Thursday, March 15, 2018

Registration for the 2018 USk Chicago Sketch Seminar is now Open!!!

Registration is Now Open For The USk Chicago Sketch Seminar.  

Here's a direct link to our registration site ( We hope to see you this summer! 


Registration is Now Open


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Only 1 more day until registration opens!!!

Registration day is almost here! Please visit our Seminar blog for more information. 
We hope to see you in Chicago this summer!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Do You Know These People?

We're Glad We Do!

Introducing the Instructors for the USk Chicago Sketch Seminar 2018

Meet the instructors individually on the Seminar blog. That's the go-to-place for information on our 2018 Sketch Seminar. 

If you're lucky enough to be going to the 9th Urban Sketchers International Symposium – Porto in July, the USk Chicago Sketch Seminar is a good place to warm up your skills! If not, it's the perfect place to work on your sketching and have a fun time without going far from home!

Want to see the eighteen different workshops and their descriptions that will be available at our seminar in June? They're right here! You can start planning your March 15th registration now.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Best Practices for Sketching People in Public (and not getting caught)

I am often asked how I am able to sketch people in public without getting people angry or upset. After years of sketching people at airports, on commuter trains and even while in waiting rooms, here is what has worked best for me. Perhaps one of these will work for you. A special thank you to fellow urban sketchers Ted Gordon, Angie (Haugh) Novak and Emily White for their experiences and shared tips.

1.    Sketch first, ask later. In my experience, when you first ask for permission to sketch a person, it may be met with initial resistance, or it will effect the pose you were originally attracted to. Besides, if you already have a sketch started and the person asks what you are doing, having a concrete example can work better than explaining what you are planning to do.

2.    Creative Disguising. Normally accepted disguises, such as hats and sunglasses work well to cover your gaze. The idea is to blend in, not stand out and attract attention so sunglasses in a dark restaurant or tavern might cause suspicion.

3. Sketch in a smaller book is a great way to disguise that you are drawing.

4.    Don’t Be A Bobble-head. Pick a more crowded location. If you are the only other person in the room, anything you do will be noticeable. Cartoon of head movements.

5.    Leverage reflections at night. If someone looks back at you, move your head side to side as if trying to look past them. Cartoon of subject upset, on window is warning “Caution: objects in reflection are closer than they appear.”

6.    Sketch from inside your car. Lots of people eat or have phone calls inside their car. Sad cartoon of lowly artist sketching from behind steering wheel.

7.    Sketch from an upper level, or from the side, out of their line of sight. Sketching from below is still within their peripheral.

8.    Capture first in pencil to block out the basic posture and position. Add color or shading later if you have time. For moving subjects, go for your impressions of their movements such as dancers or skateboarders at the park. 

9.    Pick subjects who are fully engrossed in their activity. Examples might include commuters on their electronic devices, a chef at work behind a viewing window, or an athlete during a sporting event.

10. Invite a friend to lunch or coffee and chat while sketching over their shoulder. I used this technique when I got together with Liz Steel while we planned out our WGN-TV interview while sitting at a coffee shop. She, of course, did the same and we sketched in opposite directions.

In the event that you do get "caught" and the subject confronts you, simply show them your sketch and allow them to look at it. Most of the time, people will be relieved that you were not taking photos and sketches are more flattering than photographs. Feel free to start a conversation with the person if the opportunity presents itself.

I'd love to hear which one works best for you and your stories of how it turned out in the comments below. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Catching Up | Time Marches On

Elephant Automaton Clock, 1600–1625 German (Augsburg)
LUMA | Loyola University Museum of Art 

Last year was quite a year for USk Chicago – 10 Years 10 Classes, the 8th International Urban Sketches Symposium, TV coverage, monthly sketch meet-ups around the city, and more. It seems this blog then took a deep breath for six months! Now we're off and running again! 

