Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Chicago Symposium, Part 3: People

7/26/17 Our founder, Gabi Campanario, giving the keynote at the opening ceremony.
The subject of this post is probably not what you think it is. As much as I enjoy sketching people in general, they didn’t end up in my sketchbook much in Chicago. The city was so rich in architecture and art that I didn’t focus much on its citizens (except for one busker . . . I was disappointed that I didn’t see more).

Instead, this post is really about the primary reason I attend symposiums in the first place: the people. Of course I go for the sketching, but that sketching wouldn’t be nearly as fun and meaningful if it hadn’t been with 570 other sketchers from 34 countries. I’ve probably said this after every symposium I’ve attended, but there’s something very special about being with one’s “tribe” – that worldwide community with whom you instantly bond because of a common passion. Whenever I go to the opening and closing sketchwalks of every symposium (the only sketching opportunities in which all symposium participants are likely to be present at the same time) and suddenly see hundreds of my tribespeople all in one place, doing what they enjoy most, I feel a catch in my throat.
7/27/17 Left: Mark Leibowitz gives a presentation on sketch kits;
USk President Amber Sausen opens the symposium.
Since I missed the very first symposium in Portland (in 2010, the year before I started sketching), Chicago was the first one I attended in the U.S., and I was surprised by how different it made me feel. At past symposiums, I was always a guest in another country; in Chicago, I felt I was a “host.” I felt a keen sense of responsibility toward all the non-American sketchers, especially those who had never visited the U.S. before (including both of our international correspondents), and tried to make an effort to welcome them. From my own international travel experiences, I know that whatever happens in another country, good or bad, tends to shape my feelings and impressions about that place, so it seemed important to show visiting sketchers an America to be proud of. I found myself feeling relieved when sketchers told me how much they enjoyed being in Chicago and the U.S. – that people were kind, friendly and helpful. 
7/25/17 The only drink & draw I managed to attend was the night before
the symposium began. . . I couldn't stay up late enough for the rest of them!

So this post is not so much about what I sketched but who I sketched with – new people I met and friends I was reunited with. It’s also about all the many, many volunteers who worked all year long to make the symposium possible. 

Most notable among these tireless volunteers is our founder himself, Gabi Campanario. His modest, selfless leadership continues to inspire me daily. In his keynote address at the opening reception, Gabi told the story of how a simple idea – sketchers worldwide sharing their work online – turned into the Urban Sketchers community we know today. See the YouTube recording of his recount of the snowy November day 10 years ago when Urban Sketchers was born and how the organization has grown and flourished.

As I am every time I participate, I am sincerely grateful that I had the opportunity to share in such an inspiring event. The positive energy I gain at the symposium stays with me all year until the next one.

And speaking of the next one, the 2018 symposium will be in Porto, Portugal! I’m already looking forward to it!

7/28/17 The only busker I managed to sketch in Chicago.
Drink & dine & draw at the Berghoff Restaurant

Opening sketchwalk at the Art Institute gardens

Opening sketchwalk
Opening sketchwalk

Opening sketchwalk

Seattle represent!
Gabi and Tina

Alvin and Tina

Amber, Jessie and Tina

Brenda and Tina

Gary and Tina 

Gary, Michele, Greg and Tina

Joan, Michele and Tina

June and Tina

KK and Tina (I'm now the proud owner of this sketch
that KK made when he was in Seattle!)

Tina and Kumi

Kumi, Beliza, Lynne and Tina sketching at Buckingham Fountain

Lapin sketching my portrait, which I won in the silent auction!

The finished portrait! Bucket list item completed!

Mark and Tina

Michael Kalman of Stillman & Birn, which has been a loyal symposium sponsor
for many years. Thank you, Michael!

Mike D. and Tina

Paul and Tina

Richard A. and Tina

Richard S. and Tina
Shiho and Tina

Stephanie, Shari, Suhita and Tina

Suhita and Tina

Suzanne, Cathy and Tina

Tina and Joan (a long-time online friend whom I finally met in person!)
Tina and Joel

Tina, Joni and Nina

Tina, Tine, Margaret and Kumi at an impromptu sketch outing by the Chicago River.

Uma and Tina

Beliza, Suhita, Gabi and Tina -- four of the seven USk editorial team members

Virginia and Tina

My tribe


  1. Tina, this is a lovely post, expressing so eloquently the bonds that we form when we sketch with others from all over the world. Your graciousness and concern for our international guests, was really touching, too, as well as your gratitude for all who've made these remarkable events happen. It's funny that I, too, had planned to sketch more people (it's such a great opportunity with all our fellow sketchers holding poses), but I was overwhelmed with architecture, glorious skies, and beautiful gardens along with taking workshops. I've been thinking of trying for the basic pass next time, too, and your first symposium post confirms some of my thoughts. I love the workshops, but feel the need for some more freedom and perhaps a more relaxed pace. I can tell from your sketches and your words, that that really worked for you.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Vicky! I think if a sketcher has never attended before, then getting the workshop pass for the full-on symposium experience is probably essential. . . it's such a great opportunity to study with the masters that it's hard to pass up! But once you become a "veteran" of symposiums, I'd recommend a more relaxed pace. Hope you can get that experience next year in Porto! ;-)

      - Tina

  2. I love how you think of the other sketchers as "your tribe." It was very emotional at the final photo to be surrounded by such a mass of people who all enjoyed the exact same thing. It felt like a very extended family. I found it hard to adapt to not being surrounded by a group of sketchers. It was definitely a bonding experience. Because you had been to the symposiums previously, you fell right back into the swing of meeting new people and rekindling friendships.

    1. Once you meet your tribe, you are family forever, which makes the next time you meet feel so natural!

      - Tina

  3. Excellent post, Tina! You're such an inspiring ambassador for Urban Sketchers, and we are lucky to have you participating on many levels. And what an impressive turnout by the Seattle group! I often feel I don't take enough people photos, and I love looking at your collection of them here. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and talent. Until Porto, or maybe sooner!

    1. Thank you, Jessie! It was great seeing you again! And yes, until Porto! :-)

      - Tina


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