Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Learning about Gas Works – in More Ways Than One


9/17/22 Gas Works Park

As often as I have sketched at Gas Works Park, and as much as I enjoy it, I am still daunted by the scope and scale of the gas works structures themselves. I usually bite off a chunk that I think I can reasonably chew (this post shows the typical bites I take). Even when I’m brave enough to tackle the entire main gas works assembly, I don’t scale it on the page to allow space for much context.

When Gabi Campanario offered a Great(er) Seattle Sketching Tour at the park last Saturday, I jumped at the opportunity to see how the master does it while also learning more about Gas Works Park.

After hearing his brief lecture about the park’s checkered history, sketching the gas works along with its context tells a deeper story. For example, I didn’t know that Kite Hill had to be built up over an existing smaller hill as part of the park restoration. Including Lake Union (OK, it’s barely visible at left, but I got a bit in) is also important, because obviously having a water source for the gas works was critical.

Gabi has enhanced his viewing aid!

Guidelines like the sketchbook’s gutter (the horizontal center of the composition) helped to ensure that I wouldn’t run out of space for everything I wanted to include in the composition. My only regret is that I placed the bottom of the gas works too close to the bottom edge of the page, so I didn’t have space for a foreground element that would have added to the depth (the bike riders at left would have been nice to include in the foreground). But overall, using his suggestions, I’m thrilled that I was able to make a sketch that I could not have made the day before.

As I thought about the concepts he talked about, I realized they were no different from ones I learned in other workshops I’ve taken from Gabi. Or maybe I should say, they were no different from concepts he taught – I obviously hadn’t learned them (or at least hadn’t internalized what I’d learned).

I think this is another example of something I’ve observed about my own creative learning process many times: It often takes hearing and practicing the same concepts over and over to make them “stick.” And sometimes I might not be ready to learn a concept until I’ve had a certain body of experience behind me that prepares me to learn it.

In addition to being illuminating and informative, the sketch tour was a lot of fun! This time the participants included two professional architects – that says a lot about Gabi as a teacher!

The daunting gas works simplified by Gabi

Workshop throwdown

I couldn't resist sneaking a photo of Gabi's sketch kit! ;-)


  1. I'm glad you were ready to process Gabi's lesson and apply it to your sketch. You did it really well!

    1. The test will be when I try to apply this by myself to a new large-scale scene!


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