Sunday, March 20, 2016

USK Spotlight Sunday: Fred Polito

Spotlight Sunday is series of interviews designed to introduce and highlight Chicago Urban Sketchers individually. Now that our chapter has reached nearly 500 members it has become more of a challenge to meet every single member in person and have a meaningful conversation. These posts concentrate on individuals and speak in their own words.

Meet Fred Polito

Interviewed by Wes Douglas

This week's Spotlight Sunday features the watercolor visions of Fred Polito, an architect and urban sketcher from Northbrook.  I was immediately attracted to Fred and his sketches when I first met him at The Den Theater in Wicker Park for our Urban Sketching get together last year. I personally have not mastered watercolors so I am always interested to learn more from those who do. That is why I was excited to interview Fred and have the chance to introduce him to the rest of you.

Wes: Hello there Fred and thank you for agreeing to participate in my interview. 
I am interested in how you learned about Urban Sketching and what made you decide to join Urban Sketching Chicago?

Fred: My wife and I were on one of our typical weekend outings in Chicago, she with her knitting and me with my sketchbook. While walking thru Lincoln Square, Alex Zonis saw me sketching, I saw the Urban Sketchers group doing the same, we talked and I joined the group.  It was a very fortuitous meeting. I've enjoyed the energy that the Group has given me.

Wes: Fred, why do you sketch and in what ways does it help you?

Fred: When I make a sketch, I enjoy the focus it brings to my time and mind and how it uncontrollably reflects what I'm really thinking and feeling at that moment.

Wes: I am such a big fan of your work and to see you create some of the freshest views of a particular scene. I find your work inspiring. What then inspires you and the sketches you create?

Fred: When I look at these 2/20/16 sketches, I don't see the Shedd Aquarium or the inside of the Field Museum as much as I hear the sunshine and remember a sparkling, almost Spring-like day. And then a great early dinner at Uru-Swati Indian Restaurant and having Urban Sketchers to thank for getting us out of the house.

Wes:  Fantastic. Whenever I see your work, I am amazed at how you command the watercolors in your sketches. Are watercolors your favorite sketch tool or do you have others?

Fred: A 4B pencil and watercolor paints with big brushes are, perhaps too much, my favorite tools. A bigger variety of tools would help develop more variety in sketches.

USK: Now, you live in Northbrook and I know a lot of your work takes place in the Chicago area. But where is your favorite place to sketch?

Fred: A side table in a cafe on the street, preferably in France.

Wes: Haha. I need to get to France myself. What do you do when you are not Urban Sketching? Do your sketching skills play into your day job? If so, how do they help you?

Fred: My urban sketching is an off chute of all my earlier hand drawings for my architectural designs.  Now, my office makes the designs with computer produced drawings.

Samples of my drawings can be see on my website by clicking on "Artwork."
Fred Polito  Architect
Northbrook, IL   60062

Wes: Fred, I am excited to learn more about the sketches that you sent me. 
Tell me about this first one which looks like the Field Museum in Chicago.

Fred: Yes, for this first sketch, my wife and I were walking thru Grant Park toward the Field Museum and the Urban Sketching Event. We were enjoying the wonderful February weather and the people watching opportunities. We spotted a park bench.  I was feeling the energy that the day and site was giving and also feeling the time constraint for a sketch. Hence, pencil and quick washes, trying to express the monumental scale and classical architecture of the Field Museum in 15 min. I remember the park bench the most.

Wes: Thanks Fred. I do remember that warm day and how I hated to be inside the Field Museum. While I was inside drawing replicas of dinosaur fish and warthogs, you seemed to take advantage of this opportunity to sketch outside. For this second sketch, it appears that you sketched the Shedd Aquarium, is that right?

Fred: Yes. Meeting with the Urban Sketchers group inside the Museum and considering the sketch possibilities, I agreed with my wife that the day was too nice to spend all indoors. Plus the City location can't get much better. Sketch 2 was supposed to be about the color, trees and building forms of the view of the Shedd Aquarium as seen from the Field Museum steps. What I remember most was talking with students from Manitowoc, WI and a family from Springfield, IL and why I so like Chicago.

Wes: Nice! As I am looking at your third sketch, I see that you finally made it inside the Field Museum. Did the weather get colder? Was the sun going down? Tell me a little about this last sketch.

Fred: Losing my spot in the sun and getting texts from my wife that she had a front row table at the Field Museum Cafe, I headed inside, settled in and felt more relaxed and in and under control. The resulting sketch, in my mind, conveys that state.

Wes: I guess that is all the questions I have for now. Thank you Fred for being so generous with your time and sharing your talent with us. To my fellow artists and fans of Fred's work, be sure to stop by and say hello to Fred next time you see him at one of our USk Chicago Let's Sketch events. 

Note: If you are interested in coming to one of our monthly sketching events with the chance to meet Fred and other very friendly and talented artists, check out our group Facebook page: or the USk Chicago Blog:

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