Are you ready to sketch together?

We hope that everyone is well and eager to return to in-person sketching on location! Sharpen your pencils, grab your supplies, and join us next week Saturday for a fun morning.

As we return to the new normal of in-person sketching, we do have new guidelines from USk Executive Board for all Urban Sketchers Chapters.

Guideline for Urban Sketchers Chapter Gatherings

  1. If you feel sick, stay home. 
  2. Everyone must wear a facemark or face covering.
  3. Please maintain social distancing of 6 feet from others.
  4. If you plan to attend, please email us at by Oct 23rd with the following info: name and phone number. We will retain this info for at least a month for contact tracing purposes. You are still welcome to join us if you don’t RSVP, but you will be asked for your contact info on site.
  5. If you attend and become ill, notify one of the team leaders (Christine, Bill, or I) immediately.
  6. If we have more than 5 participants, we will break into smaller groups no more than 5 to adhere to Oahu’s social gathering mandate.

Parking at Kaka’ako Farmers Market

The Kaka’ako Farmers Market is open every Saturday 8-noon. Even in the pandemic, it is a popular place for locals to pick up fresh produce, crafts, and ready-to-go meals. Because we start at 10am, parking can be challenging. We encourage you to come early so that you have time to find stress-free parking a little farther away, such as at Ward Centre, a leisure 10-minute walk. Also, don’t forget to bring water and your own chair. It’s hot out there!

On a side note

Thank you for participating in our virtual sketching events these past few months. Even if we couldn’t gather together, it was great to be able to share our sketches every week with one another. Since we plan to gather once again, we will suspend weekly virtual sketching. But feel free to continue sketching and share your sketches with the group on Flickr and Instagram.

Looking for Inspiration? Look at your phone.

Whether it’s social media, podcasts, books, magazines, or just sitting outside, there is a wealth of inspiration for Urban Sketchers.

I’m always inspired by watching USkTalks Live on Instagram. The broadcast was just recently moved to every Saturday at 6pm which is convenient for us in Hawaii. 

This past Saturday featured Gabriel Campanario, founder of Urban Sketchers and the author of “The Art of Urban Sketching.” Gabriel (Gabi) is also a Staff Artist/Writer of Seattle Times.

Not only did I learn a lot about sketching and storytelling, I also learn about cool places to visit in Seattle. Gabi challenged fellow urban sketchers to let your sketches “Tell a story”.

Using Mililani as my subject, I took a short walk to the top of Meheula Parkway early in the morning. Not much cars on the road, but there were joggers and walkers taking advantage of the breezy, nice day.

The journalist in me wants to start a series of sketches of Mililani to tell a story. Here is my first one.

Look around your neighborhood. What story can you tell about your community or places you love?

You can follow Gabi on Instagram @gabicampanario
View other challenges #usktalkschallenge
Follow the Urban Sketchers community @urbansketchers
Catch up on past episodes on YouTube at USkTalks

Stay safe and happy sketching,

National Drawing Day

Happy National Drawing Day!

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May 16 is National Drawing Day!  Besides sketches for our Urban Sketchers virtual meet ups, what have you been drawing?  Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Earlier this week I watched a Metropolitan Museum of Art Drop In Drawing session on composition and shapes, which focused on botanical drawings.  The idea was to build a drawing through simplified shapes that you then go back and refine.  For example, you sketch out ovals or oblongs for the petals of a flower, and then go back to draw in the specific shape of the petals.  I decided to try this technique on a gardenia blossom in a vase.  I drew a circle for the vase as well as simple ovals and rectangles for the petals.  Then I went back and drew more specific petal shapes.  Although not exactly an Urban Sketchers scene, I think these principles can be applied to sketches other than botanical drawings.

Something else we often practice drawing is hands.  This week I watched a drawing session sponsored by the Princeton Art Museum and the Arts Council of Princeton, featuring a lesson on drawing hands.  I drew my left hand holding a pencil.

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Happy drawing on National Drawing Day and beyond!

A day late….

Sketches of Restaurant Row, looking down from the 40th floor of One Waterfront Towers and looking up from ground level.

Yesterday I intended to sketch Restaurant Row from two perspectives — looking down from my apartment on the 40th floor at One Waterfront Towers, and also from ground level. But somehow despite having nothing to do all day, I only finished the sketch from up high looking down. Today I finished the sketch from ground level. The bird’s eye view is kind of interesting, but on the whole I think I prefer to sketch at eye level, perhaps because that’s what I’m more accustomed to.

Oil Sketching in the Time of Coronavirus

Hi guys, it’s Joel. Times have been tough lately, but luckily for us, we have art to keep us sane (relatively). For yesterday’s virtual sketch event, I thought it might be fun to document the process in my oil sketch. Oil paints have a reputation for being unwieldy especially for sketching, but I’ve fallen in love with the medium since picking it up about a year and a half ago. Although oil paints are associated with more finished works that take days or months to finish, you can lay down a lot of color quickly for a kind of quick rough impression, an aesthetic that I’ve always admired in oil sketches and the great alla prima masters.

The subject I’ve chosen is once again, the topical Corona. This is my second attempt at sketching Corona, I wasn’t too happy with my first attempt. About a month ago I sketched a can rather than the iconic bottle and the measurements were a bit off. The bottle offers more color variation and the translucency of the glass and beer plays interestingly with light. I should note that I rotated the bottle slightly to make sure I got the logo facing me as I painted.

