Wednesday, July 11, 2018


6/18/18 Map and flag of Portugal

By the time you read this, we’ll be in Lisbon, where we’ll be for several days before heading off to the primary purpose of this trip: the 9th international Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto! After the symposium, we’re spending time in the college town of Coimbra before returning home.

I won’t be blogging while I’m gone, but please follow my adventures on Instagram! I’ll have a full report on Portugal when I return. Até logo!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


7/5/18 Lake City Farmers Market

Despite the heat (my phone said it was 84 degrees), Joel was dressed in a wool beanie, a long-sleeved shirt with another shirt underneath, and a long, decorative scarf. When I showed him the sketch, we chatted for a moment, and he told me all about his daughter who had just graduated with a double major and was on her way abroad to teach. He can’t understand why people go around taking photos to put on Facebook; he’d rather read scriptures and commune with God and nature. He was very pleased with the sketch.

Afterwards, I went back to wandering around Lake City Farmers Market, the sound of his voice and guitar in the background, my bag heavy with fresh strawberries.

Monday, July 9, 2018


7/3/18 Maple Leaf neighborhood

A nearby house is one that I admire as much for it’s beautiful landscaping as for the house itself. A classic Tudor, it’s partially obscured by lots of trees and bushes on two sides – a dense, well-tended forest.

I got a bit over-zealous with my spray bottle on the foliage, and some of the color started floating away. At the same time, some of my details got blurry from the spray, and I had to go back in to crisp up the lines. As is always the case with water media, there’s a fine line between just enough water and too much or too little.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hungry and Fast

6/29/18 raclette maker

Unlike many urban sketchers, I rarely sketch my food. I may be a fast sketcher, but when I’m hungry, I eat. I do, however, enjoy sketching whoever is making my meal – or even someone else’s meal.

Farmers market season is in full swing, and we’ve been trying to take advantage of the neighborhood markets whenever we can, especially around meal time. Last week at the Phinney market, we spotted a vendor that was new to us, Fire & Scrape, making raclettes. Apparently raclette comes from the Swiss French term meaning “to scrape.” A chunk of cheese is heated slowly, and the melted layer on top is scraped onto a pile of potatoes or veggies. This vendor was so fast that I had to put my speediest sketching skills to work!

A few days later at the Ballard market, another new vendor caught my attention with a surprising food combo: Brothers Famous Ramen & Tacos. It was a tough decision – I love both ramen and tacos – but I opted for ramen, which fortunately took a little while to prep. But notice how one of the three condiment bottles doesn’t have a top? That’s because he called my name – and when my food is ready, the sketch is done.

7/1/18 Grilling veggies for my ramen

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Stringing Fiber

7/5/18 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Comcast is back in the ‘hood. I got excited when I saw a truck pull up towing this large spool of cable. No sooner did I start to draw it (you can see a few ghost lines at right) when workers unhitched the spool, and the truck drove away. It’s OK, though . . . an urban sketcher is always prepared to stop.

When I went back the next day, I caught the team in action. It took two men and a lot of grunting to push that heavy spool. 


A couple of hours later, I heard some commotion outside, and the Comcast team was at the pole right outside our bedroom window! I started to draw the guy in the cherry picker (you can see his ghost at the top of the page), but he was too fast for me. I ran out onto the deck as the truck moved down the street, and I was barely able to capture this much before it was out of sight. They’re busy stringing lots of fiber in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Portugal Palette

New colors in my Portugal palette

In a few days I’ll be on my way to Portugal for the 9th international Urban Sketchers Symposium and general discovery of a country new to us. As I always do before traveling to an unfamiliar place, I’ve been Googling images of Lisbon, Porto (the symposium location) and Coimbra – the three cities we’ll be visiting – to a get a sense of Portugal’s color palette. The rich red tile rooftops and tightly packed, pastel-tinted buildings remind me of Italy, especially on the Amalfi Coast.

