Sunday, June 26, 2016

Spotlight Sunday - Claudia Renzi


Spotlight Sunday is a series of interviews designed to introduce and highlight Chicago Urban Sketchers to one of its own. Now that our chapter has eclipsed the 500 member mark, it became more of a challenge to meet every member in person and have a conversation. The hope is that, through these interviews, you will get to know a little more about one artist and read their story in their own words and sketches.

Interview by: Andrew Banks (AB)

AB: Hi Claudia, thank-you for taking the time to talk and to tell our group a little bit about yourself!

How did you first hear about the Urban Sketchers community and what made you decide to join Urban Sketching Chicago?

© Claudia Renzi
I heard about Urban Sketching Chicago from Don Yang and Alex Zonis. We both take Don's Portrait class. They told me great things about this group and I needed a way to deal with life stresses at that moment. I find drawing very relaxing.

AB: That's awesome.  I also find urban sketching very relaxing.  There is something very meditative about focusing on capturing a scene on paper and blocking everything else out for a while.

AB: Did you sketch before finding USk Chicago?  If so, when did you start sketching?

Yes I have been drawing off and on since college, but never professionally. It has always been a hobby of mine. For the past couple of year I have tried to take it a bit more seriously.

AB:  I believe that you recently held a booth for the first time at the Wells Street Art Fair, and it looks like many of the pieces you were selling were urban sketches?  How did you like the experience, and how did people respond to your work?  Would you recommend other urban sketchers to pursue their own booth at an art fair?

CR: Yes, most of my drawings where urban sketches. Some where done in the spot and some where done at home from a picture (the theaters). Having a booth at the Wells Street Art Fest was a great and exiting experience, but since work a full time job as an Art Director for Crate and Barrel, preparing the artwork was very stressful and expensive in comparison to the profit. People responded favorably, I got lots of great complements and positive feedback. Specially Architects!!! It's good for getting your name out there. (I ran out off business cards) I also confirmed that people who attend festivals are not there to spend money in original art. I was able to sell lots a prints and stationary. Everyone should try it at least once.

AB:  What is your favorite medium to sketch with?

Moleskine Watercolor Sketch book, Japanese Platinum Carbon Ink for a Super Fine Fountain Pen.

AB: Interesting!  This is my "go to" sketch kit too.  I do a lot of ink drawing also, so I really identify with and enjoy your work.  It is always fun to see similarities and differences in other sketcher's work, especially when the sketcher has an overall similar style to your own.  Your work has definitely caught my eye and inspired my own work

AB:  Has urban sketching ever had an impact on your day job as a Graphic Designer?  If so how?

© Claudia Renzi
CR: Yes, it has. It has helped me mostly with conceptual design. I can more easily illustrate/explain logo and layout ideas. I am the kind of graphic designer that likest to sketch before working directly on the computer. My sensitivity to details has improved, specially when it comes to typographical solutions.

AB: Are there any Urban Sketchers who inspire your own work?

Yes of course. Many inspire me.  You, Alex Zonis, Don Yang, Fred Polito, Chris Buczinsky and  Adriana Gasparich. Just to name a few.AB: If you could chose the next location for the our group's monthly meet up, where would it be?  In other words, where is your favorite place in Chicago to sketch?

CR: Montrose Harbor in the summer. Any Chicago Theater in the winter.

AB:  Montrose Harbor would be a great summer location.  I actually spend a lot of time there myself, walking my dog and sketching too.

AB:  Do you have any websites, blogs or social media accounts where people can see more of your work?

Design website:
Fine art website:
Facebook page:
Studio Renzi (Etsy):

AB: Thanks Claudia! Your websites are really well done!  It has been a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing more of your work!

© Claudia Renzi

Sunday, June 19, 2016

USk Chicago Spotlight Sunday: Ken Czech

Interviewed by Wes Douglas (WD)

Spotlight Sunday is a series of interviews designed to introduce and highlight Chicago Urban Sketchers to one of its own. Now that our chapter has eclipsed the 500 member mark, it became more of a challenge to meet every member in person and have a conversation. The hope is that, through these interviews, you will get to know a little more about one artist and read their story in their own words and sketches.

Say “hello” to Ken Czech
On this Sunday, I am proud to introduce you to my friend Ken Czech, an alumni of The America Academy of Art (our host location for the Chicago Sketch Seminar) and a drummer with his group Peace Road. Ken and I immediately found a common bond in our love of music and sketching. Without further ado, welcome Ken and thank you for agreeing to chat with me today.

Ken: Sure thing Wes, I'm looking forward to this.

WD: Since you have been a member for a while and I keep missing you at the USK Chicago gatherings, please tell me your story and what brought you to Urban Sketchers Chicago. How did you hear about us and what do you think about it as a group?

Ken: I found a book on Urban Sketching at Barnes/Noble. As I dug into it, I noticed that "Hey! There are people out there who draw on location, just like I do". This prompted me to investigate USK further and I found the Chicago Chapter with all of you fine folks. I've only been to one event so far, but will surely join you soon in the future. I'm in Schaumburg, so I don't get to the city all that often. I think it's a tremendous activity and valuable resource to:
> Have fun doing what we would do anyway, in a group setting. 
> Learn from others who have expertise in a different area than my favorite routine. 

WD: Ah, only one event so far and here I thought we just kept missing each other. I think my first experiences were very similar to yours. So you were already drawing on location before joining the group? Why do you sketch and how does it help you?

