Sunday, January 15, 2017


I used to be a full time doodler and a some times sketcher until in the early 70's I read Frederick Franck's The Zen of Seeing Drawing. His approach to seeing/drawing changed everything for me. I stopped worrying about what others might think of what I was drawing and began sketching for the pure pleasure of it. In those days as a sales representative I spent hours on the road covering the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana. I thought if I apply the tenets of seeing/drawing - allowing my eye to guide my hand without looking at the paper - while I'm driving, what might I be able to capture on paper at speed? All of a sudden my long road trips became a lot more interesting. I constructed a portable easel/table that sat in the passenger seat of my car. My paper, pencil and watercolors were within easy reach. I knew whatever I sketched was not going to be full of detail, I just wanted to see what I could sketch. My approach was simple. On long straight stretches I would look ahead at the horizon, pick something out like a road sign or whatever I could use for a marker, keep my eyes focused on that marker and begin drawing. What could I get on paper before I passed the marker was my challenge and based on an average speed of 70 MPH I had to be pretty quick. 

With all the inherent dangers of distracted driving our culture is dealing with from the use of our cell phones, texting etc., no wonder most states have laws on their books prohibiting texting while driving. On the other hand, as far as I know, there are no laws concerning sketching while driving. 

While I do not recommend sketching and driving, I do suggest, if you haven't already done so, to add Frederick Franck's The Zen of Seeing Drawing to your art book reading list.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Two Ad Hoc Sketch-Outings on January 20th, 2017

This is an invitation to  TWO Ad Hoc Gatherings on Friday, January 20th. For some of us, it will be one event in two parts. Feel free to attend one or both!

PART ONE: At 12 noon, I will meet any Urban Sketchers who wish to join me for an opportunity to do some interesting crowd sketching, during a Teach-in on the UW Tacoma campus. We will find one another at the bottom of the stairway by the UW Bookstore, just across the street from the WA. State History Museum on Pacific Ave. We'll join the crowd and find a good spot from which  to sketch. I plan on dressing very warmly in layers and, will be looking for roof overhangs for protection, if it happens to rain. The Teach-in will gradually be changing locations, moving to the Joy building at about 12:45. When the time seems right, we'll head off to finish embellishing our sketches over a quick lunch at the Swiss. At about 2:30, we'll leave the Swiss for:

PART TWO: Beverly Naidus, UW Art Professor, will be opening the building above for an Open Studio time for artists to drop in. This is the UW-Whitney Art Building, located at 1901 Fawcett Ave.. The doors will be open from 2:30 to 6 pm every Friday. Our visit will be after lunch at the we will arrive as close to 2:30 pm as possible. Beverly emailed me there will be, joining us,  "folks who want to make signage for the Women’s Marches in Seattle and Olympia....and there will be some brainstorming about other strategies for using art for social change in our communities."

Beverly's social justice focus with her own art has included writing and teaching....

....and, according to Wikipedia, she has also created art especially focused on environmental crises that create problems for humans, as well as social issues such as racism, consumerism, body image, nuclear threats, cultural identity, etc.  This source adds: one of her recent art projects was "Eden Re-framed" an ecological and community art project on Vashon Island. I'm looking forward to meeting Beverly...and hope you are free to  join me for part or all of this outing.

There's paid parking at the WA State History Museum, and in the lot across the street from The Swiss on Jefferson (just two blocks below the UW Whitney Art Building. Pictures on Google Maps make it look as if there is un-metered street parking all along Fawcett Ave., but that picture may be an old one.

Best Regards,


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Urban Sketchers

Urban Sketchers is sponsoring a 10 x 10 series of workshops in many cities around the world in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Urban Sketchers.  

The closest host for these workshops is Seattle.  Portland is also offering a series.  I'm re-posting the Seattle  announcement here.

-- Kate Buike

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Urban Sketchers we are glad to announce the first year long USk program ever!  This is happening in different parts of the world this year! We are bringing a program to you right here in Seattle.

Please join us!  Check  for information about the class offerings happening internationally.  If you are traveling this year, consider taking a class with one of our sister programs in another country.  This is a great way to meet sketchers around the world as well as learn from some great teachers.

