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.

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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

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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!

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Merrily We Roll Along!

Let's Sketch


Sunday, June 6

12 PM - 3 PM

Here's a prompt for good weather and a fun location.

Let's look for boats to sketch, from dinghies to freighters, from sunfish to schooners, from tall ships to toy boats.

Settle yourself by a marina, a dock, a river, and sketch a vessel. Extra credit for sketching *in* a boat, which some of our kayaking friends have done.


While this prompt may seem to favor our lakeside members, landlubbers like me have a chance to find our way to new ports of call, and/or broaden our notion of what is a boat.As long as the sketch follows our urban sketching guidelines, we'll take that rubber duck in your bathtub or a leaf floating down a stream. 

Wishing you fair winds and following seas!

Banner Sketch by Maria Delton

Remember that we are following USk Global’s guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos. All skill levels welcome – happy sketching! 

As usual, we will post from noon to 3 p.m. to share and discuss, but late submissions are always welcome.
Please include #uskchicago and #uskathome on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.

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