The Showbox Theater

The original market structure built in 1917 at 1426 1st Avenue, across from the entranceway to Pike Place Market, was transformed in 1939 by Bjarne H. Moe, who designed the art-deco interior of the theater and added this marquee out front. Over the past six decades, the theater has provided a venue for musical acts from Vaudeville and jazz to grunge and hip-hop.

In 2018, Vancouver, BC-based Onni Group bought the property and announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with a 44-story residential tower. That same year, local preservation groups organized a campaign to secure a landmark nomination in an effort to save the Showbox. The Seattle City Council recently voted unanimously to extend temporarily the Pike Place Historic District to include the original Showbox building. This has, for a time, protected the building from demolition.

Approach to Red Square

These two views can be seen approaching Red Square, the central plaza on the University of Washington campus. The first uses the statue of George Washington to establish the foreground, with Suzzallo Library establishing depth in the background. The bronze sculpture was commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution and sculpted by Lorado Taft for the Alaska Yukon Expedition of 1909.

In the second view, the elaboration of the Suzzallo Library facade draws the viewer through the space between Odegaard Undergraduate Library into the scene and Meany Hall, up a broad stairway, and into Red Square.

Line to Color Workshop

Gail Wong and I will be returning to Orange County, California, for another Line to Color workshop the weekend of June 14–16. We will be sketching and learning at the San Juan Capistrano mission and Laguna Beach.

Learning Goals: LINE 1. Selecting a subject and establishing a point of view; 2. Composing the page: Where to start & how to proceed; 3. Establishing spatial depth: Near & far.

Moving to COLOR: 4. Watercolor and brush techniques; 5. Values: Seeing and using tonal values to create depth and capture the quality of light; 6. Strategies for applying color and limiting your palette.

For information about the schedule of events, registration forms, pricing, and method of payment, please contact Gail at glwarc at gmail dot com.

DeConstructing the Viaduct: Part II

It was somewhat difficult to capture these giant machines as they were moving and munching away at the elevated concrete structure. What I should have been more careful of was establishing the position of the machines’ armatures in such a way that it was clear what was machine and what was concrete structure. The way the forms overlap in the above view makes this distinction a little too ambiguous.

Positive and Negative

Still waiting for the opportunity to draw the upper level of the Alaskan Way Viaduct being broken through. In the meantime, here is a drawing done in 1990 of a shrine in Jiyugaoka, a small town west of Tokyo. The composition consists of an interplay of positive and negative shapes and spaces, which interlock to form a unified image. In one instance, we can discern the edge of a tree trunk on the left and the outline of a torii on the right. At the next moment, we can focus on the details of the shrine itself as seen between the white spaces in the foreground.

DeConstructing the Viaduct

As the spring equinox approaches and the weather gets warmer, time to wander outside and do some urban sketches. The recent completion of the Highway 99 tunnel underneath downtown Seattle has initiated the work of deconstructing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I wanted to get a view of the elevated structure being munched on by the jaws of concrete eating machines but I was disappointed that the biggest machine had only punched through a little of the upper deck at Columbia Street. Hope to return in a couple of days to see more action. In the meantime, the above view is of the south end where a section has been cut through.

Composing Possibilities

The Chinatown gateway in the last post is a good subject to use in illustrating how placing the focus or principal subject of a drawing on a page affects drawing composition. I tend to see that certain subjects, such as the gateway, have a directional aspect to them. They face a certain way and project visual energy in that direction. So in placing such subjects, I use white space to absorb that energy.

Here are two other possibilities for placing the gateway on a page.

Of course, if the gateway is not the only drawing on a page, then other elements can be used to rebalance the drawing composition.

Hing Hay Park


On a bright, sunny but cold day, the International District celebrated the Chinese New Year at Hing Hay Park. The festivities had been delayed because of a snowstorm that hit Seattle a few weeks ago. This drawing was done before the day’s events started and before crowds of people would block this view. I chose to merely suggest the immediate surroundings of the park and instead highlight the gateway or “paifang”further down King Street.


Here is another drawing of the gateway done about 8 years ago.

Planes of Focus

Looking out at a scene, whether it be an interior space or a public square, we can usually discern three zones of depth—what is near to us in the foreground, what is in the middle ground, and what lies beyond, in the background. As we scan what lies before us, both at what is near and what is farther away, our eyes are capable of focusing and refocusing extremely fast, making it seem that everything is in focus all of the time.

But to convey a sense of space and depth—spatial depth—on the page, an effective graphic means is to treat each zone of depth differently. So we might, as in the first example above, treat the background with more emphasis and merely outline or suggest what lies in the foreground and middle ground, which we use to frame the view.

Or we can focus on what is in the foreground and blur or merely hint at what lies beyond, as in the view of Asakusa Temple in Tokyo above.

Or we can emphasize the middle ground and outline the foreground and fade out the background, as in the above view of New York City.

Beginning a Drawing

A question often asked is how to begin a drawing on location. Once we have selected a point of view and mentally composed the picture, one way to begin is to select a vertical plane in the scene, which can be the facade of a building or a wall of an interior space, and drawing this plane before delineating the horizon line—our eye level—relative to that plane.

It is important to properly size and locate this vertical plane relative to the page or sheet of paper to ensure that the entirety of the intended image will fit. If the initial plane is drawn too large, we may have to crop some of the intended image or worse, we might be tempted to alter the proportions of the scene to fit the page. Also, if the vertical plane is placed too far to the left or right, or too high or low on the page, the resulting composition may be distorted.

The initial vertical plane need not be a physical one. It can also be a virtual one, such as the cross section of a church nave or the width of a street.

More to come…