Saturday, December 31, 2016


All the information about Urban Sketchers Workshops and Education is no longer here.

Please go to the USk main website and look for the USk Education page.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Report from the Farm-to-Plate Reportage workshop from Oct. 2015

by Stacye Leanza, Fearless Instructor

Here, finally, is the report on our flavorful artistic and culinary experience last October, as we visited some of the farms and towns in and around Chatham County, North Carolina. We documented local farm customs in our sketchbooks, and sampled local sustainably grown foods, in the perfectly warm weather of the NC Piedmont. Participants learned some strategies to capture fast moving people; how to compose pictures quickly with blobs; some story-telling techniques; and how to use color & line to pull the story together. The true nature of Reportage, of course, is to report on the cultures and events that you visit. So you will learn a bit about the people & places of Chatham County, as well as our learning experiences, in the travelogue below. 

We spent Thursday evening at Blue Heron Farm getting to know each other & had a taste of Giancarlo Toso's made-from-scratch cooking. Except for a few items brought over from Italy, ingredients came from local farms & a local grain mill. You cannot get more fresh than that!

Here are Giancarlo's pizza crusts, waiting for farm fresh toppings.

As people arrived, their first activity was to make a name tag for someone they didn't know.

 the end of the evening, they were fast friends.

On Friday morning, we visited Granite Springs Farm. Their mission is to “feed the people”, so they donate some of their harvest to local food pantries, shelters, & community free lunches. On this very warm Friday, they were preparing for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture. Find out more here: )
Participants got their first taste of “blob” sketching here. The farmers were moving around rather quickly, so the superfast blob drawing method came in handy. Some picked it up easily; for others, it was the opposite of their usual linear approach, & took some getting used to. Here are some samples of participants' work. If you look closely, you can see some blobs underneath the line. Notice that the line does not follow the blobs exactly:


Artwork by (clockwise from top left) Tanny Ho, Allison Banfield, Noga Grosman, & Peggy Herring

We joined the GSF farmers for a “Slow Food” lunch, prepared by Giancarlo, who makes his own pasta from scratch. More local ingredients made for a fresh and indescribably delicious feast!

Sharing artwork before lunch. 
Photos (above & R) by Noga Grosman

Lunch is finally served!

With full bellies, we headed for Piedmont Biofarm. They are one of several eco-industries at “The Plant”, which includes other innovative endeavors like Piedmont Biofuels, one of the largest manufacturers of bio-diesel east of the Mississippi. 
One of the fields at Piedmont Biofarm  (now Red Hawk Farm) is planted under the shade of PV (Solar) Panels. It's a part of a grand experiment to see if both food crops & solar energy can be harvested from the same land. It looked like they were doing pretty well!

Artwork by Anna Futrell (above) & Lois Benninghoff (top, at right)

Here, participants were treated to a spontaneous talk by one of the Biofarm owners, “Chef Geoff” 
before we went off to try our hands at “zooming in” & sketching “multiples”. Chef Geoff cooks unique meals for the community, based on what's currently being harvested at the farm. In that way, people get to learn more about the natural cycles of food growth. In this climate, food is harvested year round.

Here are some examples of drawing “multiples”. It's a good technique for when you are drawing a person doing a repetitive activity. It takes a bit of discipline!

These 2 are by me.


This sketch (at left), by Lois Benninghoff,
has both multiples, and a zoom.

Here's another example of “zooming in”, (below; sketched on Sunday at Giancarlo's.) In order to get the detail in the hands, I drew them much bigger, nearby the original sketch.


It was warm enough outside on Friday night to have take-out dinner from Angelina's Kitchen, a Greek restaurant that buys produce, meat, & dairy exclusively from local farms, including Granite Springs & Piedmont BioFarm. Even the honey for the exquisite baklava was local!
It was very cool to see little purple sprouts scattered on top of the salad, knowing it was all grown nearby, & freshly picked! (...too bad we were too hungry to take pictures!)

Here, you can see people sharing their artwork at The Plant,
while waiting for Angelina to show up with dinner.

Saturday began with a visit to the Carrboro Farmer's Market, where participants worked on story-making, a very personal practice where they determine what is most important to them about the event they are sketching, in the context of their own journey. We discussed some techniques on how best to illustrate their story in their sketches.  

