UW Shell House

Although this structure was intended to serve as a hangar for military seaplanes, it wasn’t completed until 1918—too late to be of use to the navy. So in 1919, it became the shell house for the rowing crews of the University of Washington. If you read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, you would know the story of how the rowing crew from the University of Washington—sons of loggers, farmers, and fishermen—defeated elite European teams and won the gold medal in eight-oar crew at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The shell house was designated a Seattle Landmark in 1974 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

In sketching, we have good days and bad days. This day was not a good day for me. This spread shows my first attempt at trying to capture the scale and proportions of the shell house. Rather than continuing on and making adjustments, as I usually do, I simply turned the page to begin anew.

The Varied Faces of Singapore

One final post on Singapore. Walking around the city during the Urban Sketching Symposium, I drew a few scenes that illustrate diverse aspects of this metropolis, with evidence of its Colonial past, ethnic neighborhoods, and modern skyscrapers co-existing in a modern Asian city-state. In the last sketch, the circle with SG above the number 50 refers to this year being the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia and formation as an independent republic on August 9, 1965.

Masjid Sultan

The first day in Singapore, I wandered over to the Kampong Glam neighborhood of Singapore to sketch the Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque). Constructed in 1824 as a one-story structure for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first sultan of Singapore, the mosque was remodeled and enlarged in 1932 to its present form. Relative to the surrounding street grid, the mosque was skewed, perhaps to orient the mihrab to Mecca. It was important for me to capture this subtle shift as I drew this view looking down the pedestrian way of Bussorah Street.

A few days later, I again visited the area hoping to draw one of the side streets. Instead, I chose to enjoy a refreshing iced coffee at an outdoor cafe with a view both of the Masjid Sultan as well as some the shops along Baghdad Street.

Two Chinese Temples

The day before the Urban Sketching Symposium started in Singapore, I wandered along Waterloo Street, the site of my workshop. I came upon this Chinese temple, seemingly grafted onto a three-story office building.

In contrast to the Waterloo Street temple is the Thian Hock Keng Temple in the Chinatown district, which is one of the oldest Hokkien temples in Singapore. The more traditional layout was completed in 1842 to accommodate Chinese immigrants giving thanks for a safe voyage. Because of the heavy street traffic, I decided to focus on the composition of tiled roofs and animated ridge and hip lines, leaving the rest to the imagination.

Raffles Hotel Singapore

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The Raffles Hotel is an icon in Singapore, having been established in 1887 by two Armenian brothers. Named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, it was designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren.

This view, looking down Seah Street from North Bridge Road, is one of the many drawings done during the 6th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore that wIll be auctioned off to benefit the urban Sketchers organization.

More Signs of Fremont

Continuing from a previous post from this past January, these are more signs of Fremont. While I am concentrating on those of places with a history here, a few relative newcomers have probably snuck into the picture. In drawing these, I am struck by the subtle differences in typography that we normally do not notice but which convey the character of a place

First Street Langley

Spent the 4th of July weekend with a few dear friends on Whidbey Island. On Saturday, we drove into Langley, which likes to call itself the Village by the Sea. While the setting overlooks the Saratoga Passage to the east, its heart lies along First Street with its shops, galleries, and restaurants. Along this main street, no particular building stands out from the others but together they prove the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I chose this particular view of First Street because the sun was intense at midday, the temperature was in the 80’s, and I was fortunate enough to find a bench in the shade.

The Kubota Garden

An ad hoc group of Seattle Urban Sketchers met this morning at the Kubota Garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. Fujitaro Kubota purchased the five-acre parcel of swampland in 1927 and proceeded to clear the land, dig several ponds, and create a spectacular landscape merging Japanese design techniques with North American materials. As the now 20-acre garden was threatened by developers, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated the garden a Historical Landmark in 1981. The City of Seattle acquired the grounds in 1987, which is now stewarded by the Kubota Garden Foundation.

These two views is of the latest addition to the garden, the Terrace Outlook, the base of which was constructed by the Awatas, a 15th-generation family of Japanese artisan stone masons, along with a host of volunteer workers. Drawing a view dominated by landscaping and plant materials with a fountain pen requires paying attention to the various textures of the plant materials and using patterns of light and dark shapes to create implied layers of depth.

One could spend an entire day sketching in the Kubota Garden and so I plan on returning to capture more views.

Starting a New Sketchbook

Having filled one sketchbook, I pulled a new one off the shelf to do this drawing. In beginning, I was instantly reminded of how the change from an absorbent surface to one treated with sizing affects the quality of lines from a fountain pen. Where I was used to being more tentative with thicker lines in my last sketchbook, I had to be more insistent with the thinner, lighter lines on the Moleskin paper.

This view is typical of the shipbuilding and related industries fronting the Ship Canal in the area between Fremont and Ballard, which some people are calling Freelard. I decided to begin with the barbed-wire-topped chain link fence and blackberry bushes that separated me on the street from what I was viewing, a ship under construction. The drawing ended up being more of a vignette than I had intended but that is the nature of sketching. Like a conversation, the drawing process can often lead to unexpected results.

Wide vs. Close-Up Views

 

 

I have always preferred taking photographs with a wide-angle lens—a 35 mm, 28 mm, or even a 24 mm fixed lens. This preference shows up in the views I usually select when drawing on location. My inclination to include context and information in my peripheral vision often leads to panoramic views or perspectives that stretch beyond the classic 60° cone of vision for linear perspectives.


Some photographers prefer the more tightly composed shots made possible with telephoto lenses, which can be seen in how they might frame and compose their on-location drawings.

For those who prefer the flexibility of a zoom lens, the choice of subject matter can suggest how it is to be framed, whether it is a panoramic cityscape or a tighter close-up of a building fragment.