Posts Tagged: Chicago

Edgewater goes to Venice

After all the fuss and bother – lost emails, language barriers, and impossibility to communicate – the spirit of art and urban sketching prevailed. “Matite in Viaggio” exhibition opened in Venice Itally yesterday, October 10, 2014. Five of my drawings are showing there!

Matite in Viaggio 10-10-2014 processed Matite in Viaggio - Alex Zonis catalog 10-10-2014

 Here they are in the covered exhibition table – photo on the left. And here they are in the exhibition catalog along with my b&w photo and what seems to be a blurb of text – photo on the right. I wish I remembered what I wrote, and can only hope it is not too embarrassing.

And I almost missed this whole excitement because I could not go, which sucked. But a friend was there and took these photos ( photos © NotNot Tana Luc). Thanks, Luc!!



Chicago Sketch Seminar 2014 – retrospect


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 –

For more photos and details see USk Chicago Sketch Seminar blog where our Correspondent Andrew Banks published 3 part article on the event:

USk Chicago Sketch Seminar – Part 1

USk Chicago Sketch Seminar – Part 2

USk Chicago Sketch Seminar – Part 3

Living on the Edge

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

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.

Happy sketching!

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.

Le Gallery Thorndale


Today I took these six paintings to their first show at Le Gallery Thorndale. Le Gallery Thorndale is a local gallery sponsored by Chicago Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

From gallery’s press release:

Le Gallery Thorndale is a limited-time, exclusive art exhibit organized by Edgewater Artists in Motion as part of its ongoing effort to make Chicagoans explore Edgewater as an eclectic artistic community and a vibrant creative force in our city. 

Location: 1106 West Thorndale Ave, Chicago IL 60660

Opening: Friday September 2, 5:30 – 8:30 pm

Show dates: September 2 – September 30

Gallery Hours: Friday – 4 pm to 7 pm,  Sat and Sun – 11 am to 4 pm

If you are in Chicago, join me, other artists and art collectors for the opening night on Friday, September 2, 5:30 – 8:30 pm.



This is Russ. Russ is a massage therapist, and he is a magician. Russ works at the Space Time Tanks center with Eric, and I simply love him. One hour on his table can cause a person to have a different outlook – life is pretty good after all!

I am on the other side of the pond, visiting family in Israel. Everything is great here – sun and flowers and 70 degrees weather, but I haven’t mastered local hardware yet, and so my image is somewhat different from the real portrait. But I want to post it anyway, so you all know that I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth and am still painting and continuing with the Community Portrait series.

11″ x 8.5″ (28 x 22 cm) watercolor on paper




Eric is a friend of ours. He is also a proprietor of Space Time Tanks, a center for floatation, massage and several other relaxation and self-exploration offerings. New Age is alive and well, at least on 2526 Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. If you haven’t experienced a sensory deprivation tank, you owe it to yourself to try “a vacation in an hour” – you will be a new person without the trials, tribulations and expense of far away travels.

I tried several new things with this portrait. I have resisted stretching paper for a very long time thinking it was not worth the trouble. I was wrong. Stretched with gum tape over Gator board my paper allowed me to use as much water as I wished without warping and buckling and presenting me with a washboard surface just as I am about to work in fine details.

I tried a variegated background. For that I masked the face and hair with Frisket film, sealed it with masking fluid, and went free flying with large brushes, puddles of water, and swirling colors. Loved the freedom of it.

I also tried a different technique for hair, flooding it section by section with my highlight color, then working shadows with my shadow color, then putting in my main color. When all of this was dry I added details, individual hairs and then worked cool and warm tones as the last touch.

I tried to do folds and draping on his black shirt, but this didn’t work all too well. The shirt came out too flat for my liking. I have to think about my fabric draping some more.

8.5” x 11” (21 x 28 cm) watercolor on paper




Meet Gabriel!

At the end of SOFA Day 1 Sami and I were sitting on a bench in front of his gallery. Sami was warming up to my collecting faces for portraits.

“Want this guy?” Sami pointed at a dark man studying a display of glass sculptures. “I know him, and he is handsome.” I wanted the guy, but was too tired to do my spiel again after having repeated it a dozen times that day.

Sami stood up and grabbed the man by his sleeve. “Here,” he commanded, “stand over here! She is going to photograph you for a portrait!”

The man took my hand and held it. “Gabriel.” He said in a soft voice. “Like the angel, you know?…” I knew. Immediately. My fashion statement of combat boots and a fleece 6 sizes too large apparently mattered very little.

Gabriel Eid is an art director of Galerie Frédéric Got of Paris. He brought some amazing bronzes to SOFA. Gabriel posed for a dozen of photos for me; and they looked good on the 2.5” display of my camera. But when I looked at them large they did not satisfy. They were average. Reasonable quality and showing likeness, they all were missing his personality.

When I found Gabriel again the next day, this time in his gallery, I got to experience a full blast of French charm. Gabriel speaks in a low voice making you step in closer. In 15 minutes of the second photo session I got more compliments and pointed interest in me and my work than I have had in a month. This can be addictive! I also got my winner shot.

#33 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook




Meet Lina!

I only met Lina very recently, at SOFA. I went to the show with three specific goals in mind: to see Sami – definitely goal #1, to see new art, and to collect faces (portrait references) for my Sketchbook Project. I was still in a process of greeting everybody in the Mostly Glass gallery when I saw Lina at the exhibit opposite.

I waited a while until Lina had no visitors and then introduced myself and my request. Lina wasn’t sure. Usually when I see that, I back off and give people their space. But I wanted to draw Lina’s brilliant presence and abandon of red curls very badly, so I didn’t. I didn’t insist, but I wasn’t going away either. I chatted with her about where she is from – she was born in Egypt but lives in Israel, her art – she makes wonderful jewelry that I wish I could afford. Eventually Lina relented and agreed to be photographed. I knew she would, artists understand fellow artists. Thank you so much, Lina!

P.S. If you look at the photo of Sami and I in the post about Sami, you would see Lina in the background.

#32 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook




Meet Sami!

SOFA Chicago 2010 has come and is gone, but it brought Sami to town. Sami Harawi is an owner of Mostly Glass gallery. Sami and I go back to 2003, when I was doing weaving. It was January 2003. Sami called me out of the blue, took all my weavings and sold nearly all my production within a few months, and wanted more. But this is not a sole reason I love him. I love him because he is such a lovable person. I only get to see him once a year when he brings his gallery exhibit to SOFA Chicago. I then come and hang around his gallery doing my best to distract him from his sales. I stay after the show close and help pack the art. I wrote about this last year, with pictures.

This year I came with a camera too because I wanted to draw Sami’s portrait, as well as anyone else’s who would agree. After collecting several good shots of Sami I told him that I am going to make him look beautiful. Sami grumbled back “If you’ll make me look better than I do, I’d know that you can’t draw!” I took this very seriously.

So, here I have for you – Sami: wrinkles, 5 o’clock stubble and an expression “I need a break, please!” He is tired by the end of day 3 of the show, but still very handsome.

#31 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook

And here Sami and I are having a reunion hug on Day 1 of the show.

Sami and I - SOFA Chicago 2010