Thursday, July 22, 2021

T&T Thursday!

Last T&T Thursday Alex shared her journey to drawing excellence. Knowing how it can be done shows us the way. Knowing the benefits shows us the why!

No Excuses!

By Barbara Weeks

Did you know that until the late 1920s - early 1930s drawing was part of the regular school curriculum? While not one of the 3 Rs, it was considered an important tool for developing concepts, sharpening thought, and sharing ideas. 

What Happened? 

One of the major factors was the development of photography made drawing seem like an unnecessary skill. In more recent years, computer advancements in the visual communication field made drawing appear to be unimportant even unnecessary but things are changing. 

Why Draw?

Whether it’s called drawing, sketching, or doodling, today, we’re rediscovering there are real benefits to drawing. If you're an experienced artist looking to reboot or a newbie looking for kindred spirits, this is for you.

Benefits of Drawing
  • Improves eye-hand coordination
  • Improves memory
  • Improves communication skills
  • Relieves stress (Have you seen all the coloring books for grown-ups that are in the stores?)
  • Increases creativity
  • Increases observational skills
  • Increases attention to detail
  • Records ideas
  • Increases positive emotions (Why do you think restaurants give crayons an paper to children?)
  • The more you draw the better your drawing skill
  • It's fun
And this is just a partial list!

Drawing relieves stress, preserves a memory, and conveys ideas.

Want to Draw More but Need a Nudge? 

We know the benefits of drawing; it only makes sense to draw more. It’s funny that two of the causes for drawing less are now big helps to start drawing more – the computer and the internet. 
There’s an internet group out there made just for you and your sketching needs. FaceBook offers an almost endless list of groups that unite like-minded sketchers for encouragement, inspiration, to share information and sketches. There are drawing quests issued on Facebook and Instagram to challenge you to draw more. Post your work, add the proper # and join in the fun. 

Enjoy and share sketching online communities – Sketchbook Work, Urban Sketching, #EDM2015

On location sketching:

Sketchbook work:


The challenges vary and crop up seasonally. Search these hashtags for ideas:
  • #inktober
  • #everydayinmay
  • #uskchicago
  • #doodlersanonymous
  • #usk

    Working for years as a graphic designer, I reached a point when I felt handcuffed by the computer and missed the creative boost of sketching by hand. That’s when I discovered Urban Sketchers (thank you Gabi Campanario!) and Everyday Matters (thank you, Danny Gregory). They were the beginning. There was no turning back! I found I didn’t need  an excuse to draw, I had reasons to draw. 

    How about you, why do you draw? Do you have a favorite group?

    Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.

    Monday, July 12, 2021


    Let's Sketch

    Chase Plaza

    Sunday, July 18

    12 PM - 3 PM


    This month's meet up will be at Chase Plaza in downtown Chicago. There are wonderful sketching opportunities at this location including the Chase building, the plaza and the fountain, and the Chagall mural, 'Four Seasons'.

    We'll meet at the stairs on the Monroe side. 

    Thursday, July 8, 2021

    T&T Thursday!

    Paka 2021

    Thoughts on Talent

    By Alex Zonis

    Many times, as I am sitting sketching in a park or a cafe, someone would stop by, look over my shoulder, and then say with a wistful air "I wish I had your talent… I'd like to draw too…"

    I usually hesitate to tell them, but I will tell you: I have no talent.

    What I have is an incessant desire to make images. I have persistence and tenacity. I gave up on instant gratification and the need to look good right away. I bought in on an idea of 10,000 hours. But talent… no, definitely not. But let's examine the situation with more attention.

    For decades I did not draw or paint or make art, because I was convinced that I had no "talent". Fairly late in life I came up with a rebellious idea that I don't actually need this thing "talent" to draw or paint. Ha! What a liberation it was! I took a pencil and did an exercise from a drawing book, the year was 2009:

    I did more exercises from books, and interestingly enough my drawings got better.

    Then I came across a book by Malcolm Gladwell "Outliers: The Story of Success" and read about 10,000 hours concept. 

    The idea is that you need about 10,000 hours of practice to get good at whatever you want to get good at. I did the math: working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, gives 2,000 hours of practice in one year. In 2010 I'd barely scratched the surface… I realized that I needed 5 years of dedicated practice. I also realized that I don't need "talent", I need skill. That was doable, and I got to work.

    These are some examples. 






    I have done my 5 years - 10,000 hours and much more! I have moved from being afraid of putting a pencil to paper to being a professional artist and a painting instructor. 

    Here's one more thing to keep in mind. In the beginning of your 10,000 hours quantity is more important than quality. 
    There once was an experiment in a pottery class of an art school. For one semester a class was divided in 2 halves. Students in the first group were asked to make one single pot each during the time of that semester, but it should be the best pot they ever made. The grade would be given based on the quality of that single pot. The second group was asked to make as many pots as they possibly can, quality and beauty not important. These students would get their grades based on the number of pots they made, the more the better. As you probably guessed, by the end of the semester pots produced by the "quantity" group  were better and more beautiful than single pots made by the "quality" group. 

    This example comes from a book "Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking" by David Bayles and Ted Orland. You can get this book from Amazon for under $4.00 used. It is a little book - 120 pages, small format - with a lot of wisdom. This will be the best art book you ever bought.

    A practical and observable shift in quality of work occurs through practice and work. "Talent" is not even a part of this equation.

    During my years of practice and self-study I arrived to several conclusions that I want to share with you:
    • If you can write a grocery list - you can draw too. You have all visual and motor skills that you need.
    • There is no such thing as talent. Talent is a man-made construct that is not really helpful.
    • Drawing can be taught. Why do you think there are so many art schools and art teachers. Find the right one. Teaching yourself works too.
    • Practice and time on task is all there is. Don't just trust me, try for yourself. Then come back in 6 months and thank me :).

    Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.

      Thursday, July 1, 2021

      July Muse


      July Sketching Prompts

      Show Us What and Where

      • July 4    It "says" summer
      • July 11 – Street furniture (hydrant, mailbox, etc.)
      • July 18 – Something tiny BIG
      • July 25 – The oldest thing you see

      Have fun!

      Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.

      Thursday, June 24, 2021

      T&T Thursday!


      Drawing the Line

      By Barbara Weeks

      A line drawing is like a solo piano. It can express everything from the even cadence of practicing scales, to the emotion of a concerto, to the novel rhythm of a jazz improvisation, and all with just a single instrument! A 2B pencil is usually my instrument of choice but a ballpoint, a fountain pen, a fiber-tipped pen or even a stick can bring its own distinct qualities to a sketch. 

      There are many reasons to explore line as a drawing technique. Here's just a few:
      • It comes naturally to us. Watch a child draw with abandon using line. We all unconsciously doodle with line. We should stretch and develop this natural tendency.
      • Line emphasizes shape and helps us see structure. 
      • It can be a quick way to get fleeting impressions of our surroundings down on paper.
      • A single line can be slow and sensitive describing the attitude of a shoulder or the roll of a hilly landscape.
      • Line can show the erratic movement of a crowd or the scratchy texture of a piece of toast.
      • A confident and varied line can give even the most mundane subject character.


      A few tricks:
      • Vary the pressure on your line from heavy to light to disappearing to show volume and distance. 
      • Restate a line when searching for a shape or form. Don’t erase the old line. It will add life and energy to the drawing.
      • Practice making lines that describe different textures such as smooth, hard, soft, hairy.
      • Practice freehand drawing straight (well, straightish) lines on the paper varying the  thickness. When I practice I usually make two dots at least three inches apart and then connect the dots. and work down the page. It will give you a sure hand and a confident line. It’s like practicing the scales on the piano.


      African Ape 

      A beautiful painting is a wonder to behold but there is much to be said for the simple power of a line drawing. It’s like a full orchestra and a solo piano.

      Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.

      Monday, June 21, 2021

      And We're Back!!!


      Let's Sketch


      Sunday, June 27

      12 PM - 3 PM

      Hosted by

      As we are coming out of hibernation, what can be better than Chicago Riverwalk on a summer day! A favorite destination from years past, we will revisit and sketch it anew.


      We will meet at Chicago Riverwalk south bank, at Vietnam War Memorial. This is between Wabash and State streets and down by the river.

      Lots to sketch at Riverwalk:

      • spectacular skylines
      • gorgeous architecture
      • bridges and bridge houses
      • boats and kayaks
      • people
      •  landscape
      • and more!

      Plus bustling outdoor restaurants serving brunch!

      Sketch on banner by Alex Zonis

      Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.

      Thursday, June 10, 2021

      T&T Thursday!


      Off the Grid

      By Barbara Weeks

      As Urban Sketchers we often get together to sketch for an hour or two or more. There are also those times we use our sketchbooks as a journal of our everyday lives and travels. We add titles, text, and occasionally ephemera to some of our pages. It’s a natural to want the composition of those pages to enhance our sketches rather than distract from them. One way I design a page is by using the grid method.

      A grid is a plan made up of a series of intersecting straight (vertical, horizontal, and angular) lines, similar to graph paper. It provides the skeleton of a page. it supports the elements on the page and makes them work I relation to each other.

      Years of working in print production designing layouts for magazines, promo pieces, etc. has given me a lot of practice designing to the grid. It's second nature to me and a sketchy version of aligning on a grid is my go-to method for designing pages in my sketchbook. In graphic design the grid comes first. In my sketchbooks it can show up at anytime. It can be the before or after guide for a loose alignment of page elements. I want to emphasize it’s a loose alignment. The casual use of the grid is in keeping with the spirit and look of sketching.

      Where, How, When?

      Applying a grid before the sketch 


      When I’m  traveling I sometimes choose a theme for a few spreads. On this trip to San Francisco one theme I was exploring was the trees. I drew the four frames freehand before I did any sketching and added the sketches over a few days. To keep the layout from being too static I left a section open for a possible surprise. Note the top and bottoms of the frames align, the bottom of the surprise pine cone and the baseline of the lower text align. The title on the left balances the lower right text.

      Applying a grid after the sketch 

      These sketches were quick observations at the ice rink in Millennium Park in Chicago. The frames were hand drawn to unify the spread after the sketches were done . The frames are lined up on either the vertical, the top, or centered on another frame. The skater on the left escapes the frame for a little surprise and aligns with the frame around the coffee drinker on the right. 

      When the muse strikes

      If you use a ruler on the examples above you’ll find the alignments aren't labored over but are "guesstimates." When I’m sketching it’s about the fun and joy of sketching and I go with the flow. I don’t always stick to the pre-drawn plan as you can see in the sketch below. Take note where the text is placed. Can you tell why I placed it where I did?

      When disaster strikes

      This is a series of doodles done at Starbucks in our local Target. One disappointing scribble after another provides the perfect challenge for the my grid theory.

      Creating a loose alignment on the (or near) grid lines can strengthen your sketches and the composition of the page. Look at the line up of the added frames and the added text. They add organization to the page. If you want to give the post-sketching grid a try without committing use a piece to tracing paper to work out your plan.

      One More Tip

      I almost forgot the most important thing – no matter what the T&T, have fun and be brave!

      Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.