Here's one by Marilyn Knowles:

Words & pictures together, by Mary Anna Hovey:

This sketch (below), also by Mary Anna Hovey, features the Farmer Foodshare Donation table, where farmers can donate surplus produce. The food is distributed to local food kitchens.

This session inspired some very personal discussion when we met back to show our work. People were very open & appreciative of what their fellow sketchers had to offer, both picture-wise and story-wise. For me, this was the best part. I felt honored to witness such personal stories from people of very different backgrounds, that I had met only 2 days before! It was a rich cultural exchange inspired by the shared cultural experience of the farmers' market.

These 3 photos are by Noga Grosman

Saturday afternoon was about using color & size relationships to create depth in the sketches. We used scopes to help see the huge difference in apparent size between people who are close up, and far in the distance. One of the participants wanted to keep her scope as a souvenir, so she had everyone sign it. Pretty cute.


...Fortunately, they are easy enough to replace.

We drew at the amazing Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill. Vimala's mission is to feed everyone, including those who cannot afford to pay, with food from local farms. She started cooking donation-based community dinners at her home in Chapel Hill in 1994, & the restaurant grew out of it. During our visit, she was kind enough to divert the customers to an adjacent room, so that we could draw the kitchen without being disturbed. 

Find out more about Vimala here:     

Artwork by Anna Futrell (above) & Marilyn Knowles (below)

Some participants also chose to draw in the “Slow Kitchen”, where peppers were being prepared, perhaps for hot sauce:

Here's artwork by Peggy Herring :

After smelling fragrant Indian spices wafting out of the kitchen all afternoon, we were very hungry by the time our drawing session was over. The Tandoori chicken was well worth the wait, though!


When I arrived on Sunday morning at Giancarlo's, at Blue Heron Farm, people were already gathered outside, drawing the old farmhouse. So dedicated!

 Here is Noga Grosman's sketch:

(If you look closely, you can see the difference between the original blob, & 
the final rendering of the farm house.)

Inside the kitchen, we found Giancarlo & his 2 helpers already making pasta for our Harvest feast. 

...I got a very nice hug from one of them!

Here is Peggy Herring's view of the scene:
 Knowing we might not all fit in the kitchen at the same time...
Photo by Noga Grosman

...Giancarlo kindly set up some bowls of farm foods in the dining room for people to draw.

Here's Allison Banfield's sketch:

 ...and Lois Benninghoff's:

Alas, we were too busy eating to take photos of the feast... 

The art show was a bit of a free for all, which I enjoyed immensely:

People were so curious about each other's work! And so delightfully supportive!

...& so it all ended, way too soon.

Group photo, with Giancarlo & Annie of the kitchen staff. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blue Watercolour Pigments

[By Jane Blundell] Many urban sketchers use watercolours. Some use just a few colours, some use a whole range. Some enjoy them purely for the hue, some for the characteristics each pigment brings to the painting process.

I love exploring pigment characteristics and watercolour is the purest way to paint with pigments. Just pigment and water, with a touch of gum arabic binder - perfect to see what each pigment really does. I have been working with my students on a different colour each week and thought I'd share the paint-outs I did just of blue pigments. Aren't they stunning?

They may be staining, granulating, semi opaque, transparent, liftable or some combination of those characteristics. Understanding which is which and how to use them increases the range of watercolour effects you can produce in your sketches or paintings. It takes your painting beyond just colour. You can use watercolour to create texture too.

So which are the most useful for urban sketching? I'd always include ultramarine and cerulean (I like the PB36 version) as they will be a liftable mixing pair for skies anywhere in the world. Beyond that, I recommend phthalo blue as a great mixer, and adore the richness of indanthrone blue. What about you?

I'm looking forward to teaching all about colour and watercolour in Manchester next month.

Happy painting :-)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Exploring Watercolour

[By Jane Blundell, Sydney Australia] Two of my life-long passions have been line and colour. Drawing is the backbone of my art works, whether Urban Sketching in pens or pencilling fine details for landscapes, portraits or botanical watercolours, line is my general starting point. But I also see the world in terms of pigments. And with watercolour we can explore not just the colour but the characteristics of the pigments as well - does it granulate? Can you lift it? Will it stain in a glaze? Will it be transparent so the pen lines can be seen?

