Thursday, May 12, 2022

T&T Thursday

 I Spy with My Little Eye...

Something to Draw!

Have you ever sat down to sketch and thought "What should I draw?" Yes, for me at least, pretty much every time, especially if it's a place I've frequently visited.

Upping My Game

My grandsons like to play the game I Spy with My Little Eye Something..." Then the person who is "it" gives a clue(s) and the rest have to figure out what it is.

I've started to use the I Spy strategy when I go out to sketch. 

  • What do I notice?
  • What jumps out at me?
  • Why? Is it the shape, the color, do I just like it, do I NOT like it?

When I've spied it I make that the subject and plan my composition around it. The next question is "what will help others see it through my eyes?"

  • Color?
  • Texture?
  • Shape?
  • Size?

In urban sketching part of the challenge is to have enough context to make it an urban sketch without loosing my focal point. 

Game on!

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Seminar 2022

 Meet the 2022 Seminar Instructors!


Friday, April 15, 2022

Seminar 2022

 All the Seminar 2022 descriptions have been announced on the Seminar Blog. Check it out!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

T&T Thursday

What Will you Choose?

The Workshops Are Set!

What four will you choose?

1. Anna Rappaport           Surprising Stories, Fleeting  Energy:

    & Joann Harling             Bringing Life into Sketches

2. Barbara Weeks               How to be a People Person: 

                                             Sketching Lively Figures

3. Brian Wright                   Practical Perspective for

                                            Urban Sketching

4. David Roberts                Sketching from the Dark Side

5. Donald Colley                Drawing the Pulse:

                                           The Ebb and Flow of Urban Dwellers

6. Jing Zhang                     Less is More

7. Ken Czech                      Marker Mashup

8. Tomoko Tanaka             Tips for Sketching a Mixed Scene

                                            of Old and New Buildings

Today's Tip

The content details for the workshops are being posted this week on the Seminar 2022 Blog

Check it out!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

T&T Thursday

USk Chicago is thrilled to announce that we'll be having a seminar in July! All the details will be posted on the Seminar Blog and the highlights will be posted on this blog.

This is a a recap of an article I wrote several years ago but the information is still on the mark as we begin to think about taking classes again.

Are You Ready?!

How about you? Are you ready for a workshop? Whether it’s an online class, a local workshop, one that involves travel or even if you’re working you way through a self-study book there are certain things that will help you get the most out the experience. Over the years I’ve given workshops and taken many classes both on-site and online.  I’ve found my mindset is the most important factor in what I take away from the class.

  • SET A GOAL – Why am I taking this class? What do I hope to learn?

  • KEEP AN OPEN MIND – Pay attention and follow directions. It’s easy to fall into the attitudes of “that isn’t the way I do it” or “that isn’t the way so-and-so does it” but leave those notions behind at least for the duration of the workshop.

  • THINK PROCESS NOT PRODUCT  (I know, I say that all the time) –  It takes practice to learn new techniques and methods.

  • ASK QUESTIONS – Your instructor wants you get the most out of your time in the class.

Remember, whether your a novice or a working pro, there is another thing you need for a successful workshop experience, that’s a positive and open workshop-state-of-mind.

What's your "must have" for a successful workshop experience?

The opening image is an assignment from a class I took from Lewis Rossignol.


David Becker 

Veronica Lawlor

Sketchbook Skool

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Sketch & Post!


    Let's Sketch Chicago


Sunday, March 20

12 PM –  3 PM

Hosted by Evelyn Brody and Urban Sketchers Chicago

This month we will once again sketch asynchronously, with the hope that we will resume in-person meetups before too long! 


Our March theme is libraries—from your home bookcase to those mini-birdhouse exchanges (a favorite subject of our members!) to civic institutions modest or grand. With the weather warming up, an exterior scene might appeal to you. If it’s raining or nighttime when you’re moved to sketch, let’s see a cozy scene of your housemate lost in a good book.
We follow USk Global’s guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos. When outside your home, adhere to any government and private guidelines on social distancing and masking to help everyone stay safe. All skill levels welcome – happy sketching!

We gather for our virtual throwdown on our group Facebook page on Sunday, March 20, between noon and 3pm, but we always welcome late entries. 

And do tag your posts with #uskchicago so we may share your work on our group Instagram account.

In the meantime, Happy Daylight Savings Time!

 Thank you, Namrita Malik, for the banner image sketch of the Hinsdale Library!

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, March 10, 2022

T&T Thursday!

 Back to the Future

We're almost there! 

Slowly but surely things are heading back to normal – whatever that is or was! Usk Chicago is resuming in person sketch meets in April. We've also begun planning for a mini seminar in July! Keeping our fingers crossed!

Sketching Habits During Covid

I've been hearing from sketchers how their sketching habits changed during the pandemic. 

  • Some have used daily sketching as a relief. 
  • Still others have kept sketching with the weekly USk Chicago prompts on Facebook.

