Urban Sketcher

Documenting urban life in Vancouver and beyond.

Navigation Menu

You can find me on Instagram these days

Posted on Jul 2, 2017 in Vancouver | 0 comments

I find it much easier at the moment to post my sketches on Instagram, so please find me there if you are interested. I may revive this blog again at some point because I enjoy writing as well as drawing.

A quick sketch while on my bike doing an errand. Well, I did get off the bike for half an hour to do this drawing.

At Pallet Coffee Roasters in my neighbourhood.

This was drawn during a Vancouver Urban Sketchers meetup at the Convention Centre. The group I started in March 2013 is now over 4 years old and has 1917 members as of today! Yes, that is correct — nineteen hundred seventeen.

Read More

A video about my sketching technique by Opus Art Supplies

Posted on Jul 1, 2017 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Opus Art Supplies asked me to demonstrate my urban sketching approach, specifically my panorama drawing technique. It was challenging for me to think about what it is I actually do when I draw, but I came up with something that I hope is helpful. Everyone has their own methods. I do know about traditional perspective drawing but I don’t tend to use those principles every often. Mostly I use the pen measuring method as shown here, but with the twist of holding it really close to my eye and sitting close to my subject — this is how I seem to get a bit of a fish eye effect that reflects closely what my eye sees.

Read More

Indulging in yellow

Posted on Jul 5, 2016 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Yellow Cab headquarters

My sketching friend B. and I had a long-hedged plan to go and use up a lot of yellow paint, for the sheer fun of the colour. So we met at the Yellow Cab depot in Vancouver and politely asked for permission to draw there. The weather played along, and we cracked open the yellow paint.

Yellow Cab headquarters

We learned that the depot is also being rented out to food trucks, a car wash, and a repair shop. Various people involved in some of these other businesses, as well as cabbies, stopped to chat. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

Read More

A road trip in sketches

Posted on Sep 26, 2015 in Somewhere in Idaho, Somewhere in Oregon, West Yellowstone | 3 comments

Road trip sketches

In June 2014, Jeff and I took a 17-day road trip through the Northwestern U.S. in our VW Westfalia camper van.

We both drove, but whenever it was Jeff’s turn, I sat next to him in the passenger seat and sketched the landscape as we zipped through it (if you can call it zipping in an older VW van). The seats in the van are upright and comfortable, you’re towering over normal-sized passenger vehicles, and there’s a large tray-like dashboard area with a deep rim that comfortably holds a travel watercolour kit and pens. A letter-size sketchbook was on my lap and a jar of water for my brush in the drink holder of the passenger door. The perfect setup. My challenge was to sketch as quickly as possible. So I prepared small frames in the sketchbook by tracing a credit card 8 times on each 8.5 x 11 page. I’d prep several of those 8-frame pages at a time, and then fill each one within 1 to 5 minutes (some were done in 10 or 15 minutes, when we weren’t driving).

The speed with which I had to draw, forced me to quickly assess a view and not linger over details. Some views passed by so quickly that I had to make stuff up after seeing them, relying on my bad memory. Most of the sketches took only 1–5 minutes. But it was great fun and I observed much more intently this way than if I’d been idly staring out the window for hours. It got to the point where I didn’t want to drive anymore because I had so much fun sketching. And normally I enjoy driving. But Jeff made sure I drove my share.

I have created a 5-minute video of our road trip in sketches. Enjoy the ride!

Read More

A day around Montmartre

Posted on May 11, 2015 in Paris | 0 comments

On May 11, my friend K. and I went drawing around Montmartre.

2015_05_11_Abbesses Metro station

The Abbesses Metro station. Yes, now I know that Abbesses is spelled with two “b”s! Two people already pointed out the mistake to me. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, as usual.

2015_05_11_Montmartre 1

A quiet area of Montmartre near the Espace Dalí.

2015_05_11_Montmartre 2

The Maison Rose in Montmartre.

2015_05_11_Montmartre 3

Drawing at lunch in Montmartre.

2015_05_11_Montmartre 4

We tried to have lunch but it was 3 pm, the kitchen was closed, and all we could get was a large slice of pear tart with chocolate crust and whipped cream. We suffered through it.


There it is, the obligatory symbol!

Read More

The Left Bank

Posted on May 10, 2015 in Paris | 0 comments

2015_05_10_Paris Pastries

On Sunday May 10, K. and E. and I had a slow breakfast (after we drew the goodies K. had bought). Unfortunately I was only allowed to eat watery rice, which annoyed me. I’m not in Paris to be on a diet, quite the opposite!

At midday K. and I finally made it out, rented bikes, and rode to Jardin du Luxembourg, which turned out to be closed for a private function. But we found a nice plaza “Place de la Sorbonne” and drew a church-like building which turned out to be part of the university of the Sorbonne. Then went to the Latin Quarter and bought some chocolates, then back to the Jardin which was still closed.