I pulled a few pencils out of my daily-carry palette – I don’t think I’ll be using much pine green or construction zone neon orange there – as well as the Prussian blue I’ve been carrying since Yosemite, where the deep blue came in handy for late-afternoon shadows on granite. I replaced that hue with a warmer raw umber (049) for shadows, and added russet (065) for tile rooftops and Cornelian (850) to warm up the palette further. I’m not sure if I’ll need cobalt green (182), but I bring it to Europe as a matter of course (it came in handy in both France and Italy for verdigris details on statues and buildings). I kept the periwinkle blue (131) that I’ve been using for lavender season and tossed in the middle purple-pink (125) because I’ve lately been wishing I had something brighter for summer flowers. (All colors are Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle except 125, which is Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer.) The full palette is shown below.

The full palette

Youll notice that most of the pencils look long and new-ish. Several from my everyday palette were getting so short that they were falling below the elastic bands that hold them in place in the Tran Portfolio, so I replaced them. I still keep the stubs for use at home, though, where I can pop them into a pencil extender.

The rest of my daily-carry materials
So that takes care of my travel prep – the rest of my kit (at left) is the same as my usual daily-carry. How easy it is these days compared to when I was prepping for my very first symposium in 2013. Back then, I even made a dry run with a new bag to see how everything would work. Ironically, most of the sketch materials turned out to be good choices, but the bag itself was a major fail! Live and learn.

And learned I have, at least about how to pack my sketch kit: The more my kit stays the same as it is during my ordinary daily life at home, the easier it is to prep, and the happier I am.

That said, I did have to make special preparations for the materials I’ll need for the two workshops I’m taking in Porto. (Since I was a correspondent in Manchester and opted for a sketchwalk-only pass in Chicago, I haven’t taken workshops at a symposium since 2014 in Paraty. I’m looking forward to having the workshop experience again.) In general, I scrutinize the supply lists that instructors provide and avoid bringing materials that I think aren’t essential. Unless a workshop is focused on a specific medium or tool, I always assume that items recommended are simply the instructor’s personal preferences that can be substituted with supplies I already use.

With that in mind, shown below are the additional items I’m bringing specifically for workshops. The pile on the left is for Lapin’s workshop, “Urban Archeology: A documentary approach of the city.” The workshop description made it clear that it was about an approach, not a technique or medium, and his supply list suggested that students bring their “normally used” materials, which made prepping easy. However, I happen to have “waterproof ink pens” in a variety of colors as he recommended, so I am tossing in a few of those because they sound fun. I’ve rarely used them, and it would be an opportunity to try something new. Watercolors, something else he recommended, haven’t been in my sketch kit for nearly two years. I’m not taking a paint palette, but I remembered that I got a compact booklet of Viviva colorsheets from a crowdfunding campaign a while back. I decided to toss that in, too. At the last packing moment when I start jettisoning nonessentials, these items might not make the cut, but for now, I’m planning to take them.

Supplies for two workshops

The pile on the right is for Eduardo Bajzek’s workshop, “Graphite is the Matter.” In this case, the workshop is focused on a specific medium, so I am packing everything he recommends, which includes several grades of graphite pencils, three types of erasers (Three? That seems excessive, but I’m curious about how he uses each) and a blending stump. He also recommends an A4 sketchbook with smooth paper. I learned from the graphite drawing class I took last fall how important paper surface is, so I can’t get away with using my usual Canson XL watercolor paper, which is very toothy. I still have some Strathmore 300 Bristol Smooth left over from the previous graphite class, so I simply stitched together a few sheets. A4 is larger than I comfortably carry, so I am fudging on that part by using my favorite 9-by-6-inch size instead (which opens to a 9-by-12 spread – close enough to A4).

My teeny Daiso folding stool!
Of note: I already have such a plentiful supply of everything that I didn’t have to buy a single item for the symposium or the rest of the trip! (It’s a dubious distinction, but still worth noting.)