There are so many ways to explore watercolour, so many methods to mix it, plot it out, make charts, make wheels and learn to control it. I love teaching about watercolour and colour mixing and am excited to be presenting my first Symposium Workshop in Manchester - Watercolour Your World, One Mix at a Time. We'll be looking at the most useful watercolour pigments for urban sketching and getting them set up in a palette, learning to mix and paint with them and creating sketches in wonderful harmonious triads.

I pulled out some of my colour explorations to prepare my class notes as I am planning the best way to present limited palette the triad mixing in a practical three and a half hour workshop. Lots of fun :-)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Orlando Sketch Tour, Feb. 13

Orlando Sketch Tour
Saturday, February 13 at 10am - 5pm

WHAT: Orlando Sketch Tour offers visitors and local artists a chance to slow down, see and sketch the true Orlando. Thor from Analog Artist Digital World and Kelly Medford a plein air painter from Rome Italy will be your guides for this full day sketching tour around the Mennello Museum of Art.

WHEN:  Saturday, February 13, 2016 10am to 5pm

WHERE:  Mennello Museum of American Art, 900 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL, 32812. We will meet at 10am at a small gazebo just to the east of the Mennello Museum on the lake shore.

HOW: All skill levels are welcome you can be a full time artist or a weekend dabber and you will sill pick up something to help spark the rewarding trend of documenting your life through sketching.

Each student gets a complete Urban Sketching Kit that includes hardbound sketchbook,
travel sized watercolor palette,
pencil and eraser,
micron pen,
Pentel water brush
all enclosed in a zippered carrying case.

WHY: The Indie-Folkfest happening on the 13th puts a twist on the traditional Orlando Folk Festival turning it into a Valentine’s Day-themed family folk picnic that features local music, art and food. They partnered with East End Market for food, Joseph Martens for the music lineup, as well as local bars to throw a fun-filled picnic in the beautiful Sculpture Garden of The Mennello Museum of American Art. Approximately 3,000 guests – including plenty of dogs and kids – spread out picnic blankets, make Valentine cards and enjoy a daylong lineup of music against the backdrop of Lake Formosa in the winter sunshine. The sketch tour will be part of a day dedicated to Music + Art + Picnic + Love.

WHO:  Thomas Thorspecken (Thor) taught traditional hand drawn animation for 8 years at Full Sail University in Florida. He now teaches at Elite Animation and some of his courses include: Urban Sketching, Drawing Fundamentals, Character Design and Traditional Animation. Tom has also led 1 and 2 day urban sketching workshops for the public for all levels of urban sketching and leads the monthly drink and draw in Orlando along with sketching the daily events around the city.

Kelly Medford is a full-time plein air painter and watercolorist living in Italy and runs Sketching Rome Tours since 2012 where she teaches simple and fun sketchbook journaling and urban sketching techniques in various locations around Rome to locals and tourists with a varying levels of experience. She also teaches watercolor sketching intensive workshops several times a year in both Italy and the U.S. She most recently co-taught with Simo Capecchi and Caroline Peyron at the Urban Sketchers Workshop in Ischia in October 2015 in Italy.

At 10am before the folkfest gets started, Kelly Medford will give a lessson in composing landscape scenes. Her insights in to light, color and environment should get everyone accustomed to the pastoral lakeside setting. After we all finish our first sketch, we'll break for lunch and then Thor will give tips on how to populate your sketches. The focus will be on adding multiple figures into to scene to add depth and tell a story. We will then spend the afternoon creating multiple sketches of performers on the stage, or patrons enjoying the festival. The sketch opportunities are limitless. Kelly and Thor will circulate to offer tips and suggestions.

Tickets: The Sketch Tour costs $125 for the full day of sketching.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

Thursday, January 14, 2016

GOOD BONES | USk Sketching Workshop May 13-15, 2016

GOOD BONES  | USk Sketching Workshop 
May 13-14 + 15, 2016

Architectural perspective and watercolor sketching workshop with Stephanie Bower
at Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington USA

Workshop description:

Good sketches start with Good Bones! In this workshop, you’ll learn how to set up the bones of a great architectural sketch, starting with a practical understanding of perspective and finishing up with an intro to watercolor tools and techniques. And on Sunday, we’ll get to join the Seattle Urban Sketchers for their monthly Sketchcrawl. 

