Urban Sketcher

Documenting urban life in Vancouver and beyond.

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Sketching in Seattle

Posted on Sep 29, 2013 in Seattle | 0 comments

Sketching in Seattle
I finally got to meet my Flickr friend Kate, a Seattle urban sketcher, as well as Seattle urban sketchers Tina and Lynne. I was in Seattle for the weekend, so we had arranged to meet on what turned out to be a very rainy, blustery Saturday at Pike Place Market.

Three of us sat in the Sound View Cafe to draw and chat. It was great to meet all of these women. That’s Kate on the far right, and Tina drawing on the far left.

Unfortunately I was getting a cold which is turning out to be laryngitis. Luckily I was still able to talk with them but I lost my voice later that day.

Kate, Tina, Lynne, I hope to see you again soon!

With Seattle sketchers Tina, Lynne, and Kate

With Seattle sketchers, left to right, Tina, Lynne, me, and Kate. Photo courtesy of Kate.

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Urban sketching session at Finch’s Market in Strathcona, Vancouver

Posted on Sep 24, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Urban Sketchers meet at Finch's Market in Strathcona, Vancouver

On Saturday, September 21, us Vancouver urban sketchers met at Finch’s Market, a funky new cafe in the historic Strathcona neighbourhood here in Vancouver. The bad weather even held off apart from a few sprinkles of rain, so I was still enjoying the easy bike riding that comes with good weather. I had a great time and I think the others did as well. 13 of us showed up, some people drew outside, others in the cafe.

I used to rent an office downtown kitty-corner from Finch’s first location at Homer and Pender from 2003 to 2007, and have great memories of their brown-paper wrapped baguette sandwiches.

At some point the staff noticed: “Hey, everyone’s drawing in here! What’s going on?” So I told them about our meetup group. It was a fun change for them to not see everyone typing on a laptop.

The focus and concentration of sketchers, as well as their enjoyment of what they are doing, is palpable.

Vancouver urban sketchers at Finch's Market

Vancouver urban sketchers at Finch’s Market. I am 4th from left.

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So long to an inspirational friend

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 in Vancouver | 1 comment

2013 09 23 One Sketch a Day

My friend eman is moving up north. I am just realizing he will leave a gap behind in my life. We have known each other for a solid 25 years. We both studied graphic design at Emily Carr University, we are both freelance designers and have worked together on several accounts.

Over the last 8 or 10 years or so, we’ve increasingly encouraged and inspired each other’s art practice; his in photography, mine in drawing. It’s not that difficult to fly to and from Whitehorse, but “beer o’clock” on Friday afternoons will be on hold for the time being (or we have to sip via Skype) :). On hold, too, will be our photo/sketch walks, and show & tell times.

Bon voyage, eman! You’re an inspiration.

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More good times with Dr. Sketchy

Posted on Sep 19, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Dr. Sketchy: Precious Metal 2

The beautiful Precious Metal delivered a great mix of heavy metal and burlesque, and interesting poses.

Dr. Sketchy: Precious Metal 2

I am really enjoying drawing clothed models these days. Well, semi-clothed is more accurate.

Precious Metal was modelling at the alternative-model mid-week Dr. Sketchy session at Hot Art Wet City. From their website, it is “an art gallery, shop, and blog in Vancouver, BC. Art shows feature fun and accessible art, interactive events, workshops, seminars, talks, and more. Pop-culture and fan-art themes, narrative and figurative work, graphic design, illustration, low-brow, pop-surrealism, prints, originals… you won’t find lengthy artist statements here. HAWC supports emerging and established artists from Vancouver, BC.”

I am thinking about recreating some of my sketches of burlesque women as copper etchings. The drawing below would work well. But before then I should probably finish my first copper etching project. So much to draw, so little time!

Dr. Sketchy: Precious Metal 1

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All Nations Canoe Gathering, False Creek, Vancouver

Posted on Sep 18, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

All Nations Canoe Gathering in False Creek, Vancouver

This was a beautiful, large-scale pageant of boats and ceremonial tribal garments, as well as a touching ceremony. It was full of emotional pain and sadness, shockingly so. There are deep wounds in the First Nations consciousness. It’s easy to forget those in one’s everyday life.

