The paper in the book is so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. While it is has a lovely buttery finish, the thinness rules out pretty much any wet media. Watercolor is out of the question, which is very disappointing. In fact a fellow artist, also a participant, tested a number of media on this paper and published results in her blog for our benefit – Moleskine Cahier test. I am going to have to get really creative with this paper.
Watercolor pencils (dry), Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
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
Our favorite coffeeshop here in the sleepy town of Netanya is called cleverly The Milky Way, Shvil Ha-Halav in Hebrew. They serve beautiful cappuchino and enourmously sized salads. Now they are also famous for being the first cafe where I braved sketching patrons. The man in a hat is a regular, I noted him a while ago, but didn’t sketch because I didn’t have a good view until this one. The woman in red had interesting multiple chins as I looked at them in profile. Between eating and talking she kept repositioning them making my work more difficult. I generalized the best I could. The last guy had a very busy and no nonsense air about him, he chatted briskly with his companion, then got up and quickly left while I had my head down to my sketchbook for a moment, I didn’t even see him going. This is all I had time to do while he was sitting there.
In the city where trouble is always just a blink away military security is visibly present. Leaving Zion mountain in the Old City we ran into this group of security patrol. Boys and a girl with large automatic weapons were walking in the direction of King David’s Tomb. This is what normal life looks like here. I took some pictures. One day there will be peace. This day hasn’t come yet.