Urban Sketchers is Live Again

After 14 months of individuals drawing and painting in isolation during the pandemic, the Seattle Urban Sketchers group was able to meet—finally—for a Sunday sketching session at Gas Works Park. The site on the north shore of Lake Union is a reclaimed gasification plant that operated from 1906 to 1956. Landscape architect Richard Haag designed the park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The first sketch, from within the play barn structure, looks out toward Lake Union and downtown Seattle beyond. Drawing from a dark space toward the light creates silhouettes that conceals details, which can be challenging. The second sketch was a quick study of remnants of the old plant. The geometric, primarily cylindrical forms, were drawn transparently to emphasize their volume, even though the sketch consists only of lines.

15 Years Ago

Continuing a look back over the years, these two spreads contain sketches drawn during a trip to Sicily in 2006 with my wife Deb. The first contains views of Palermo the day after our arrival; the second is of Cefalú Cathedral and a map documenting a day-trip drive with our friends Margie and Jim to the hilltowns above Cefalú.

20 Years Ago

Not quite 20 years ago, but close enough. These two pages contain the first sketches I did soon after arriving in the Eternal City in the fall of 2000 to teach in the UW’s Architecture in Rome program. Truly, a transformative experience. Wandering the area around Campo de Fiori, I sketched three churches—S. Barbara de Librari, the dome of S. Andrea della Valle, and S. Maria della Pace—as well as an ill-proportioned fragment of Bernini’s fountain in the Piazza Navona. I chose to include small plans showing the context of each in the urban fabric.

25 Years Ago

The practice of keeping a journal gives us the ability to go back in time to revisit places and experiences. Here, from 25 years ago, is a map I drew of Hong Kong and its environs, showing the ferry route I took from Central to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. From there I walked an hour and a half to Yung Shue Wan, where I sketched the scene below.

Fishermen’s Terminal

With the warming weather of early spring and a pleasant sunny day, it was a treat to venture outside to do some on-location drawing at Fishermen’s Terminal, located off Salmon Bay in north Seattle. It was here almost 12 years ago—in July 2009—that Gabi Campanario organized the very first meeting of the Seattle Urban Sketchers group.

Tempietto

The Tempietto is a small, elegant temple situated in an outer cloister of San Pietro in Montorio, reportedly the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion, on the eastern slope of Gianicolo Hill in Rome. King Ferdinand commissioned Donato Bramante to design the martyrium in the early 16th century. It is basically a cylindrical form ringed by a series of Tuscan columns and topped by a hemispherical concrete dome. This and other examples of western classical and renaissance architecture are difficult to draw well due to the genre’s precise attention to proportion and scale. It is relatively easy to distort their forms, as in this case, where the vertical axis tilts slightly and the cylindrical from droops downward and to the left.

Near, Middle, Far

In this view of an art museum in Palermo, I am looking from an upper level, through a staircase in the middle ground, to a courtyard beyond. To convey a sense of spatial depth on the page, I attempted to use relative values and value contrast to suggest what is near, clarifying what is in the middle ground, and again merely suggesting what is far away. In the image below, I have stripped away the color to show the equivalent gray values of the sketch.

An American Austin

Came across this old car in southern Washington on a road trip a few years back. It’s a bit worn, having seen better days, but it still stands proud.

My best guess is that it’s an American Austin from the 1930s, a version of the English Austin 7 that was produced in Pennsylvania. The body of the relatively small, compact car was designed by the Russian-American industrial designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. Its short wheel base made it a popular choice for conversion into hot rods and drag racers in the 1960s. The Packrat nameplate on the grille might refer to a customizing shop in California.