Thursday, January 13, 2022

T&T Thursday!

Technology Is Great...  Until It Isn't 

By Wes Douglas

We are all very fortunate to have technology in our lives, especially those portable computers that fit in our backpacks, purses, and pockets. Whenever we get stumped on the name of that actor in that movie from 1962, or we want to show you an important photo to help move our story along, we pull out that phone or tablet and look it up (or ask our device to look it up for us). Want to pull up a soundtrack to go along with that great mood you are in? Just search a artist or genre and that little computer will do the curating for you. Sometimes we need our portable computers to help us feel good about connecting to friends, family and even work colleagues.

But other times,

technology can be a lonely place. 

There are these little built-in roadblocks that make technology so–well let’s just say that technology at that point is not our friend. Right when you are in the middle of a movie you are hooked on, or a video call, a warning pops up that you’re almost out of battery power. Or that if you want to continue, you will need to update your subscription or upgrade to a newer version of your device. Aaaarrrggghhh!

And sometimes you’ll find that you have spent hours scrolling your device to see what other people are up to and, much like scanning tv channels, you find that there is nothing interesting. And with all that time invested, what do you really have to show for it?

Well, my friends, that’s when you should remember your quiet pal the sketchbook. 

It never runs out of battery power or has trouble connecting to the WIFI. You don’t have to constantly purchase new apps or upgrade your version software. And there are no cords and plugs to deal with…I know, I’ve already checked. 

Ever so often you may have to replace your pen with a new one because you used up all the ink. And more frequently, you may be lured to the art store to see if you are missing out on the latest in analog art supplies. If you drop your sketchbook in a puddle, it may be a little soggy but nothing is lost for good (you may need a hairdryer to help you save your book). But none of that really prevents you from continuing on your current sketch journey.

And here is the best part: 

You can spend seconds, hours, days or even years getting lost in your drawings and what you have to show for all that time invested are filled pages of sketches that represent your observations, your experiments, your mistakes, your successful sketches and your memories. Time becomes meaningless when you are having fun exploring your craft. Next thing you know you’ve filled one sketchbook, then ten, then twenty and you will soon look up one day at your bookshelves and it will be filled up by your sketchbooks and your stories. Just ask Liz Steel who is famous for her catalogued collection of sketchbooks. 

People talk about leaving a small carbon footprint in the world. How about leaving your own legacy in the memories and sketches you have collected over time and it can be as big and wonderful as you make it.

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.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Let’s Sketch Chicago


Let's Sketch Chicago

A Favorite Spot

Sunday, January 16, 2022

12:00 PM – 3:00PM

Hosted by  Mary Jo Ernst and Urban Sketchers Chicago

Happy Holidays and New Year!

This time of the year it is natural to reflect upon our year as we put 2021 behind us. We are hopeful for the New Year and take note of the blessings we have and organize our goals for 2022.

Due to increased risks of Covid this will be an online/virtual meetup without an in person event. Let’s stay safe and healthy!


  • For the January theme think about your favorite spot that brings comfort and inspiration. 
  • You can use the first 3 weeks of 2022 to sketch your spot and please share why you chose the subject matter. 
  • Sketches will be shared Sunday Jan 16th in the spirit of our in person throw downs. 
  • Do not stress if you cannot post on the 16th, post when convenient.

The Admins of USK Chicago wish you a very Happy New Year and look forward to meeting in person again once the pandemic settles.

Banner sketch by MJ Ernst (Wilmington, NC a great source for inspiration)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

T&T Thursday

 Braving the Cold

Sketched from the Bus Stop Shelter at the Field Museum

Tips for Urban Sketching in Winter

It's tempting not to venture outdoors to sketch in the dead of winter. Be smart but don't give in!

Be Prepared

  • Wear lots of layers. You can adjust what to keep  on and off.
  • Invest in fingerless gloves or mittens with fingers folders.
  • Bring an insulated mug with a hot beverage
  • Handwarmer pouches are great too
  • Pack only the essentials

Be Brave 

  • Keep it simple!  
  • Think process not product.Enjoy the sketching don't aim for a masterpiece.
  • What says "cold" to you? Sketch that!
  • Add a note of the weather conditions, temperature, etc.

Get to Work

  • Again keep it simple (I know, I say that a lot!)
  • Pack only essential sketching equipment, e.g.  a pencil, water brush, simple watercolor palette 

Odds and Ends 

  • If you're using watercolor, a little vodka or alcohol in the water/waterbrush will keep your paint from freezing.
  • Sketch from your car
  • Sketch what you see outside your window at home.       

Post Your Sketches!

When you post your sketches let us know what tips you used or can add to the list!

Happy Holidays!

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, December 9, 2021

T&T Thursday

Sketching Blindly

Through Years and Changes 

By  Alex Zonis

Some things get old - desktop computers? Some get obsolete - VCRs? Some even become a joke - telephone books lol. But some only become better with age - classical music, fine wine. Blind contour drawing belongs in this category.

Some years ago I wrote about blind contour drawing at a boring benefit as a method of saving ourselves from falling asleep. The world changed. Now we don’t have too many in person benefits to attend, but we have day-long Zoom conferences, multi-hour webcasts, online team meetings across time zones. Here is my old article is as relevant as ever!

How many times did you have to attend a boring event? Yep, me too. Often it is a fancy party or a benefit for some very noble cause you get to attend with your spouse. It is their cause, and you are just along for solidarity and support. Yawn! 