Ken: I sketch because it's something I've always regularly done since graduating from American Academy of Art in '78. I've never been shy about drawing in public. I've met some interesting characters on my drawing excursions. Playboy centerfolds, big-bad biker dudes (who wanted me to draw their prized cycles), great musicians, men & women in our Armed Forces, athletes and little kids who always are up for a draw-session. Each one has a story to capture. It helps me train my eye for, detail, motion, likeness in a figure, gesture, texture, scenery, it goes on and on.

WD: Playboy centerfold?! Bad biker dudes? Ken you sound like a party animal. Beats the heck out of stone cold architecture I guess. So what is your favorite sketch tool? Do you have just one or do you have more?

KC: My go-to sketching tools are typically Micron pens or markers. Something quick & instant drying. I like the permanence of the line. You put it down and BAM!, it's there, good or bad. Forces you to maybe think before you put down the stroke because there's no turning back.

WD: You must have some favorite places where you like to sketch. I wonder if during a long guitar solo if you've ever pulled out a small sketchbook to sketch the guitarist? Ok maybe not. But where is your favorite place to sketch?

KC: My favorite place can be anywhere. I try to keep myself open to any possibility. Some favorite subjects are: musicians - they typically do not move much, so that helps; zoo animals - here you can be brave and try active motion animals like pacing cats, monkeys or sedentary rhinos, reptiles who will pose for you a long time; love to draw people/figures, in motion usually. (appeals to my masochistic sense); love to draw cool architecture, not so much the modern stuff, but old buildings, churches, barns, something with personality.

WD: Great, Ken, you pretty much covered most of the subjects that fit within the urban sketching repertoire. And now looking ahead to your sketches, I see some of my favorites: musicians. Tell me about the inspirations for this first one. I believe you call this "Slide Blues Dobro Player."

KC: Slide blues dobro player, great character study and great player.

WD: I love how this is nice and close up, just like this second one of a blues guitar player. 
Tell me about this one.

KC: Another great blues player. Wanted the close-up of the face and gesture of the hand on the instrument.

WD: Oh, I like these animals you've sketched in this next one. I always want to call these wildebeasts but I'm sure I'm incorrect. Were you on a safari or the zoo?

KC: Zoo animals, from life. They cooperated nicely that day. Animal anatomy - fascinating in its own way.

WD: These symphonic musicians are full of expressions I love. Your shading is really nice too.

KC: Symphonic ensemble piece. I love the variety of instruments and the body-language of each player with the instruments. A fun interaction to witness. I often go to live music events to check out bands for my music's sake as well as an opportunity to live-sketch.

WD: I think I recognize Sue in this next one.

KC: This was my first at a Chicago USK outing. Very enjoyable and had my son with me drawing as well (who also became a USK member). My outing with USK Chicago at The Field Museum. It was great to meet some of you that I've been following on Facebook. Extra fun to have my son there drawing with me. 

WD: Dang it. This was that one chance I had to meet you in person and I missed you? We must've been lost in that record-setting crowd of urban sketchers who turned out on that warm February Sunday. Very understandable. Why are these scenes special to you?

KC: These are special to me because they tap into my interests at the time. My subjects can always change, but I usually go back to my favorites at some point.

WD: What do you do when you are not sketching? Does your day job incorporate your sketching skills?

KC: When not sketching, I am a drummer in a working band, Peace Road, Woodstock Era Rock. We do songs from artists of the era, a wide range of musical styles. We can be quiet/acoustic or loud/bombastic as the song demands. A fun trip.

I also draw at live-model art-sessions, working on my figures and portraiture. (A never-ending challenge), nowhere to hide with a portrait or figure.

I am a retail display designer for International Paper, designing corrugated POP displays. (Those things we knock over with our shopping carts at grocery stores). Even in this computer-age, my company uses my, what I call "analog" art-skills, markers and hardline illustration, freehand for client ideation sketches. They like that not many do that anymore, so I've carved out a niche of survival doing that.

WD: I used to do those kinds of sketches myself for clients and I agree that clients still marvel at the ability to sketch out ideas. Where can we follow you on social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, or if you have a personal website displaying your sketches or paintings?

KC: I am on Facebook under “Ken Czech” and on Instagram as “d_rummer

I have a final story which expresses what I think Urban Sketching brings to us.
Some of you may have had similar experiences, I'm sure.

I was on a vacation trip to upstate New York, Adirondack area near Vermont. Pure "Norman Rockwell" mystique. Quaint villages and great scenery. Was staying in a small town and doing an on-location sketch of this old-fashioned gazebo, used by the town for local band-concerts and the like. This was such a great piece of architecture/craftsmanship, that I had to get it in the sketchbook. As I'm drawing this, a grade-school age kid comes up beside me to watch. His mother was nearby watching/enjoying our interaction, keeping a safe eye on the kid.

The kid says to me "That's a pretty good drawing, I really like it".  
We start to converse, "Do you like to draw also? I asked. "Yeah, I draw a lot!"     "I can draw Fred Flintstone!" "You do!?" "That's pretty cool!" I said. 
The mom is beaming. I tear out a page from the book. "Here, draw Fred Flintstone for me." I continue on with my gazebo. The kid is hard at work. Mom is smiling. The kid gives me this great drawing of Fred Flintstone, done from memory. I'm astounded.  "Can you sign this for me?" I said. 
The kid signs it and we exchange drawings, I kept the gazebo but gave him something out of the book. I still have that Fred Flintstone drawing somewhere in the house. A great memory and chance to meet some cool people along the way.

WD: That is a really special story. I have a feeling that if you were to ask any of us urban sketchers why we go out and sketch in public, we all know if we put up with the elements and constantly moving subject matter that it will be worth it because of one human moment that matters. 

Thank you Ken for sharing your stories, your talent and your sketches with us today. I know I learned so much more about you today. Now all I have to do is run into you at an upcoming sketch crawl.