Many First Nations people attended this event, and it appeared to be very meaningful to them. I felt almost like an intruder, sketching the proceedings. But a couple of people said nice things to me about my drawing. At the end, as we cheered on the canoes paddling out of the ceremonial area, it felt to me like a bit of heaviness had lifted.

Snippets from reconciliationcanada.ca:

… Watch as beautiful cedar dugout canoes paddle into False Creek from Vanier Park to Science World and are welcomed in a traditional ceremony to the Coast Salish lands.

… Indian residential school survivors will partake in the water that day and paddle up for protocol for recognition and honor.

… The cultural significance of the canoe movement is the resurgence of songs, dances, names, language and teachings.

… up to 110 canoes attend these cultural tribal journeys.

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Kayaking and camping around Newcastle Island, Nanaimo, BC

Posted on Sep 17, 2013 in Nanaimo | 0 comments

Hanging in the hammock

Our friend brought his hammock along and gladly posed in it for me in front of our campsite.

Five of us went kayaking/camping to Newcastle Island just across from the Nanaimo Harbour. This small island, all of which is basically a BC provincial park, is just a stone’s throw from the city of Nanaimo.

It would have been a lovely, quiet, late summer camping weekend if it hadn’t been for some young yahoos who occupied a campsite nearby. They partied all night, singing the Pokemon song and other campfire favourites. I wanted to like them, their singing wasn’t even bad, and they were having such a good time, but I just couldn’t with all their noise, all through the night. Surprisingly, they didn’t seem to be getting drunk on beer, but mostly high on sugared drinks, as we figured out when we saw their pop bottle trash all over their campsite after they left.

We paddled around a couple of islands and walked all over Newcastle Island, learning about its coal-mining and sandstone-mining history in the process. Some cool rusty industrial pieces of equipment are still sitting around, like a sandstone cutter, and an airshaft for the old coal mine, looking like something out of the industrial age in the game “Myst”, or something out of a steampunk novel. I would have loved to have time to draw one of those items too, but everyone waited up for me several times for the drawings I did do.

Unfortunately, there was a bad ending to our weekend: when we paddled back to the Nanaimo Harbour, where we’d rented the kayaks, my sister’s car had disappeared from the nearby parking lot. Local towing companies didn’t have her car, so she reported it stolen to the police. Now we are all waiting to find out if the car turns up.

My sister and her husband

The sun came out for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon, and like moths we crawled towards the light and lay around a sunny meadow next to our campsite for a while. My sister is pretty good at lying around, she really only has two speeds: one really fast one, and the other is a horizontal position, while her husband likes to drape himself all over her. They have not been married for very long. I keep telling them “it’s all cute now, but just wait.”

Our campsite on Newcastle Island

I am getting faster at these drawings, it seems to me this one only took 30-40 minutes after our pancake breakfast, but it may have seemed longer to my party, since they all waited around for me to finish drawing them. I somehow made my sister (second from right) look like a boy, and my husband (second from left) look like a girl. And my sister’s husband, on the right, looks like a kid in this drawing. He loves to throw giant pieces of wood on the campfire. This sketch documents his bonfire approach. He also wanted to make sure I drew the pattern on his T-shirt, which is a print of cogs that he inked up and printed onto the shirt. The only one who looks a bit like himself is our friend on the far left.

At the Dinghydock Pub, Protection Island, BC

On our way back to Nanaimo to return our rental kayaks we paddled by the Dinghydock, which is a floating pub/restaurant just off Protection Island which was the next island over from Newcastle Island, where we were camping. They have a low dock specifically for their kayaking guests. I did this drawing in about 15 minutes, so the perspective is really off. I find it quite fascinating what happened here as I was drawing from left to right. My sister’s husband on my left looks very tiny compared to our friend on my right, but they were both seated at the same distance from me. Somehow my friend became a giant. A friendly giant, I might add.

