Month: October 2018

Portillo’s Sketch Night

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I have recently sketched Portillo’s, a Chicago-born restaurant with hot dogs, salads, ribs, shakes, and a ton of other stuff. My sketching class came here to do a sketch outing, so we enjoyed food and lots of things to sketch! Antiques hang and sit everywhere, including photos and an antique car. You could sit there hours and never sketch everything. When we went, it was fairly dead, but I have been there at busy times and have seen cars lined up for the take-out. You order your food on one end of the building, then go to the other end and wait. I chose to sketch my awesome chocolate shake and the antiques above me. Plus a cake under glass and a dude who was waiting for food.


My last sketch is of the workers in the serving area. There is a huge long red and white-checked counter and I watched the hustle and bustle of people behind there. I decided to sketch it! On the counter are drinks, probably fries, then some plastic boxes with pieces of cake. I sketched it then added color later. It was a great venue for sketching and I want to go back sometime!



Library Demo

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I have enjoyed teaching two urban sketching classes this month. My students are enthusiastic, curious, and eager to learn urban sketching techniques. It has been a joy to be with them! I did demos for each group, which included this sketch above in the evening outside our library in Central Park (an indoor gathering area with tropical plants, an amphitheater, seating areas, indoor children’s play area, and waterfall). They wanted to see me sketch something from start to finish, so I chose to sit outside this glass window looking into the library. What caught my eye was the interesting colors and stripes of the flag by the door. I also chose to sketch people, so I could show them how to start with basic shapes and colors, as well as how to edit a scene. Luckily the girls stayed put during the time I was sketching. I think I did the flag first, getting in the lines and shapes, later adding color. I drew quick outlines of the main woman with the gray sweatshirt and quickly sketched the table and chair. I also added a partial view of the girl next to her and the duffel bag on the floor. I did light color washes of watercolor over the figures and flags, and then went in several times to deepen values and colors. A question I have often gotten from students—“What do I do about the background?” For me, it depends on a lot of things…. How much time do I have, and what is the story I am trying to tell. There was a lot in the background behind the girls—-book check-out counters and machines, a pillar, chairs, etc…. Due to time running short and wanting to keep the girls and flag the main focus, I chose to keep the background very simple— I added in a couple lines or so for the glass wall coming in the door and chose to do a loose blue-gray wash with spatters for the background. I like the composition of the very vertical flag on the right, the figures in the middle, and lots of open space. Sometimes, less is really more!

Snow in October!

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Such a freak of nature—we had a snowstorm in October! Flurries mostly, but on the roads it was enough that the trees were getting covered and the wipers were working on the windshield and it looked white some distance ahead. I got home and noticed the little girl next door had built a snowman in her yard. I took a closer look… Pink hat, black and pink gloves and scarf, and her pink snow sled sat in front of it. I just had to sketch it! Good thing too, because later in the day, the snow had started to melt, the snowman began to disappear, the hat drooped down, and by the next day, the snow was gone!

Coke Machine

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Today at my urban sketching class I did a demo for a few of my students. We had been talking about creating volume using 3-D shapes and I wanted to find a scene to demonstrate that. In a small cafe area near our classroom, I saw the red Coke machine. A rectangular solid shape if I’d ever seen one! As I got my supplies out and ready to sketch, a man came up to buy something. I quickly sketched in his figure on my page and that was the first thing I sketched. I have shared how I often find “sketch anchors”—those things that don’t move on you—- and sketch parts of those, then move to people, then when they move off, I go back to the sketch anchors. The Coke machine provided a good sketch anchor, as does the stainless steel counter and the ice cream machine on the far right. I sketched in the woman behind the counter eventually, as she was standing there long after the man left doing things at the cash register. Though there were plenty of things in the background like lights, machines, and other food items, I decided to keep it simple and bath it with a golden light. This was a fun little sketch and provided a segue into much of my lesson this morning. Sometimes things work out just right!

Airport Sketches

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When I travel, I often try to get sketches of people at the airport. Here are a collection of 3 sketches done at different times. The first is my favorite. This woman in Jacksonville, FL, was sitting directly across from me at the gate. What attracted me to do a sketch was the huge yellow suitcase and blue handbag. Just the angles, her posture, plus the thermos hanging off, all grabbed me as well. She was so busy on her cell phone she didn’t even notice me!

This next sketch was done at a gate as well. I was traveling with my daughter and we came upon this sleeping man. I guess colors grab me because I knew I had to sketch his riotous green socks and bright orange suitcase. He was sleeping for a bit, so didn’t see me observing him.


Finally, a sketch done recently in Minneapolis. I was sitting at a cafe table and noticed three men—two on phones and computers dressed in almost identically-colored salmon pink shirts, just feet away at other tables. I also noticed a man reading a book, dressed in a sweatshirt. He turned the pages slowly, then eventually put it away and left. All sat still long enough for me to grab quick sketches. It’s fun to sketch people in airports, there are so many characters!