2015_05_10_Place de la Sorbonne

At Place de la Sorbonne.

2015_05_11_Fontaine St. Michel

Dragon at Fontaine St. Michel.

We gave up on the Jardin for the day and found a small cafe where we had some drinks and I consumed a French Onion soup in spite of my supposedly all-rice-and-bouillon diet.

2015_05_11_Left Bank

We did another drawing of a cool building that took up a whole city block at Rue Dante and Rue Galande.

Then we walked home via both the Île de Paris and the Île St. Louis, admiring the Notre Dame, and enjoying the music that was everywhere. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day in Paris.

Once at home, we were exhausted, and just sat down and added some colour to our drawings from the day.


K.’s drawing in progress of the Place de la Sorbonne. She’s a professional illustrator, check out her finished drawing at flickr.com/muffintante


I thought this looked like a good motif for a vertical drawing.


A sudden onslaught of people on roller skates. They zipped through like a summer storm, and as suddenly they were gone.


Nice rusty typography. Has this sign been here since the 13th century when the Sorbonne University started?


After a week with several fairly cold, rainy and chilly days, everyone is out at the Seine, soaking up the sun.


Graffiti on a traffic sign.

Read More

The uncautious dinner

Posted on May 9, 2015 in Paris | 2 comments


The couscous restaurant.

2015_05_10_my young friend

My friend E. from Germany arrived on May 9!

On May 8, K. and I had a couscous and merguez dinner at this restaurant above, which I probably shouldn’t have done, but it was before my doctor visit on May 9, when I got the official order to only eat rice.

On May 9, after the doctor’s visit in the morning, I picked my Vélib city bike card at City Hall, since it was Saturday, and none of the district offices were open. There are also always holidays in France. I think that each week of the year must have a holiday, because May 1 and May 8 were holidays, and May 14 and May 24 are also holidays. So when Paris seems surprisingly quiet on a weekday, you can be sure it’s a jour de férié!

I immediately activated the Vélib card (it’s great, you just touch it to the receptor right next to the bike you want and it’s yours instantly!) and borrowed my first city bike of the year. I went riding around Paris, always an exhilarating experience. I think I don’t really take the traffic here seriously, because it’s not home. It’s a tourist paradise, and I feel cocky and immune when I’m on the bike. I like to zip through traffic and people.

A bit later in the afternoon I met up with my Berlin sketcher friend K. at the Printemps rooftop terrace and I also checked out the Galeries Lafayette terrace. Then I raced home by bike to meet another guest, 20-year-old E., the daughter of an old German friend, but it was hard to keep biking due to the narrow roads being full of cars and narrow sidewalks full of tourists. I gave up at some point, returned the bike and caught the metro to be home in time to meet E.


The view from the Printemps department store rooftop terrace.

Read More

Getting sick in Paris but not yet needing a cemetery

Posted on May 4, 2015 in Paris | 0 comments

2015_05_08_Père Lachaise Cemetery

Drawing at Père Lachaise Cemetery with my sketching friend from Berlin.

2015_05_08_Père Lachaise Cemetery sketcher

My Berlin friend drawing at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

2015_05_08_Père-Lachaise Cemetery

Père Lachaise Cemetery.

The week of May 4, a lot of work came in for me, as well as my first visitor, and I was keeping my head down. It didn’t help that I got a GI bug early that week which lasted about 10 days. My friend got it too, so it must have been something we ate. It may have been a ripe cheese that he forgot to take out of his backpack after shopping. I had wondered why the living room was smelly.

I waited 4 days to see if it would pass on its own, but when I didn’t feel any better on day 5, I called S.O.S. Médecin, an emergency doctor service, and a doctor came in on a Saturday to make a house call. They still do that here in France. It was a bit strange. I had to lie down on my bed, while the doctor took my blood pressure, and patted my stomach. He was inordinately impressed with my blood pressure, by the way, but I have no idea why. I know it’s quite low. I asked him, resigned: “Je ne peux pas manger des croissants?” and he laughed. “Non, seulement riz et bouillon.” So I tried that for a couple of days to give my stomach a break, but snuck in some chocolate anyway. He also prescribed some medicine to slow down my système, and some pain killers for the stomach. I’ve never had anything like this for so long. Welcome to Paris.

I had to make do with longingly drawing my second visitor’s pastries but I abstained for about 2 or 3 days after the doctor gave me the stern advice, then I slowly began to feel better. I had planned to drink a half bottle of wine a day in Paris. Now I am far behind on my drinking regimen.


Definitely not sick enough to stay home.


There seemed to be a main street of bigger grave stones, and then the smaller ones in the side streets.


Flowers in resin, detail on a grave.

At Pére Lachaise Cemetery

Detail in a grave monument. Everything here is pretty much left to rot, I am sure the bigger, fancier monuments get fixed up, but a lot of smaller ones are decaying, which is just as it should be.

At Pére Lachaise Cemetery

A jungle of grave stones.

Read More