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Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Granville Island

Posted on Sep 16, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Emily Carr University of Art and Design

The Park-a-Park/disposal bin was moved to Granville Island, right in front of Emily Carr University of Art and Design. So of course we sketchers had to climb in there again. I moved across the street shortly after our meet and greet though, it was the perfect opportunity for me to sketch the art school where I spent four years of my life. The drawing could benefit from some colour, but there wasn’t time that day.

I was reminiscing a bit about my college years while drawing it. I thought of Fred, Ted, and Ken, my trio of fully-bearded design instructors who had to share a single vowel. They were the steady ones in what seemed like institutionalized insanity at times. But my first year at ECUAD in what’s still called Foundation Program was probably my favourite — it seems like such a luxury now that I got to spend a whole year taking a wide variety of art courses before studying graphic design for the remaining three years.

One of my most memorable instructors from first year died just this summer: Dennis Burton. Born in 1933 in the prairies, he was an excellent painter and drawer, kept consummate sketchbooks which he displayed all around his classroom, and believed in the craftsmanship of drawing. I probably worked harder in his class than in any other. His stylized images of women’s garters (and women in them) from below, above, or at the craziest angles are some of his best-known work. Dennis told us they were inspired by the Sears catalogues that were delivered to his rural home when he was a boy, their undergarment section containing the most revealing imagery of the female form that he had ever seen.

My first life drawing sessions ever were in Dennis’s drawing class. He always put on music, mostly jazz, and chatted with the models, which put us nervous newbies at ease. His obliquely worded assignments, such as “draw a sleeping animal”, could produce a wide range of fascinating interpretations. And despite an asthmatic student’s complaint, Dennis kept smoking in the classroom while ranting about the “philistines” in the school administration who were thinking of actually banning smoking from the entire school. Yes, it was a different era.

After our drawing session in the bin, I took “my sketchers”, as I affectionately think of them, to New Leaf Editions where I’ve been working on copper etchings of some new urban sketches for a poetry book. The owner, Peter Braune, gave them an insight into his traditional printmaking studio.

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Si, Dottore Sketchy

Posted on Sep 10, 2013 in Vancouver | 2 comments

Dottore Sketchy — Marilyn Monroe 1

The Dr. Sketchy Vancouver session on Sunday September 8 featured Camero Luvroc as Marilyn Monroe. Above: a 1-minute pose. I like the thick marker for its bold, expressive line quality. And how it doesn’t allow me to get hung up on detail.

Dottore Sketchy — Marilyn Monroe 4

I think the above was a 5- or a 10-minute pose. This was my favourite sketch from the evening. The figure seems to have some gravity, but nothing is laboured, and I drew most of it in a fluid line.

Dottore Sketchy — Marilyn Monroe 6

I think this was a 15-minute pose. I used a white Pitt marker on wood veneer, trying to draw highlights only. You can see a few black strokes on her right arm where I gave up on just the highlights, and tried to add shadows as well, which wasn’t necessary. I am mainly showing this for the beautiful wood texture and as an inspiration for others to use wood veneer as a drawing surface — it’s not my favourite sketch ever. I got really uptight about the tutu, which is probably the opposite of how one should go about drawing the fluffiness that is a tutu. But I will keep trying to draw on wood veneer pieces, I think the idea has potential, I am excited!

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Sketchy topics

Posted on Sep 10, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Food Cart Fest, Vancouver

The last page in my moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I tried to leave this sketch a bit unfinished. Or maybe I just didn’t want to stare at the people for too long.

For Sunday Sept. 8, I had set up two sketching outings, one in my favourite disposal bin, the Park-a-Park, the other one at a Dr. Sketchy Vancouver session in the evening.

Julien had arranged for the Park-a-Park to be moved to the Food Cart Fest in False Creek for just the Sunday afternoon. Three other sketchers came: Dino, Glenn, and Rachel. Julien, his girlfriend and a couple of their friends hung around there too. Glenn, Rachel and I figured out that we’re all neighbours — it just took sitting and drawing in a disposal bin together. It’s great to know there are sketchers living nearby; when the fall and winter rains arrive, I foresee a couple of impromptu sketching sessions at one of the many hipster coffee shops in our neighbourhood.

