Last Two Days at the USk Symposium

Friday and Saturday felt even busier than the first two days of the symposium. So many amazing workshops and people to meet!

My second workshop of the symposium was “Sketching with Dry Twig and Chinese Ink” with Ch’ng Kiah Kiean (“KK”) from Malaysia. He started the workshop indoors with a presentation of his artwork and materials. Then, he gave us a gift from home: a twig (cut to size by his father) from his own Water Jasmine tree for each of us to sketch with! After preparing our ink kit and whittling the twig points into the right shape (the tip should be able to flex slightly), we started with a short sketch of our immediate surroundings to get a feel for the types of lines that could be made with this novel tool. Below are my initial doodles of our classroom and fellow sketchers.

No workshop would be complete without a demonstration from the instructor, so we followed KK to a spot where an “L” train passed us on elevated tracks in front of skyscrapers. He started with a line drawing, added shading with a stipple brush, and finished with a layer of watercolor. All of that in about half an hour!

Of course, he then asked us to give the technique a try. It was very exciting to use a sketch tool that was so different from my usual implements, and I will definitely be experimenting with it a lot more!

In the afternoon, I attended Veronica Lawlor‘s “Urban Immersion” workshop which focused on learning how to capture an entire environment on paper – the static buildings and trees, the people moving around you, as well as the sounds you hear and energy you feel in that location. She encouraged us to think like filmmakers and to project transparent cubes onto our view to help us portray depth and highly dynamic elements; the imaginary cubes helped immerse us in the space and transform it into one with many points of view instead of a two-dimensional scene (viewed as an outside observer). Here are my sketches from that three-hour workshop.

During the evening I enjoyed a lecture by Rita Sabler, who spoke about sketching protests, and a talk by Hugo Costa, who has been sketching every single day since 2010!

On Saturday, the last day of the symposium, I joined Norberto Dorantes for his morning workshop “Extreme Angles Reloaded” along the Chicago River. To start, we drew a few quick thumbnails which encouraged us to look for creative points of view as well as dynamic compositions for our sketches. Then we had about an hour to sketch a larger piece.

Not long after that last workshop, everyone who attended the symposium gathered in Grant Park for the 56th Worldwide SketchCrawl and final sketchwalk of the symposium. Overflowing with ideas, new techniques, and unfamiliar materials, coupled with a different outlook on sketching, I ended up throwing a mess of shapes and colors onto the page…

Here is our final group photo in front of the General Logan Monument in Grant Park. An official USk drone flew overhead to film the crowd as well. And below is a photo of me posing in front of the crowd. I quickly sketched the photo spot afterward to commemorate the moment before I started shivering – by then it was nearly 6:00 p.m., and a cool breeze swooped in and drove me back to the relative warmth of “the Hub” (Roosevelt University’s Goodman Center, the central staging location where all of the USk meetings, announcements, and sponsor booths were). Overall, we had excellent weather for all four days – what luck!

Next on the schedule was a silent auction where many sketchers sold the stunning artwork that they had produced over the past four days. Many people circled the auction table trying to time their final bids in order to have a chance at winning their favorite artwork. A raffle captivated the crowd as well – every now and again a scream or whoop could be hear from somewhere in the audience. Lastly, to wrap up the symposium, next year’s location was announced by two representatives from the new host city: Porto, Portugal.

Before everyone went their separate ways, we all exchanged business cards and chatted about meeting sometime in the future: “Look us up when you are in Spain / Hong Kong / Toronto / Australia / Amsterdam /  … !”

Still in denial that the symposium was over, I decided to join a group of sketchers heading to a nearby bar for a last sketch session before leaving – if we keep sketching, can we make the day longer?   :)   Below is my drawing from that late evening, signed by some fellow symposium participants.

Thank you to everyone who helped organize such an intense and amazing four-day symposium!!

First Two Days at the USk Symposium!

Since Chicago may be the closest that the symposium will be to Hawaiʻi for some time, I snagged the opportunity (with some help) to attend this year!

Two days before all the fun kicked off, I caught a red-eye out of Honolulu and arrived in Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah by 3:00 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time. The first two sketches are from that approximately six-hour leg. The lightning storm was gorgeous, but a challenge to sketch in a dark cabin using just ballpoint pen. I followed that up with a doodle of the view out of the airport terminal’s windows whilst I noshed on a sandwich during the layover. After my snack, I decided I would focus on getting to O’Hare in one piece instead of diagramming new airplane seating arrangements to hand to the complaints desk.   :)

Only a few hours after arriving in Chicago, I ran into Mark Leibowitz (from NYC) and Eileen Goldenberg (from San Francisco) at the famous “Bean”!

After exploring the city and a handful of its many attractions, I checked in at the symposium on Wednesday, where I had the pleasure to personally meet urban sketchers that I had long admired from afar. The first item on the schedule was a sketchwalk. Exhilarating! It seemed like we took over the entire sidewalk, and by the time we had arrived at our sketching destination, the Art Institute’s gardens, we had definitely established our presence. Two city blocks were dotted with – I dare not guess how many – sketchers sitting on stools, leaning against walls, standing in groups, and sometimes sprawled on the ground. It took a little time for my sketch gears to warm up, but here are two of my drawings from the walk.

And here’s our group photo at the end of it. What a huge crowd! And even more people were streaming in when this photo was taken.

Later that evening I attended the official opening event which featured Gabi Campanario sharing his experiences with starting Urban Sketchers. It is amazing how widespread the Urban Sketchers organization is now.

And to think that this was only the first day of the symposium … and not even a full day!

Yesterday, I had a 9:30 a.m. start at Millennium Park with the fantastic Lynne Chapman for my first workshop “Rhythm and Blues”. She introduced us to a sketching approach that involves layering, taking advantage of different media, and integrating colored construction paper into our sketches. During the workshop, the wonderful music of an orchestra and chorus rehearsal sailed over to us from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Here are all my sketches, finished or not, along with a few photos…

Afterward, I grabbed a bagel and took off to meet the next sketchwalk group heading to Federal Plaza (featuring a 53-foot-tall sculpture, “Flamingo”, by Alexander Calder). On our way to the plaza, we were treated to a brief historical overview of attractions, thanks to local USk volunteer Joann.

Later that afternoon, I enjoyed an excellent watercolor demonstration by Uma Kelkar – she painted a scene from Hawaiʻi!

And lastly, I caught an evening lecture by Mark Leibowitz who presented some of the latest tricks, gadgets, and homemade urban-sketcher product improvements.

Along the way, countless other run-ins took place with excited sketchers from around the world; we shared our artwork and passion for urban sketching with each other. Creative energy abounds! All in all, I think an apt description for the symposium would be: fast paced and packed to the brim with sketching fun!

And it is not over yet – check out the live-streamed videos on Youtube!