Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Favorite Pianist

When our USk Chicago group was recently at the Chicago Cultural Center, many of us were entertained by the very talented Irina Feoktistova as part of the Sunday Salon Concert Series. While I was only about 15 yards away facing the opposite direction from the performance, my ears enjoyed the performance (to say the least). 

It turns out that my mother-in-law is a wonderfully talented pianist who has played so long that many of the songs in her repertoire she has memorized. My piano--which normally collects way too much dust these days since my son has switched to the electronic synthesizer--comes to life whenever Juliet is in the house. Preparing the final details on a Thanksgiving meal are so much more enjoyable when Juliet is filling the house with her music.


Friday, January 25, 2013

One perfect note

Continuing with Urban Sketchers meet at the Chicago Cultural Center...

I was already sitting at a great angle sketching the grand piano in the Music room when two ladies arrived chatting in Russian and walked to the piano. One sat down and proceeded to play a piece of Tchaikovsky intoning it in a familiar Russian manner. That was just a warm up, the concert would actually start later.



The piano in my sketch was nearly complete so I just sat the lady pianist in front of it, tiger striped outfit and all. 

I was sitting there sketching, listening to Tchaikovsky and thinking that life rarely gets better than this: beautiful room, Tiffany glass, wonderful live music, five old and new friends around me, a pen and a sketchbook. Cheers!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Urban sketching as evidence?

Chicago suburbs: Sometimes the act of urban sketching puts the artist in a real life situation where it is tough to decide when to jump in and help and when to capture the event. The action may happen so fast that the only way to capture the event is by taking a photograph or to have the scene so clearly etched in the mind (such as this one). This sketch was created in 1977 when I used to live on a busy street in the suburbs, at the bottom of a hill where drivers often stop and turn into the subdivision. Often I would hear screeching of tires, slamming on the brakes, and the more rare collisions.  This accident was captured after all of the first responders had arrived and the situation was under the control of the incident commander. I became one of the many witnesses standing across the street to see how the rescue mission would play out and I could then focus on contrast of shapes and the lighting for the nighttime event. Sometimes what the urban sketcher captures may be useful to the police because our observational skills can help piece together the puzzle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Telling the Story





So many Urban Sketchers capture their cities in the architecture but for me it's the people. There's nothing like people-watching in the city. It gets my creative juices flowing! So many stories, each unique and yet somehow universal.

While most of USk Chicago sketched in the Cultural Center I ventured across the street to
the rink at Millennium Park.  Despite the cold it was filled with skaters. There were tourists and locals, novices and pros, kids and the forever youngs and of course the speedsters. HA! When you're trying to sketch them they're all speedsters!

After sketching at the rink for I while I went back to the Center to meet up with the others and to finish up the color on my sketches. What a great group! It was a fun day!

Really Tired

On my way home from the Chicago Cultural Center "Let's Sketch" event on January 20th, I chilled out in the food court of the Ogilvy Transportation Center. I spotted this poor guy. So tired was he that he didn't even know he was laying down on his take out container. I've been there so I felt for him. And I wondered if the two people in the background had noticed him or if they were snapping pictures.

Sketched in pencil, then traced in Uniball MicroVision pen. While I most often work in colored markers and pencils, this sketch I scanned and bought into my iPad and colorized it in iBis PaintX. Pretty cool program and I expect to bring it to more "Let's Sketch" events.

We took over Chicago Cultural Center

The January Urban Sketchers meet turned out a spectacular event. An unprecedented number of artists showed up. It felt like there were 30 of us, or perhaps it was only 20 and I am exaggerating in my excitement. I really could not count us all, there literally was at least one Urban Sketcher in every room, and the Cultural Center is a very large building. One of our sketchers - Lucas - invited two of his classmates from American Academy of Arts and his painting teacher! It also felt that perhaps the movement is finally making traction in Chicago and beginning to gain momentum.


The internal architecture of the building is so beautiful that it is very hard to settle down and select something one to draw. I knew I had to limit myself to something manageable. I sketched in the Cultural Center before and was aware how easy it is to be enchanted by its beauty and try to grab too much for a given amount of time. So I chose a window, just one window, looking south on Washington Ave.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Urban Sketchers Chicago Cultural Center

When one thinks of the Chicago Cultural Center at the corner of Washington and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, they might think of intricate, ornate details to the highest degree. And as a sketcher, nothing is more attractive than intricate detail...unless you only have a couple of hours to sketch. There is a lot of pressure to decide where to set down your things and invest a few hours of your day to produce a sketch or two. Then I came across this view looking out the East window, overlooking Millenium Park and the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavillion designed by Frank Gehry. To me it was a nice juxtaposition of the ultra modern architecture set against the frame from the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly the Chicago Public Library). 

This sketch was originally done as a simple window frame with the Pritzker Pavillion off in the distance. But this sketch lacked something until people would walk into my view and look out the window to see Millenium Park. Finally I had the missing element to my composition.

I generally pencil lightly first to block out the scene, then I come back in with a Uni-ball gel pen, and finish it off with various colors of Prismacolor markers. With markers there is a nice graduation effect that happens when the markers are slightly dry and I use a whipping hand motion towards the light source.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside!

We went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at Navy Pier yesterday. This thumbnail records a Wow moment for me. The color, the light and the shadows looked just like the temperature felt…Brrr.