In the bin, with Julien, we had several random, yet all art-related conversations. I’ll try to summarize a couple of the topics, because they were interesting, and I want to remember what we talked about:

Big name artists who employ large numbers of assistants

And not just to mix their paint and prep their canvasses and empty their ash trays, but to actually execute art for them: artists like Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Dale Chihuly, and many others have done that or are doing it now. That model of the artist’s studio already existed in medieval times, when a master painter would train many apprentices to paint in the “house style”. So does it really matter whether something is drawn by hand, by the actual artist, or is it the idea behind the art that matters? What role does craftsmanship play in art?

My brother-in-law, who builds and rebuilds unicycles and sailboats and motors, but professes to dislike both modern art and frou-frou drinks in fancy hotel bars (the latter purely to spite me), says it’s the lack of craftsmanship in much of modern art that turns him off. But I think art is not just about craftsmanship, there has to be something more. A unique way of interpreting the world, maybe.

I think a good mindset as an artist is to realize that you’re an alien who’s been dropped into this world from outer space. Then you set out to discover everything. Just keep the alien thing on the down-low.

Drawing people in public vs. photographing them

Like most sketchers, I have a hard time staring at strangers long enough in order to draw them, I really don’t want to intrude on anyone. With models, I have permission, but then it’s posed. Of course, friends or family or other sketchers may allow you to draw them, but they won’t be 100% natural either. Candidly drawing or photographing strangers on the street is a bit like photographing wildlife; it’s tricky but capturing a true-to-life pose or expression can be wonderful.

Dino said he tried to draw some native artists who were selling their crafts on the street, and they all got very irate when they noticed him drawing them. Maybe they were concerned about him intruding on their turf, being another artist? But I am certain that they cannot forbid him to draw them. Just as in street photography, where everybody who’s out on a public street is fair game for your camera, drawing a street scene with people in it is perfectly legal. Drawings of people are even permissible in places where photography is forbidden, such as during court proceedings.

Rachel pointed out that drawings are edited to only show that which is considered important by the artist, and are therefore not considered as neutral or realistic as photographs, hence the court artist is accepted where a photographer is not. Also due to time constraints, often a sketched portrait will be more of an impression than high realism. It’s about telling a story.

I tried to find some writing on street drawing and ethics, but I’ve only found entries on the ethics of street photography. Some of the thoughts here might apply to drawing as well:

As sketchers, I think it’s important to exercise our right to draw in public. It can feel awkward at first, but one gets used to it.

And we can’t help ourselves anyway.

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Salmon ladder, Mission Creek, Kelowna

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 in Kelowna | 0 comments

Salmon ladders in Mission Creek, Kelowna

It’s time for a visit with my parental units. The Greyhound express route Vancouver–Kelowna now features fancy new buses with adjustable back rests, cup holders, free onboard WiFi, and electrical outlets. The only thing missing from those spiffy black leather seats is a massage button.

It’s a far cry from the adventure I had about two years ago when the old Greyhound bus I was on broke down in Chilliwack and it took Greyhound several hours to send a new one from Vancouver, leaving us passengers stranded at the depot there (or free to explore the delights of nearby suburban strip malls). Most Greyhound bus depots are hurtin’ places where you soon feel like the scum of the earth, which is probably the main message received by the single moms, the unemployed, and the elderly people who all have to use buses as their main long-distance transportation.

On this week’s cushy ride, however, I was fully wired and got almost 5 hours of work done on the bus, probably close to my weekly average during the slacker summer I’ve just enjoyed. But it’s September now, so my clients are eager to get started on projects.

When I visit my parents, I usually bring work along, I do IT support for my father, we play card games, and lately, I’ve added health advocacy to my duties. But since this is the Okanagan wine region, I always make sure there’s a visit to a winery on the agenda.

There is a creek near my parents’ place with 17 km of walking/biking trails, and salmon ladders. There are a series of steps in the river to enable Kokanee Salmon to make their way upstream every fall, where they spawn. One of the steps can be seen in the distance, it looks a bit like a small dam made of rocks. But I don’t know what exactly this particular turquoise-green contraption in the foreground does.

Not saying this is exactly like my father and me, but there are certain elements.

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