For my palette, I’m using titanium white, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and ivory black. The medium I’m using is Liquin, which I’ve found works best for me so far. It has a strange gel like quality and the more you play with it, the more it flows. I also have containers of Gamsol on hand as solvent/brush cleaner. While they are still flammable and should not be ingested, these chemicals are safer than some of the other medium and solvents used in oil painting. Linseed oil should be used with caution as it can cause rags to spontaneously combust and turpentine is highly toxic.

While I don’t always start out this way, the first thing I did for this sketch was lay in a drawing. Using a mixture of alizarin crimson and ivory black, I start scumbling lines across the canvas. For this sketch, I’m using 9″x12″ linen panel board. I use the sight sizing method and as you may see, my measurements are far from perfect, but I know that I’ll have the opportunity to correct as I lay increasingly opaque layers of paint down.

Next I start blocking in color, keeping the layer thin with the help of Gamsol. At this point I’m mostly trying to identify shapes of color in the subject. In looking at a 3-dimensional form, finding the shadow shapes that define that form is important in making it read properly in 2 dimensions.

Semi-satisfied with the measurements and color placement, I start bringing in more opaque color. Titanium white and yellow ochre are the most opaque colors on my palette so mixing those colors in will bring the color forward. I do want to keep a transparent quality to my shadows so I try to keep some portions of ivory black and ultramarine blue pure to help them recede.

The devil’s in the details. While there is merit in drawing every line accurately and providing an exact replica of the subject, I am limited by time (I want to drink that beer while it’s still cold), canvas size, brush size, and, frankly, my own ability. It is often the artist’s job to be nature’s editor. In this case, I did not want to write out every letter and design on the label and chose to focus on the main logo, giving impressions of the other words and designs. The logo itself isn’t legible and it’s my faith that the viewer has enough knowledge of this subject that they will complete it with these suggestions.

The thing I save for last are the highlights. Pure titanium white applied by palette knife to ensure that the color stays pure and sharp on the canvas.

Well that’s pretty much it for this oil sketch. The great thing about working in this manner is there is an aspect of finality to it. You make choices in shape and color, and learn to live with them. This is especially true for watercolor, which I hope to improve on some day. Thanks for reading and stay safe :).

Happy Earth Day!

It is even more important when you’re staying at home to be thankful for what you have and give back to our planet.

Every little thing helps: recycle your water bottles, conserve electricity, or reuse what you already have.

Fifteen years ago, Bill gave me a worm composter so that we could turn our food scraps into rich soil for our garden. It’s a 3-level simple home for hundreds of red wigglers that munch on potato and carrot peelings, eggshells, and melon rind. We have much less waste and dark, nutrient-rich compost to amend our herbs and fruit trees. It’s a little thing but it feels good to reuse and recycle what we already have.

Happy Earth Day.

Stay safe and happy sketching,


worm composter

What to sketch from home? Here’s a list of 20 prompts to get started.

Hope everyone staying at home is safe and healthy! 

Every month, I look forward to our Urban Sketching outing. I sharpen my pencils and pack my bag the night before. But now that we are adjusting to our new normal of social distancing, I have embraced the new direction from USk of sketching from home.

For inspiration, browse through Instagram and you’ll see hundreds of sketchers around the world sketching from their windows. From Rome to Tokyo, it’s really quite inspiring. Honestly, some people have amazing views from their apartments!

Instead of feeling restricted, take this time to be creative. Look around your surroundings and find beauty in the ordinary. Even the kitchen sink can be fascinating.

Here is a list of prompts to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Look out your window. Sketch what you see. 

2. Sketch your front door. Don’t forget to include your slippers.

3. Are you spending this downtime watching a lot of Netflix? Sketch from your sofa and include your feet!

4. What does your backyard look like? If you have a garden, sketch your garden.

5. Are you working from home? Sketch your home office. Include your laptop and your morning cup of joe. Embrace the mess.

6. Sketch your lunch. Your lunch probably looks different now that you are eating at home.

7. Do you have a pet? Sketch them watching you draw.

8. You can tell a lot about a person’s interests by looking at their bookshelf. Plus, books come in so many different sizes and colors which makes them fun to draw. Sketch your bookshelf.

9. Look inside your closet. Here’s another place where you can play with textures and colors. Sketch your clothes on hangers.

10. Are you doing a lot of baking? So many people are! Sketch your chocolate-chip cookies or homemade bread baking in the oven.

11. Love your hands! They are our tools for all we do. Sketch your hands sketching.

12. Everyone has a junk drawer. Sketch what’s inside. Paperclips, rubber bands, pens, etc.

13. Laundry hanging in the yard is somehow beautiful and nostalgic in the sunlight. Be sure to include your face masks drying in the sun.

14. Draw your spouse working from home.

15. Pay tribute to our essential workers. Draw your postman or woman delivering your mail.

16. Are you exercising? Sketch your exercise routine. Are you not exercising? Sketch your shoes lying on the floor.

17. De-stressing with puzzles and games? Family game night has become an everyday routine. Sketch your family having fun.

18. Spending more time playing an instrument? Sketch your guitar, ukulele, or banjo…

19. Doing a lot of online shopping? Sketch yourself browsing the merchandise from your phone.

20. Look at your home at night. The mood and surroundings change dramatically when the lamps are on. Sketch your life in the darkness.

Whatever you choose to sketch, have fun and enjoy the process. Don’t forget to post your “Stay at home” sketch every Saturday in April at

Stay safe and happy sketching.



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!!