But don't fret! We got you covered! All you need is this:

A little book and a pen will fit in your evening clutch or sport coat pocket. 

  • Get them out when they will begin speeches. 
  • Keep your eyes on the speaker. It is too dark to see anything on your paper anyway. 
  • Have the pen touch the paper and go. 
  • Trace the shape of his head with your eyes and let your fingers follow with the pen. 
  • Then his neck and shoulders. 
  • What is he wearing? Trace those lapels. 
  • Is there any hair? Add it, if applicable. 

If you want, you can glance down at your paper every so often - this is not a test.

When you have the basic outline down add some darks.

  • Just scribble in any way you like to create dark masses.
  • Add facial features without being too specific.
  • Put in some details, if you have time: a tie, a necklace if any. 

You are done! 

Turn the page and find another victim attendee.

You may find that your heads are sometimes detached from shoulders. Facial features may land outside the heads, a tie may be pinned to a shoulder like a tail on a donkey. This all is fine and even great, you don't have to show your drawings to anyone. You will also find these sketches oddly expressive and free. And you will realize that you are no longer bored. In fact you may not even notice that they finished with speeches, and it is time for the rubber chicken. Good. You can sketch that woman sitting across from you.

What you are doing is practicing blind contour drawing.  Blind contour drawing is a method of drawing where an artist draws the contour of a subject without looking at the paper. This artistic technique was introduced by Kimon Nicolaïdes in The Natural Way to Draw, and then made popular in Betty Edwards The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Nicolaïdes instructed his students to imagine that the pencil point is actually touching the contour of the subject. He suggested that the technique improves students' drawings because it causes students to use both senses of sight and touch. Blind contour drawing trains the eye and hand to work as a team, and it helps to really see all of the details of the object. 

The drawings above I sketched blindly in the dark at a benefit for Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis I attended with my husband. The speeches were coma inducing and the chicken awful… I had 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.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021


Let's Sketch Chicago

 Garfield Park Conservatory

SUNDAY, December 19, 2021

11:45 AM –  1:30 PM

Hosted by Rachel Pasch Grossman and Urban Sketchers Chicago

For our second hybrid sketch meet, we’ll be sketching at the Garfield Park Conservatory. 

You can join us on Sunday, December 19, at the Conservatory, or you can sketch there on your own, any time before that. Whichever you choose, we hope you’ll join our virtual throwdown on December 19, from 12 noon on.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the world, warm and revitalizing on a cold winter day. 

  • December 19th, we’ll meet at the front entrance at 11:45 a.m. 
  • We must enter as a group.
  • Due to covid, the Conservatory is limiting how long groups can stay, so we’ll be having our in-person throwdown there at 1:30.

Reservations provide a one-time entry for a 90 minute visit to the gardens. There is no re-entry if you exit the gardens.

Restrooms will be open and are located at the front entrance, in the lobby. We encourage you to plan your visit accordingly and use the restroom before or after your visit through the gardens.  Water fountains will not be available during your visit.

The Conservatory is located at 300 N. Central Park Avenue, just north of Lake Street. There is a large free parking lot on the south side of the Conservatory, and there is a Green Line stop right there, the Conservatory-Central Park Drive stop.

Note: If you want to go on your own, the Conservatory is requiring reservations, which are easy to get from the website,

If the Garfield Park Conservatory is inconvenient, you could sketch at 

(Plug from a local: the charming Oak Park Conservatory is a gem, with three well-established rooms, a small koi pond, and a couple of showy parrots. On-street parking and free admission too, located right off the Eisenhower.)

Our virtual throwdown will take place on Sunday Dec. 19 starting at 12 noon on our FB group. Share your sketches from this month and see what fellow members have created. To make your post easy to find, use the tag #uskchicago.

Banner sketch by Lisa Ridolfi.

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

Thursday, November 25, 2021

T&T Thanksgiving


Tried and True Tips and Tricks 

“When you go out to paint,

try to forget

what objects you have before you,

a street,

a house,

a field, or whatever. 

Merely think,

here is a little square of blue,

here is an oblong of pink,

here is a streak of yellow,

and paint it

 just as it looks to you,

the exact color and shape,

until it gives you your own naive

impression of the scene before you.”

                                                     Claude Monet

Happy Thanksgiving!

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, November 11, 2021

T&T Thursday

And still growing!

What is an Urban Sketch?

By  Alex Zonis

We continue to welcome new sketchers into our group, our numbers at this writing is an impressive 1620! Every couple of years it seems useful to touch on the common topic of what is an Urban Sketch.

An Urban Sketch simply is:
  • Drawn on location, or mostly on location. 
  • The location can be urban or rural
  • it can be inside or outside.
  • It means that you are out there with your sketchbook reporting on the world as it unfolds in front of you.

There are some No’s too 

An Urban Sketch is not: 
  • a drawing from a model
  • a still life on a page without background for context
  • drawing made from a photo

Through the most difficult months of the pandemic we became more lenient in our moderating and acceptance of posted sketches. Why add more stress to people’s lives - was the justification.

Now, as we are emerging on the other side of the stressful times, Urban Sketchers Chicago is returning to our core mission - sketching on location. This also means that we are returning to moderating our USk Chicago page to the pre-pandemic level.

Here’s our favorite graphic on what is, and what isn’t, an Urban Sketch.

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.