Urban Sketcher

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40 hours in Athens

Posted on Jun 20, 2013 in Athens | 4 comments

Athens and Mykonos

The new Acropolis Museum was a great way to spend a few hours out of the heat in a beautiful air-conditioned architectural space surrounded by ancient Greek artifacts and views of the Acropolis.

On our first morning walking the streets of Athens, my friend L. got hit by bird poop. It bounced right off his smoothly shaved head and onto my arm. This is known as collateral bird damage or among birds, as “hitting two humans with one dropping”. We decided it was good luck, but that bird looked rather smug to me.

There are 4 of us travelling: Jeff and I with another couple, G. and L. It’s L.’s 50th birthday this summer, and to celebrate properly, he wanted to go back to Mykonos where he used to come in his 20s when he had hair. Jeff and I were the only ones able to coordinate our vacation time and budget with them, so we made the huge sacrifice of switching our original plan to go camping in B.C. with an island vacation in Greece.

I made a new friend, a young Greek woman running a bakery where we bought some pastries for breakfast. During our conversation, I told her I was going to Mykonos and would be sketching it, then she wanted to see my sketches, so I showed her my sketchbook and gave her my website. She was so impressed, she ran off with my sketchbook to show it to her husband in the back, and then gave me a pastry. Once again, sketching connects. And my breakfast was probably the best spanakopita I ever had.


There was a display on how the ancient Greeks made their pigments for painting marble sculptures. Various rocks were ground and mixed with binding agents to create coloured compounds. As a sketcher, of course I was fascinated by this side display.


I liked Athens, what little I saw in a day and a half through a jet lagged haze and 35+ degree heat. The Acropolis was awe-inspiring, of course. I did not know there were other temples up there besides the famous and gigantic Parthenon. My favourite temple became the Erechtheion, which has two smaller temples attached to it.


The old district of Athens, called Plaka, was a maze of narrow streets full of touristy shops and restaurants. Cold refreshments became very important at that point. I had a wonderful fig gelato, not too sweet and full of fresh fig flavour.


Graffiti in Athens.


Graffiti in Athens.


Street name in Athens. Graffiti and vernacular typography are what I am often drawn to in cities.


We watched the changing of the guards ceremony in downtown Athens, featuring pom-pommed red shoes combined with a gait right out of John Cleese’s “Ministry of Funny Walks” skit.

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A trip to Greece

Posted on Jun 19, 2013 in Athens | 0 comments

A trip to Greece

I am travelling with three non-sketchers. So I was concerned about getting enough time to draw. Inspired by Dave’s new mini drawings, I divided my page up into small boxes. This way I can do a tiny thumbnail sketch in just a few minutes, on a bus, while waiting for food, in a line-up, or at a museum, without making my travel companions wait.

How do you prepare to visit the birthplace of western civilization? In my case, you fall behind on other things like work, so you do nothing for the trip. You just buy the corresponding Lonely Planet app the night before you fly. Problem is, you still have to read it. It will not download itself, The-Matrix-style, into your brain.

So maybe our smartphone generation has regressed since the ancient Greeks. But I still like technology. At the same time, my imagination is already with all those colorful gods I loved reading about as a teenager. My favourite goddess was Pallas Athena, a strong woman, not a girly-girl, and a patron of the arts.

Poseidon was pretty cool too, how he would pop up out of the ocean with his spear and sea creatures wrapped around his head, dressed in sea foam green.

I want to find those gods in Greece. Imagination is real too.

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