Sunday, July 23, 2017

Organic and Metallic

7/22/17 water-soluble colored pencils, inks, Tombow marker
As much as I think of myself as an “urban” sketcher, I admit that I’m not often inspired by the modern glass and steel skyscrapers that fill so much of Seattle and many other cities. But on Tuesday I’ll be on my way to Chicago for the 8th International Urban Sketchers Symposium, so I decided I’d better get some practice. When USk Seattle gathered yesterday around the downtown central library, it was a good opportunity to see if I had any dormant modern architecture mojo.

Across the street from the library in front of Safeco Plaza stands (reclines?) an organic bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Called Vertebrae, it’s composed of three pieces, and the Seattle version (there are others) sits in a shallow pool of water. Crouching near the ground to find a way to get both the sculpture and a not-too-tall building in the same composition, I found an interesting contrast between Vertebrae’s organic curves and the W Hotel topped by a glass pyramid. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of the central library’s multi-faceted side.

7/22/17 ink, colored pencils
With only a half-hour left before the throwdown, I had to choose a simpler composition next. I walked back across the street and sketched Vertebrae again, this time showing all three parts (plus Mel sketching on the edge of it).

For a sunny Saturday, our USk turnout was relatively small, but we had some competition: It’s apparently one of the biggest weekends of the summer for neighborhood parades, Seafair events, Bite of Seattle, music festivals and other attractions, not to mention the usual sports. No wonder downtown Seattle streets seemed so empty – everyone was somewhere else.
Urban Sketchers Seattle inside the Central Library

Process note: The first sketch was enough outside my comfort zone that I decided it was a good time to heed Melanie Reim’s (and many other instructors’) advice to make a thumbnail first (see below left, done in a Field Notes notebook). That gave me confidence to proceed in my usual sketchbook. Despite using the thumbnail as my guide, I must have marked off my measurement points wrong, because the W Hotel behind the sculpture got way out of proportion (below right). Fortunately, I realized it after wasting only about 10 minutes, so I abandoned it and started over. This time my finished sketch followed the thumbnail closely (and captured the building’s proportions relatively accurately).

First attempt -- abandoned early, thank goodness.

Whew. Even with the best of intentions and planning, things can go awry so easily. But going awry is not a problem – as long as I notice soon enough and have the good sense to start over. I’m not sure my modern architecture mojo is awake yet, but at least I gave it a nudge.


  1. Glad you were able to put your workshop methods into practice. Nice job on the modern buildings. I'm sure we will be seeing lots of them.

  2. Good sketches and a good account of the day. I don't remember seeing that sculpture. I'll take note next time I'm in that location.


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