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 https://www.flickr.com/groups/uskoahu/

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!!