  • There are those who have used the time to experiment adding new mediums to their repertoire. 
  • Others have almost stopped sketching entirely.

Ready, Set, Sketch!

Where ever you on the sketching grid it's good to review the benefits of a regular/daily sketching habit. Get ready to get together and sketch.

If you have fallen out of the sketching habit pick the same time each day to sketch (ex: before breakfast, while watching TV, during your coffee break, etc.)

Doing even a quick or small sketch each day can reap great benefits.
  • Your work improves.
  • Like an athlete it gets easier with practice as muscle memory improves.
  • Your personal style will develop.

Looking forward to sketching together in the near future!

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, February 24, 2022

T&T Thursday!

 Do You See What I See?

Warning: I’m back on my noticing kick. This time it’s a slightly different take than last September's post.

So many times when I start an urban sketch it seems like I go on autopilot. People tend to be my go to focus. For others it’s the architecture, others it’s the straight on view. All are good, but sometimes it’s good to change it up a little.

Following Rob Walker’s lead in The Art of Noticing, I started taking photos of things that catch my attention as I walk along the street and on vacation. Going through some images that I’ve taken over the the last year or two I was surprised by how different they are compared to what I see when I sketch.

Here’s the Trick

What I see on site with my photographer’s eye can I sketch it with my hand? 

That’s my challenge!

  • What catches my eye?
  • What jumps out at me?
  • Sketch that with just enough context to make it an urban sketch

Even if the bee would stay long enough to be sketched, this needs more context to be an urban sketch!

Join me! 
When you go out to sketch, what catches your eye? Sketch that!

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

T&T Thursday!

Ode to the Pencil

What's the point?  

Pencils have a long and successful history beginning over 5000 years ago in the hands of the Egyptians. Today, they are still in use by school children, carpenters, artists, craftsmen. Pencils can be found in almost any home or office. 


They are convenient, inexpensive, and come in a wide variety of types and designs. For sketchers who draw whenever they get the chance it's a perfect tool! Rain or shine, hot or freezing temperatures, they get the work done. If you're sitting down, standing up, or leaning against a wall they work!

What's Your Preference?

There are many kinds of pencils:

  • Charcoal
  • Carbon
  • Colored
  • Grease
  • Watercolor
  • Graphite 

Graphite pencils Are the most common. They come in degrees of hardness. The harder the lead the lighter the line.

  • H 9-2 = hard
  • HB = medium
  • B-3 = soft
  • 4B - 9B = very soft

When it comes to sketching the artist's hand still has a great deal of control of the line weight.

Graphite pencils are my favorite. I love the feel of the pencil on the paper as I draw. I even enjoy the quiet sound as it moves across the page.

A piece of paper, a pencil, and a little plastic sharpener (if you're using a mechanical pencil you don't even need that) and you're good to sketch anywhere.

 Nice and simple, that works for me!

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

T&T Thursday!

Sharpening the Mind's Eye

By Barbara Weeks

Photo Flip

Let’s face it almost all drawing is, in a way, memory drawing. Whether it’s a past vacation vista or the second it takes to look from your subject to your paper, it’s your mind’s eye holding the image for you to draw. 

The Trick  

Develop that eye to keep the image true while you transfer it to the paper.

The Tip

Do memory exercises – the sharpen your memory the better your drawing.

Here are a few games to get you started

1. The Photo Flip 

You can use a photograph or an image from a magazine or newspaper. Choose something in the photo that attracts you. Study and simplify your chosen image carefully but quickly, twenty seconds tops.  Now, flip the photo over and draw what you remember. Try it again with the same photo, this time study it for ten seconds. How much more did you remember?

One of my favorite books on drawing is The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides (1891-1938) and one of my favorite quotes from the book is:

“Try not to remember merely the position of the model, just as when you memorize a poem you are not just trying to memorize just the shapes of the letters.”

2. Quick Sips

Go to a cafe, a sporting event, or really anywhere people gather. Choose someone to draw. Observe them carefully. You won’t be able to control the amount of time you have since they will move. You can count on that! Now draw what you remember. Wait a bit and you’ll find they’ll return to the same pose again and again. Draw them again. And again. How do your sketches compare? While you're waiting for them to return to the same pose choose another subject and use the same techniques. 

Karate Class

3. Red Light Green Light 

When you’re a passenger in a car and the car stops for a red light observe what you see out the window. When the light turns green sketch what you saw. (Sometimes as a variation I may just see how long I can hold the afterimage in my mind.)

Bison, Yellowstone National Park

4. No Erasers Allowed 

Rather than do a new sketch for each observation in these exercises try them by drawing over/correcting your original sketch.

Another quote from Nicolaides

“Memory drawing is a little like touch typing. If you try consciously to think of where the letters are you are likely to become confused, but if you rely on your sense of touch you can become very accurate.”

Powerful observational skills and a strong visual memory are a tremendous skills for an Urban Sketcher who shares a view of a fast moving world. Practicing observation and memory skills will improve your on location sketching. 

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, 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)