Learning goals:

Held at the iconic Pike Place Market in the heart of Seattle, this workshop offers a true instructional class on sketching. On Friday and Saturday mornings, we’ll work indoors from PowerPoint lessons that introduce you to perspective concepts and the basic process for creating a sketch.  In the afternoon, you’ll learn how to apply the morning’s concepts to on location sketching in downtown Seattle.

On day three, you’ll have the opportunity to put everything together when we join the Seattle Urban Sketchers’ monthly Sketchcrawl!

            Good Bones| Day 1 | May 13:  Perspective
·       Learn perspective basics and a simple step-by-step process to construct an architectural perspective sketch, how to build the sketch in layers
·       Learn what to look for when sketching perspective on location—how to find your eye level and VP’s
·       Learn how to measure proportions and relationships of spatial elements

            Good Bones | Day 2 | May 14:  Perspective + Watercolor
·       Introduction to basic watercolor tools and techniques, using a simple triad of colors
·       Learn how to use watercolor to enhance the sense of space in your sketches

            Good Bones | Day 3 | May 15: Sketchcrawl, half day
·       Put your new knowledge into practice by joining the monthly Seattle USk sketching group on Sunday morning  

Workshop Instructor:

STEPHANIE BOWER is a Seattle-based architect, architectural illustrator, teacher, watercolor painter, and traveling Urban Sketcher.

Stephanie graduated in both Architecture and Interior Design and worked as a licensed Architect in New York City before gravitating to architectural illustration. 

She has taught architectural sketching for over 20 years--for a decade in NYC at Parsons, in Seattle at UW and Cornish College of the Arts, at the 2014 Urban Sketchers International Symposium in Paraty, Brazil, and a lecture on perspective at the USk Singapore symposium. 

Stephanie is a signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society. In both 2013 & 2012, she was honored with the prestigious KRob award for Best Travel Sketch, in 2013 she received the Gabriel Prize fellowship for 3 months of sketching in France, and the following year was awarded the NIAUSI 2014 fellowship for a 2-month project in Italy. 

Stephanie teaches “Perspective for Sketchers” online at, and is the author of the forthcoming book The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective.   

            Architectural Illustration Website:

Workshop Schedule: 

            Morning INDOOR SKETCHING
            8:30 arrive at the Pike Place Market meeting rooms, coffee
            9:00-12:00 instruction and sketching
            12:00-1:00 lunch break in The Market
            Afternoon OUTDOOR SKETCHING downtown
            1:00-2:30 sketch together as a group
            2:30-3:30 sketch on your own or together with assistance
            3:30-4:00 assemble for final crit and review

            10:00-12:30  You have the opportunity to put it all together by sketching alongside 
                     Seattle Urban Sketchers, location to be determined
            12:30-1:00 meet Seattle sketchers and review sketches!
            No charge for this day, of course, as sketching with Urban Sketchers is free and
            open to all!  We can arrange carpools to the location if necessary.

Supply list:
Instructor will email supply list to registered participants.

Workshop fee:

$200 for 2 full days of instruction, in classroom and on location.  Sketchbook will be provided to all participants.
Payable in full by check to “Stephanie Bower, Architectural Illustration” by April 15, 2016.
Mail to:
            Stephanie Bower, Architectural Illustration
            2411 9th Ave. W.
            Seattle, WA  98119

Contact Stephanie ASAP at to reserve a spot.  First come, first served.  Waiting list will be created.

Cancellation policy:
In the unforeseen event the workshop is cancelled, all fees will be reimbursed.
If you have to cancel your participation,
            up to one month before, all fees reimbursed.
            up to two weeks before workshop, 50% fee reimbursed.
            less that two weeks before the workshop, 10% of workshop fee reimbursed.

Number of participants: 12 min - 15 max

Good Bones is open to any level of experience, but targeted to beginners and sketchers who want to improve their basic sketching and understanding of perspective and watercolor.

Thanks for your interest in Urban Sketchers workshops!