Monday, August 7, 2017

Chicago Symposium, Part 1: Intro and Architecture

7/31/17 The El track on Wabash Street

Chicago was the fourth Urban Sketchers Symposium that I attended, and in many ways it was my best experience. Barcelona will always be special to me because it was my first. Although the city has a vibrancy that can’t be matched, it was also so intense, large and busy that I felt stressed much of the time. Paraty was the opposite – quiet and laid back, the town itself was relaxed and peaceful, but perhaps a bit too small to support hundreds of symposium visitors (food venues often had difficulty keeping up with lunch crowds). Manchester was a gracious and just-right-sized host – large but not too large; busy and industrial but not to the point of being stressful – but my formidable duties as a symposium correspondent kept me from fully enjoying the whole experience. I was so busy making sketches for “official business” that I hardly made any sketches just for myself.
7/26/17 Park near Michigan and Congress
Last year when I heard the exciting news that Chicago would be the host of the 8th International Urban Sketchers Symposium, I thought very carefully about how I wanted to experience it. As much as I love taking workshops and learning from creative urban sketcher instructors, my experiences in Barcelona and Paraty taught me that running from one workshop to another (a total of five over three days) wasn’t always an ideal way for me to learn. Especially in Barcelona, I often felt so overwhelmed and exhausted just from the logistics of finding and getting to workshop locations that I had difficulty focusing. And as much as I appreciated and learned from being a symposium correspondent, I knew I didn’t want any kind of responsibility this time. In Chicago, I wanted to be a free spirit – free to sketch whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and with more time to simply socialize.

With all of that in mind, I decided to get a “Basic Pass” this year, and it turned out to be exactly the right choice for me. The Basic Pass allowed attendance to one demo plus any and all of the sketchwalks, lectures and social events. Although seeing the workshop offerings did make me feel a momentary twinge of regret – so many wonderful-sounding workshops taught by so many of my favorite artists! – I knew the less-structured pass would give me the freedom I was looking for in Chicago, and I was right.
8/1/17 El tracks at Wabash and Congress
I attended two scheduled sketchwalks each day (though in one case I left early when I got too hot and tired, something I wouldn’t have wanted to do if it had been a workshop). I attended one lively demo given by the very humorous and entertaining Thai artist Asnee Tasna, which was both fun and inspiring. I also attended an intriguing presentation by New York City sketcher Mark Leibowitz, who talked about and showed a variety of creative tools and sketch kits devised or discovered by sketchers worldwide (I attended version 1 of the same lecture topic last year, so I knew this one would be good, too).

I missed quite a few other lectures that sounded interesting, but I wanted to attend sketchwalks more. And although I wanted to attend more drink-and-draw sessions in the evenings, I didn’t have the stamina to stay up past my normal bedtime! There will always be things I regretted missing because I chose to do something else instead, and there are many, many sketches I never got around to making, but overall, I got exactly the symposium experience I wanted this time – the freedom to sketch subjects and locations of my own choice (usually not the case in workshops) – and all for myself.
7/30/17 Chicago skyline from the north side of the Chicago River

Instead of showing the sketches chronologically, I’m organizing my symposium posts by subject matter. Shown today are my sketches of Chicago’s architecture and cityscapes as well as photos from Asnee Tasna’s demo. Stay tuned for future posts on Chicago’s art, people and (I know you’re waiting for this one!) symposium swag!

8/1/17 Michigan and Congress; toward the center of the sketch is my favorite Two Prudential Tower

7/30/17 Lake Michigan shoreline

7/27/17 Chicago skyline reflected in "the Bean"

7/30/17 Buckingham Fountain and Chicago skyline (northern end)

7/30/17 Chicago skyline (southern end) from Buckingham Fountain

8/1/17 street furniture

7/29/17 skyline from DuSable Bridge
across Chicago River

Asnee Tasna demonstrating mixed-media techniques.
Seeing Asnee's chisel-cut pencil
made me regret that I didn't
take his workshop!

Chicago River

Chicago skyline at dusk

The El from Wabash Street
I love Chicago's many contrasts between old and new.


  1. Great Part I, Tina. I envied the freedom you had to see so much of the city and do so many sketches for yourself. I felt like taking workshops put a lot of pressure on me to cram as much into the rest of each day as I possibly could, and then I was so tired from lack of sleep. Maybe if I had more extra days it wouldn't feel so hectic. I can't imagine how you must have felt last year when you were a correspondent. I think that definitely would be too much pressure. I do wish I had found time to have dinner or lunch with you...maybe in Porto next year. We can breath the fresh air and relax a bit there. You have some really good sketches and photos here! They show that your heart was really into sketching.

    1. Thanks, Joan! I know exactly how you feel, because that's how I felt when I had workshop passes. I'm happy to hear you are looking forward to Porto already, as I am! Let's do lunch there! :-)

      - Tina

  2. Tina - such good info here about your thought processes. I was so disappointed I couldn't go after planning to attend forever. We ended up buying a house and the move/settling in was right around the same time. And international travel just isn't in the budget next year - I'm so envious you'll be going again. I appreciate your thoughtful commentary and love seeing your sketching experiences. Looking forward to more.....

    1. I'm so sorry you couldn't make it, Terrie! I hope you'll be able to go some year. It's worth doing at least once!

      - Tina


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