Check here for our program in Seattle and come join us for a free lecture at Daniel Smith Seattle January 28, 2017 11:00 am-1:30 pm.  Meet  and learn with local sketchers.  This is a great way to get into sketching if you are interested but need some help.  Tell your friends about this. All levels are welcome!

We look forward to having you join us.

Happy Sketching!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Staying Warm

Urban Sketchers Tacoma met for the first time in 2017 on a very cold day.  The high was to be 35 and the low 34!  We are expecting a bit of snow.  Fortunately, our outing was all arranged to be at a local restaurant in Puyallup. 

Charlie's was a gracious host, giving us the use of a large banquet room in the back and sketching in the warm bar with a fire place.  Some sketchers braved the cold to sketch outside but I did not. The USk global flickr group has a weekly theme and this week it is "food".  Given that we were at a restaurant, I thought it would make sense to do a food sketch.  I don't sketch my meals so I didn't have anything for the theme already completed.  

AJ is my subject as she was sitting across from me.  This doesn't really look like her, though. I only got the one sketch done as I was talking a lot with a new person. 

We shared our sketches in the banquet room reserved for our use and then had a group photo.
--Kate Buike

Friday, January 6, 2017

Urban Sketching is...

A Memory Aid
More often now, I feel I'm slipping away from the world when I can't remember your name or what you said this morning. The act of drawing adds metadata to the finished product. When I look at it in a few weeks or months, even years, I feel the place, I hear the person talking or what kind of music was playing in the background. I remember how that Macchiato took me to cloud 9.

At Caffe Ladro, Bothell, WA.

A Meditation Tool
Drawing a building or other man-made objects for me is a big challenge. I prefer organic structures like landscapes instead of cityscapes, people rather than cars. Urban sketching is mostly focused on buildings. That's what 'showing the world on sketch at a time' means for me. Buildings and cityscapes and street scenes identify a place. People sketches must show context, which means, the buildings, exterior or interior, around them. So, drawing things with straight lines and perfect curves force me to pay close undistracted attention. To focus like a laser-beam while staying relaxed and mindful of the breath. And that in a nutshell, is also meditation.

Country Village, Bothell, WA.

A Compassionate Practice
When I draw people, not only do I see them more, but oftentimes I feel them as well. If I am trying to sketch a sitting person leaning toward another she is talking with, I sort of mimick her pose, to feel what muscles are active or not, where the center of gravity is. Somehow, I also feel their situation in life. Or maybe, it's my situation in life. And that invites me to say a little blessing for them and for everyone else going through the same situation.

Caffe Ladro, Bothell showing a mom taking care of her special needs daughter and a guy trying to focus on his task.

A Group Therapy Session
Sketching among fellow sketchers is like being home for the holidays, like having a reunion with your high school soccer team or book club or gym buddies. It is doing what you love to do with folks you love to be with. Like Jim Bumgarner said at the last West Coast Sketchwalk dinner, urban sketching is, if I remember correctly, 40% sketching, and 60% socializing. 

Tacoma USketchers at The Buttered Biscuit in Sumner, WA.

At least, that's how I see urban sketching.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

View from the chocolate factory

I enjoy using a window to frame the subject I'm sketching. This was done at a Seattle Urban Sketcher's gathering of the interior at Fran's Chocolates in Georgetown. Rare for me, this was strictly pencil and watercolor in a Strathmore watercolor sketchbook. 

I'm finding that pen and ink in this book takes a long time to dry, often resulting in some massive smudges and unhappy accidents. Roy Deleon suggested it might have something to do with the sizing used on the paper and I'm sure a lot to do with my lack of patience (and being left handed). With half a book left, I'll designate this a graphite and watercolor only book and move on to the watercolor Moleskines that Santa was kind enough to bring.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holiday

Happy Holiday....   to all who are celebrating.

Early morning at my favorite cafe/bakery:  The Stonehouse Bakery.   The owner, Patrick, had a crew of 2 in this am to finish all the Christmas orders. While I sketched I had a delicious blueberry scone and some hot coffee.  It was quite the bustling place with people coming in to pick up their orders. 

Thanks for another wonderful year with Urban Sketchers!