Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Art of Urban Sketching

Urban Sketchers is a nonprofit, international organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the value of location drawing. It is open to anyone who draws on location and can show a regularly updated body of work online.

They have a new book coming out in February which is both a guide and showcase of their diverse membership. It incluldes sketches and observations from more than 50 cities in more than 30 countries around the world. You'll find more than 600 beautiful illustrations, as well as artists' profiles and extended captions where these urban sketchers share their stories, how they work, sketching tips, and the tools behind each drawing.

The author, Gabriel Campanario, is a staff artist at The Seattle Times and the founder of Urban Sketchers. Campanario’s newspaper column, Seattle Sketcher, was awarded first place for blog writing in “The Best of the West” journalism contest.

This 320-page book can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Recently I heard two completely separate radio interviewees, one a financial advisor and one a therapist working with vets returning from war, say exactly the same thing: "I ask them about their goals."

That made me wonder for the first time what goals one might have (beyond learning and having fun) for painting outdoors. (Of course, your first goal, before you even head out, is to banish the inner can just say, "Bye for now!")

On one end of the continuum, there would be air castles like "Have a significant impact the art world, paint what has never been painted before, make people see things in a new way, make a living as a painter, be a famous teacher..." For most of us, not likely to happen in this lifetime.

Then, closer to the center would be goals like "Create expressive mementos of people, places and pets; practice observing nature and creating compelling compositions; communicate a mood or perspective..." Attainable, perhaps.

At the other end would be goals that one can never fail to achieve: "Practice perspective and proportion, explore the effect of certain colors on each other and on the viewer, experiment with mixing colors, try out different kinds of brush-strokes, discover your strengths, enjoy the interplay of paint, brush, surface and vision, pay attention..." And in the process, create something absolutely unique...something else that you can never fail to do.

Of course, you might want to ask yourself, who is setting these goals, really? The real you, or the anxious ego? The marketplace, the instructor, the cohort, the client? Just being aware of all the potential static in the atmosphere can help us tune in to a clear signal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A "bad day" painting is better...

We went painting in Lory State Park recently. I chose a promising spot, a little ways up a steep trail. I had to go back to the car to get something, and by the time I got set up, the light clouds had turned into a steady rain. The Guerrilla Painter had been painting (wild roses) from the car, so it didn't bother him! He was far enough along with his oil sketch that he suggested we look for a covered picnic area where I could paint and he could finish his painting from memory (and other wild roses). By the time we found a picnic area, the rain had stopped, so I decided to take a short hike up to a little waterfall. I took my good friend the Shadebuddy umbrella, just in case. The trail was steep and narrow, but I found a level spot for my chair & umbrella just in front of the waterfall and took out my mini sketchbook to compose the basics of the scene. Odd angles, abstract shapes, moving water and close values created a real challenge, and I spent more time staring rather than drawing. I realized that the stone had a grain to it that resembled water. Then the goldfinches started coming, drinking and bathing in the pool in front of me. What could I do but stare? Next, a spectacular male lazuli bunting appeared. You don't often see them, and, again, all I could do was stare. Soon it was time to go, and I hadn't even finished my sketch. From a "painting" standpoint, the afternoon was a total failure...

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Shambhala Mountain Center

The Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat center in the foothills of northern Colorado, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The Guerrilla Painter remembers when (back in the '70s) there was virtually nothing there. Now they have a world-class stupa, all kinds of buildings and facilities, and various classes, programs and retreats. Dalai Lama visited recently, using a helicopter to fly in from the Denver airport.

Since they offer their facilities (600 quite, beautiful acres, various lodging options at reasonable rates that include three meals a day), I've often thought that it would be a good venue for a plein air painting workshop.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Will Rogers, Art Critic

Will Rogers was a world traveler and movie star as well as a humorist.
Here is his opinion about painting, which could serve as encouragement to us all:
"When you ain't nothing else you're an artist--it's one thing you can claim to be and no one can prove you ain't."