We've started planning for our summer Usk Chicago Sketch Seminar that will be held on June 1-3, 2018! Lot's of details to follow, but in the meantime, we've been accepting teaching proposals for our seminar workshops. The January 31st deadline is fast approaching! If you're interested in applying and/or have questions, leave a comment here or send a FaceBook message at Urban Sketchers Chicago to Alex Zonis or me  (Barbara McCafferty Weeks). We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Chicago Cultural Center – Formerly Chicago's Central Public Library

The Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897, is a Chicago Landmark building that houses the city's official reception venue where the Mayor of Chicago has welcomed Presidents and royalty, diplomats and community leaders. It is located in the Loop, across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park. This building is a favorite cold weather location for Urban Sketchers Chicago.

The following interior sketches of the Chicago Cultural Center are by Alex Zonis

Originally the central library building, it was converted in 1977 to an arts and culture center at the instigation of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg. The city's central library is now housed across the Loop in the spacious, post-modernist Harold Washington Library Center opened in 1991. The building was designed by Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge for the city's central library, and Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) meeting hall and memorial in 1892.   

This is the Harold Washington Library. With the conversion of Chicago's former central library into the Chicago Cultural Center in 1977, a long-term temporary central library was opened in the Mandel Building at 425 North Michigan Avenue and much of the library's collection was put into storage.

A highly publicized design competition, the winning design was awarded to the most overtly traditional approach in the midst of some very diverse proposals. The building recalls neoclassical institutions, but is not literal in all its details. Anyone who walks past this solid red brick structure is compelled to look up when a strong sense that you are being watched overcomes you. It is one of four10 foot tall owls situated at the corners of the roofline.

With the support of then Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and Chicago's wealthy 
Pritzker family, ground was broken at the chosen site at Congress Parkway and State Street, covering an entire block. Upon the building's completion in 1991, the new mayor, Richard M. Daley, named the building in honor of the now-deceased former mayor Harold Washington, an advocate of reading and education among Chicagoans as well as an advocate of the library's construction.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Suggestions for passing Border Control and Customs

O'Hare airport - Alex Zonis

USk Chicago welcomes all our guests to our city for the 8th International Urban Sketchers Symposium.

Given the level of stress about passing the Border Control on arrival, we collected information from official websites and suggestions from our friends in legal profession. We also included some observations from personal travel experiences.

Disclaimer: We are sketchers and not lawyers. The suggestions we share with you are our understanding. They are not legal or official recommendations. We hope that our international guests will find them helpful, but they are not a guarantee.

During an interview with a Border Control officer, please keep these in mind.
  1. Emphasize your trip is a visit
  2. State that the purpose of your visit is to participate in Urban Sketchers Symposium
  3. State period of time you plan to stay in United States
  4. Have a receipt of payment for the Symposium
  5. Have proof of a return ticket
  6. Have hotel reservation info or info about where and with whom you are staying  
  7. Have a proof of a job back home, if it applies to you. A letterhead with company name stating your return date to work, if possible.
  8. State that you have family back at home, if it applies to you
  9. If traveling to additional destinations before or after the Symposium, have a copy of your itinerary
  10. If asked about your health, answer that you are generally healthy
  11. The Border Control officer may ask you to unlock your phone and/or give access to your laptop. Allow the officer access to your device. If you have private or sensitive data on your device, make a backup copy of your drive at home and delete this data from the device. You can restore it back at home or download from cloud/network after you passed border processing.
  12. Do not carry questionable items, meats, seeds
During Border Control and Customs process, please be patient and polite, follow all of the directions asked and supply any documents to give the Border Control a clear idea that you are only visiting. Answer all questions truthfully and concisely; long explanations may create more questions. Humor does not work well with border officers, the border entry officers are generally focused on their jobs and are not chatty. Keep in mind: border agents are overworked, underpaid and sometimes stressed because directions they receive can change quickly and unpredictably.

We wish you safe and easy travels and cannot wait to welcome everyone in Chicago!