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. 

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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.

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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)