Urban Sketcher

Documenting urban life in Vancouver and beyond.

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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.

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I believe in blasphemy

Posted on Jan 13, 2015 in Vancouver | 1 comment

Rent an oil fountain for your next Last Supper!

I drew my vision of the Last Supper after the big 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I think it really shows what’s wrong with the world, and all of us.

The killings of cartoonists and staff at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris by religious extremists last week, and the other related shootings, affected me more than most news do. It’s probably because I identify with other artists, especially with people who draw. And I’ve been to Paris just last May for the first time in 22 years, and will return there this spring, so the place is often in my mind.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the shootings, and what they mean. About how someone could get killed over a drawing. Obviously, it was a barbaric act by people who may or may not care as much about religion as they say, by people who may be violent, unstable, disenfranchised, misguided, unfulfilled in their aspirations, looking for belonging, or just ignorant tools in a greater plot for dominance. I don’t know, and I can’t relate to, or even understand their motives.

But most of all, I want to make a case for blasphemy. I am all for it. I think it is important as a tool to criticize organized religion. Religion should not be above criticism. I have no problem per se with the big prophets: Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha — they were all searching and finding a lot of wisdom to share. It’s what people have made of their wisdom, how they’ve been interpreted, that is the problem. So even if you cover yourself with the mantle of religion and belief, it should by no means give you a free pass to be above criticism, and yes, satire and parody. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. What you must not do, is physically injure, enslave or bully others.

While I personally would not take on Islam to criticize and parody, since it is not my religion, nor my background, and I don’t know that much about it, I feel completely entitled to make fun of Christianity, which is part of the culture I grew up in. I participated in the Christian religion for a while. But I don’t go to church any more because I realized it was dysfunctional, and moreover, I disagree with the whole patriarchal system that shockingly, most evangelical churches still follow to this day! So as I have been getting older, I have returned to existentialism as my preferred life philosophy. But I admit that I don’t have the final answers, and I firmly believe that you don’t either.

Here’s some blasphemy (or as close as I can get) that I’ve been sketching over the last few years. Yay for blasphemy, and uncensored art and writing!

A dream


Years of life drawing finally coming in handy

God has a plan for you too

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Watercolour workshop with Shari Blaukopf

Posted on Nov 16, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

In early June, one of my Meetup group members had arranged for the the Montreal urban sketcher and watercolour artist Shari Blaukopf to host a watercolour workshop in Vancouver. This took place on June 5 and 6; there were 12 of us, we only had a little bit of drizzle, and Shari did a great job.

The rule for me is, I don’t get much done in a workshop. I am slow, especially if I have to absorb new information. So my hope is always that something has sunk in anyway.

Shari Blaukopf watercolour workshop I
Here’s Shari doing her demo and leaving us in awe.

Shari Blaukopf watercolour workshop II
I enjoyed practicing grey-scale value sketching in pencil.

Shari Blaukopf watercolour workshop I||
Practicing watercolour sketches with a palette restricted to only three colours.

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Delayed gratification sushi

Posted on Nov 6, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Delayed gratification sushi

Back in September, a fellow Vancouver urban sketcher, and old family friend, Bob, and I went out for a morning coffee to sketch, and then had sushi for lunch, to sketch. Seriously, we drew our lovely sushi plates for about 15 minutes, and only then did we eat. Looking at food and not eating it is pretty unheard of for me. But we did it, it was fun, I didn’t starve, and best of all, sushi doesn’t get cold if you wait, just iffy.

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A full day sketch crawl on Granville Island

Posted on Oct 31, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

View from Fisherman's Wharf near Granville Island

It’s been so long that I’ve posted to my blog, that I had to review how to do it.

I have no excuse not to post at the moment — I have a total lull in my workload. And I am currently visiting my parents in Maui; they are here for a month. I won’t be here that long, but happy to arrive here just as the rainy season hits Vancouver and while I seem to have a week off before a large scheduled project comes in.

This sketch is from October 19 (I’ve misdated it on the sketch). For the first time ever, I had set up a full-day sketch crawl for my Vancouver Urban Sketchers meetup group. I asked the sketchers to check in with me and each other any or all of three times: at 10 a.m., at 1 p.m., and at 5 p.m. This meant that in between I had lots of time to draw. For example, here I sat at a counter outside my favourite fish shack, “Go Fish”, just off Granville Island, and started this drawing while waiting for my food, and finished it afterwards. It took about 2 1/2 hrs to draw this complex scene.

Having forced myself to spend a full day drawing and socializing with other sketchers was wonderful. I knew my year-end business bookkeeping was waiting for me in the office, but it waited patiently while I drew.

Never delay drawing (or having fun). The work and chores will wait. And those things are seriously overrated anyway.

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The limited edition book with my etchings is done!

Posted on Aug 10, 2014 in Vancouver | 1 comment

From May to December 2013, about one day a week, I worked with New Leaf Editions on a limited edition, handprinted poetry book. I made 9 copper etchings and also designed the book which contains 18 poems about Vancouver by the poet Christopher Levenson. The abstract cover etching was done by Andrea, assistant printmaker.

