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!

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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!

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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.

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