Friday, February 22, 2013

The Burke Museum

2/22/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Platinum Carbon wash, Zig marker

We urban sketchers in the northern hemisphere have to be creative in finding places to sketch during the cold, wet winter months. While my typical retreat is the coffee shop because I favor sketching people, Larry Marshall, a sketcher in Quebec, spends most of his winter sketching time at the Musee de la Civilisation (check out his collection of samurai helmet sketches). Although I have a SAM membership, I’m not inclined to take the bus downtown to sketch there for only a half-hour, which is often all the time I have between work and other commitments. But I may have found my own “winter salvation” that Larry speaks of.
I’m not sure why I haven’t spent more time at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, which is tucked into one end of the University of Washington campus. Ten minutes away by car and 20 by bus, it’s an ideal place for me to pop in for a quick sketch between appointments, yet it’s never been on my radar. So I was all for it when a few Seattle Urban Sketchers decided to meet there.

2/22/13 Private Reserve Ultra Black ink, Platinum Carbon wash, Hand Book journal
Bones, bones and more bones! While some of the stuffed, lifeless birds and animals made me a bit sad, I found the skeletons thrilling! I summoned my inner paleontologist to sketch the huge Paraphysornis brasilienis, or Terror Bird from Brazil, a cast replica of a 22-million-year-old skeleton. And talk about timing – I finished my sketch just as a billion children on a field trip suddenly surrounded the Terror Bird.
Tucked behind the main exhibits is an education area that wasn’t in use today (a quiet respite from the field trip). There I spotted a case with a full skeleton of a Hoplophoneus, a cat similar to a saber tooth that lived 25 million years ago. We were meeting to share sketchbooks in 15 minutes, so I focused on the skull. But next time, I’m going to tackle the whole cat.
By the time I sketch every bone at the Burke, maybe it will be summer.
Photo by Kate Buike


  1. Glad to hear that you've found a way to get into your museums. I think some of the smaller museums are ideal places for sketchers. This Sunday we're heading to one of our smaller museums that displays artifacts excavated from Quebec City's old port area. Can't wait.

    I see that you use PR Ultra Black for these sketches. I know you've used PR Velvet Black as well. Which to you prefer and why? I've got Velvet Black but have never tried the other one.

    Cheers --- Larry

  2. How great that you have interesting museums so close to you. This is a perfect place to sketch on a rainy/dreary/cold day. I love the sketches of all the bones. Way to go!

    1. I'm really fortunate to have this gem so close by... I just became a Burke member to facilitate the rest of my winter sketching! Larry, I like Velvet Black best because of its rich, purplish wash, but Ultra Black is a close second because it dries very quickly. Its wash is more of a true black.


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