More Tacoma Sketches

Here are a couple more sketches from the 4th Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl. Saturday afternoon I ventured to the Theater District where I captured this view of Old City Hall, designed by E.A. Heatherton and built in 1893. The Italianate structure features a ten-story clocktower that establishes the focus for the composition.

The second view is of Tacoma’s version of the Spanish Steps that links Commerce Street and South Broadway. Adjacent to the stairway is the Tacoma Elks Lodge. Interestingly, after drawing these two views, I discovered that McMenamins—the Pacific Northwest enterprise of pubs, historic hotels, and concert venues— is currently rehabilitating the Elks Lodge and has a tentative agreement to lease and then purchase the Old City Hall, the intent being to form a hotel, restaurant, and entertainment complex in the heart of downtown Tacoma.


4th Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl

Photo courtesy of Kate Buike

Photo courtesy of Kate Buike

Enjoyed the camaraderie and having some free time to sketch at the 4th Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl in Tacoma this past weekend. Thanks to Frances, Kate, Darsie, Mark, and the rest of the Tacoma Urban Sketchers organizing committee for all their hard work in organizing and hosting the event, and making sure everyone enjoyed themselves and everything ran smoothly. Here are a few of the drawings I managed to do in the Museum District Saturday morning.


Hope to see everyone again next year in Vancouver, BC.

Ballard Mini-Pod


I’m continuing to experiment using the Apple Pencil with the Procreate app on my iPad Pro. Here is a view of the Ballard Mini-Pod, a triangular site at 17th Avenue NW and NW 54th Street comprising Garden Sushi, Tripod Coffee, and a rotating series of mobile food trucks. Another realization I came to in doing this sketch is the tiny but perceptible separation I felt between the tip of the stylus and the lines being drawn through the glass. A couple of readers have suggested using a screen protector to better mimic the feel of paper but I’m afraid the extra layer of protection might only increase that sense of separation I feel.

As I mentioned in my last post, I like the ability to export as a movie any drawing or painting created in the Procreate app. Here is a video of the drawing above.

Drawing with the Apple Pencil

When I purchased my first iPad 5 years ago, I was excited to try out various drawing apps designed for the digital tablet. Disappointed with the lag time and feel of the styli available at the time, I resorted to drawing with my finger instead. At first, it was liberating to sketch so loosely but I soon returned to drawing with a fountain pen on real paper. I missed the feel of a metal nib flowing liquid ink onto a paper surface.

Hearing about the new Apple Pencil, I decided to try it out with the Procreate app. Here are a few examples.

I found that while the Apple Pencil had less lag and better “feel” than other styli I have tired, there was no doubt that I was drawing on a glass surface. Also, while the iPad has good palm rejection technology, I still inadvertently touched certain menus and options while drawing in the Procreate app, causing unintentional effects to occur randomly. Even so, realizing that I am not using all of the drawing app’s capabilities, I’m resolved to continue to experiment with the new media.

Pier 86 Grain Terminal

I missed the last meeting of the Seattle UrbanSketchers group at Centennial Park and so I ventured there myself to draw this view of the Pier 86 Grain Terminal. The Port of Seattle built this grain terminal in 1970 to replace the Hanford Street Terminal and satisfy the need for a larger facility as grain exports from the Northwest grew. A completely automated process moves grain from trucks and railroad cars to storage silos and from there, two 48-inch conveyor belts load the grain onto cargo ships at a maximum rate of 3000 tons per hour. The facility sits along and over the pedestrian and bike paths of Centennial Park on Elliott Bay and frames a view of downtown Seattle beyond.

This is a similar view of the grain terminal from 2014.