19 of the 30 books pre-sold for $200 each, in large part via a successful crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com. The remaining 11 are being sold at $300 each. We are having a book launch open to the public at the Vancouver Public Library in the Alice MacKay Room on Sunday, September 21 at 3 pm.

This post from December 5, 2013 describes the project in detail and also features a video with Chris reading one of his poems.
The etchings can be seen in this post from January 11, 2014.
I showed the book layout on January 10, 2014.
And I described the etching process in this January 9, 2014 post.

The printmaking team at New Leaf Editions
Shown above is the amazing printmaking team at New Leaf Editions on Granville Island. From left to right: Peter Braune, Master Printmaker, with his assistant printmakers Diana and Andrea, who are also artists. I had no idea how much knowledge and work goes into a project like this. I learned a few things, I hope. And it was wonderful to spend one day a week working in the exciting environment of a traditional, high-quality printmaking studio. I got to meet a few well-known Canadian artists who pop by to also work with Peter, and whom I had admired for years. I inhaled it deeply.

The handprinted book of poetry with my etchings is completed!
And here I finally get to hold a copy of the book!

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“By all means create” — video

Posted on Aug 8, 2014 in Vancouver | 2 comments

Earlier this year, I was asked to participate in a video by Opus Art Supplies here in Vancouver. A number of artists were asked to illustrate a word each to make up a quote by Vincent Van Gogh — watch the video to learn what the quote is. I was thrilled to be assigned the word “draw”!

Thanks Opus, and a nice job was done on the video by Ryan Mund. He filmed me back in March, when it was chilly and rainy. I did an outdoor drawing near the Vancouver Convention Centre, squeezing in the filming before I headed off to Northern England. You can see me drawing away from 0:34-0:36.

Drawings from my spring visit to Northern England and Scotland to come soon.

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Goodbye to a cat

Posted on Aug 7, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

We had to put our cat Raisin to sleep today. About two years ago, I did a series of drawings of her with the “Paper” app on my iPad. She was an odd, sweet, tiny tortoiseshell cat that we adopted as a 1 year old from a shelter when we lived in Pennsylvania. She had a healthy, happy life and made it to almost 18 years old. Rest in peace, little Raisin.

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 7

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 1

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 2

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 3

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 4

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 5

Our cat Raisin drawn with the "Paper" app 6

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How drawing is like making music, except less damaging

Posted on Mar 20, 2014 in Vancouver | 1 comment

I’ve rediscovered my piano this winter. It’s been neglected. I had lessons as a child and teenager and made it almost all the way up the 10 grade levels. But as I graduated high school and moved away to go to university, the piano stayed with my parents. I finally had it shipped to Vancouver some time after Jeff and I bought our first place.

For many years, I would only sit down to play once a month for an hour or two. But for a long time I had thought about taking piano lessons again, “one day when I’m older”. Well, I recently decided that I am older. I asked around for recommendations and by January I had found myself a teacher, Jade, whom I visit half an hour a week. I am bringing some old pieces that I played as a teenager and want to relearn, and I found some new pieces that I need to learn from scratch. It’s been so much fun; for the last three months my piano has gotten its biggest workout in three decades!

Jade says that I have preserved my full mobility and could tackle pretty much any piece I feel like playing. I think she might be wrong about that, but I like her positive outlook. And my hands feel stronger and less strained than they have in a few years; piano playing must be good for them.

I am learning to go at the pieces with more confidence and attitude than I ever did as a timid teenager, and that striking a key with panache helps. It also makes small insects scurry and my husband hide in his den. I may be a bit overenthusiastic with pent-up piano-playing, and my newfound love for sifflet satanique as requested by Rossini at about 2:06 in the fun piece above that I am learning. I play mostly during the day, usually at the exact time when small children in my neighbourhood should be napping. With all that hammering on the keyboard, I have somehow thrown the piano out of tune, some keys are getting a bit stuck, and something must be possibly loosening in there because there’s a new tinny sound.

It doesn’t sound all that great, does it? But my point is that going at something with confidence, whether it’s making a mark on paper, or striking a piano key, feels good, even though one may feel hesitant on the inside at first. The confidence starts to follow. Of course, to play the piano with confidence, one should hit the right keys, otherwise it’s pretty obviously misplaced confidence. But so what if there’s a few missed notes?

And when drawing, it’s even easier because nobody can tell you that “this is where your line should have gone”. You are the creator of the drawing, not the interpreter of someone else’s composition.

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Vancouver International Airport observation level

Posted on Mar 15, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) observation level

On March 1, eight of us met in the domestic terminal of the Vancouver Airport. There is an observation level where you can see the airfield with its runways. There are informational screens and telescopes where you can watch planes take off and land. There is a food fair just below with sketching fuel such as coffee and donuts and hamburgers. I had never come out to the airport just for drawing, but it was great. When I’m catching a flight, I am usually tired because I am going on a vacation and have stayed up all night to finish work and pack.

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