One more item I’m sure I’ll be happy to have during workshops and possibly at other times, too, is my teeny-weeny folding stool. Finally, there’s one additional essential item that I bring when I travel: a landscape-format sketchbook (not shown) – Stillman & Birn softcover Beta.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Happy Bees

6/29/18 Our lavender

Whenever I walk down our front steps, I see our small lavender plant splaying out toward the sidewalk, heavy with blossoms. Lavender season is only just getting started around here (4 on a Whidbey Island farm’s Purple Alert scale, with 10 being “purple madness”), but the bees are already bizzy with happiness.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

St. Spiridon Revisited

6/27/18 St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral,
South Lake Union

St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral is probably one of those subjects that will always be challenging, no matter how many times I attempt it. Those onion domes are beautiful but daunting. It had been a good three years since the last time I gave them a try, so when Greg said he had some shopping to do at nearby REI, I tagged along and sketched while he shopped.

I knew I had less than an hour (REI customers get one hour of free parking, so we always try not to take longer than that), so I had to bite off a manageable composition. Last time I stood across the street for the widest view, but construction was going on there this time, so I moved closer to the front entrance. I still had plenty of onions to dazzle and boggle me.

Have a fun 4th, everyone! The weather man says ours is going to be sunny for a change!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

P.K.’s Groupie

6/21/18 P.K. Dwyer performing at Queen Anne Farmers Market

If there’s one person I’ve sketched more than any other, it’s without doubt P.K. Dwyer. According to my blog, I’ve sketched the blues singer and songwriter at least six times. I don’t mean to be his groupie, but we obviously follow the same farmers market circuit.

On this recent evening at Queen Anne Farmers Market, I could hardly hear his autoharp from where I sat, but from the looks of the kids who were dancing nearby, his music kept the picnic crowd happy.

We love summer and farmers markets!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Cloudy but Warm Welcome from Bainbridge

6/30/18 Awkward Grace at Bainbridge Farmers Market
6/30/18 Sue and Natalie on the ferry

Going to Bainbridge Island always feels like a little vacation, even if it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle across Puget Sound. Although I might have chosen a sunnier day for such a vacation, the welcome from Bainbridge Island USk was warm for our first joint sketch outing since BI USk formed its own chapter.

The last time we sketched on Bainbridge was nearly a year ago for our Mega Pity Party – three consecutive days of sketching (during the weekend that would have been the West Coast Sketchcrawl, had it not been cancelled). Saturday’s celebration was a bit cloudier, though I daresay we still got a strong turnout from both groups.

As it did last year, hunger drove me to my first sketch of the morning – the Bainbridge Farmers Market just a few blocks from the ferry terminal. I found a delicious chocolate croissant to munch while sketching the folk group Awkward Grace entertaining the crowd.
6/30/18 Eagle Harbor Congregational Church
Fully fortified with carbs, I went out looking for Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, which Paula Ensign (co-admin for BI USk) had told me about. The fully overcast sky made it hard to see which direction the sun was trying to shine from, but I did my best squinting to find a few shadows.

6/30/18 downtown Winslow
For my last sketch before the throwdown, I warmed up with a cup of coffee as I captured a couple of girls having lunch.

That wasn’t my last sketch of the day, though. Waiting for our ride, I did a quick one of a ferry moored near the terminal. Then on the ride home, I made a tiny panorama of one of my favorite views of downtown Seattle – the one that can be seen only from a boat.

6/30/18 Moored ferry at the Bainbridge terminal

6/30/18 downtown Seattle from Puget Sound

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Couch with Palm

6/26/18 Wedgwood neighborhood

Palm trees in Seattle are uncommon enough that I always try to sketch them when I can. Most recently I sketched the pair of palms growing, strangely enough, in the middle of Top Pot Doughnut’s outdoor dining area when I was there for National Donut Day. You can imagine my glee when I discovered this one just a few blocks from the donut shop – with a couch in front of it, to boot! It’s not every day you can put a palm tree and couch in the same composition.

(As an urban sketcher, I am always “truthful to the scenes we witness,” part 4 of the Manifesto, mainly because I’m not very good at drawing from imagination; I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I wanted to. But who needs to make stuff up when reality is more entertaining?)

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