Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sketching: Fast and Loose or Slow and Tight: a Sketcher's Choice

 I love Urban Sketching! Thank you, Gabi Campanario, for founding this now world-wide Urban Sketching movement!  Many of us could make those same two exclamations.

Why we love Urban Sketching varies from sketcher to sketcher. For me, it lures me into allowing myself the free time to delve into being fully present to what is around me, to 'converse' with it, so it becomes memorable to me.... and, because sketching leaves an artifact, it may become memorable to others, possibly, as well.

My sketches bounce back and forth between being:

1) loose: a pretty fast capture of a fleeting moment with fast hand movements placing marks on  paper...( Sketch one,  done at the 2017 Women's March: The people were not present at the same time...and then, only for moments).

2) tight: my mind and eyes and hands spend hours exploring all the forms and discernible values, colors, and  textures residing within my chosen field of seeing. (Sketch two, done at the Tacoma Art Museum, and the third sketch, done at a Bellingham WA Starbucks--none of the people were present at the same time...and the woman behind the window was originally inside the coffee shop, to the left of my table. I 'moved her' to an outside table.)

In either type of sketching, I'm also playing with using a mark-making implement to its fullest possibilities which I can achieve that day. I used a Micron .01 pen  in all three sketches...and a bit of colored pencil in the first one.

What I do as a sketcher is often less logical than emotional, whether my sketch is tight or loose.

For me, a quick-sketch is like a short but important conversation with a stranger on a bus. I know I have to get off the bus very soon but,  I want to see and hear and understand as much as  possible within the tiny time I have because of my fast approaching bus stop.

For me, creating a slowly-done sketch is similar to the experience I have when reading a complex, very worthwhile, great book.   I want to capture everything I possibly can from its slow, time-release of information. I want to experience the changes of insight that arise. I want to use all of the time I have available to discover, learn, know, and remember.

Best regards,


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Meet the Correspondent: KaCe Whitacre

Kathryn Cecelia "KaCe" Whitacre
I was born in Eastern Washington the day after Christmas during a horrible cold snap that froze the gas line in my parent’s car. My family was of pioneer stock, my grandfather was born in Washington Territory in 1886. I grew up as an Air Force dependent, living on Fairchild AFB, WA, Naha, Okinawa, Charleston, SC, Travis AFB, CA, & Elmondorf AFB, AK. I have one younger sister, Pam; a loving husband, Jim and a lovely daughter, Karyn. I am an artist. I like sumi painting, calligraphy, book arts and working with glass; I do wire work and bead work in jewelry and some sewn projects. I also enjoy sketching... because of Urban Sketchers/Tacoma.
My First Time with USkT 
My best friend, Peg, invited me to my first USk/Tacoma event in 2015. I have tried to make as many as possible. Then my cousin, Leith, challenged me to do 30 days of art. So I did. and I began to draw with purpose and to carve out time for doing it. Everyone in Urban Sketchers has their own unique style and I’m no different. I tried to be a minimalist, but you can see from my first sketch I was more detail oriented. So I took October of 2017 to come to accept that my style is detail and I’ll not be a more spontaneous sketcher. This realization came from discussions with other USk/T members and my friends. I needed to listen to who I am. It is a good thing to have people who will help you with these “Ah-Ha” Moments in your life. 


I attended two high schools both out of Washington. Then I came back here for college at Western in Bellingham. I studied Education and my major was languages until I walked through the Industrial Arts building. There I found my true calling. I love working with my hands and designing practical things. My father gave me this love of working with my hands by teaching me to use his table saw at 9 and how to tie flies at 10. When I was about 11 he helped me get into an architectural drawing class— making me my T-square and drawing board. I was taught by him that I can do or be anyting and so I do many things that are not typical for women. I’ve driven 18 wheelers, flame throwing tank, and taught juniot high general shop in Seattle’s John Marshall (no longer a school). Today I do wiring, plumbing, tile laying, wood floors and all manner of construction for our rentals. (I’m also an associate member of the NW Land Surveyors Association in Bellingham.

I have always drawn, but don’t know why. I’ve never really pondered that question but since I could hold a pencil, I’ve drawn. I have books that I’ve drawn in over the years. Below are two sketches from 1997 and 2007. Until I found USk/T I didn’t really think about others who drew. Now I know there is a whole cadre of like minded artists who capture what they see honestly and share their work. That is what I indend to do here. As an artist I have worked in warm glass (fusing), and sandblasting glass, calligraphy, Japanese sumi-e, bookbinding, bead work and wire worked jewelry, watercolor and printmaking. I may mention some of these from time to time, but Urban Sketching will be my focus here. I write about my art on FB at A2Z Studio. You are welcome to follow me there. I’m working on a wordpress website, but it is aways off. I love learning, and hope to learn much by posting here. You are always welcome to contact me. BTW, I go by KaCe short for my first and middle name. Pronounced KC.

A winding road in Scotland with trees lining roadway and a stone bridge over a creek.
On our way to St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland 1997
Riding the express bus to Seattle to see a cousin. 2007.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Urban Sketch or Plein Air Painting? What matters?

Correspondent: Beverly Choltco-Devlin

When I first joined Urban Sketchers-Tacoma, I came to my first outings trying to figure out the transition from formal watercolor painter (who often painted en plein air) to the art of sketching. I had also engaged in urban sketching prior, but that was mostly in pen or pencil, and I certainly did not know the term "urban sketching" as an appellation for what I had been doing on a hit or miss (mostly miss) basis since my first outing to New York City with my high school art class a half century ago.

Recently we had a repeat outing the Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park in Tacoma, a beautiful location. The Conservatory was the location of one of the first Urban Sketch outings I attended a couple of years ago after I had first moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Both outings were meaningful and similar in the camaraderie that takes place, the chilly weather that made my hands shake, wishing I had brought fingerless glove and the challenges of depicting a large glass structure with complex angles and the nuances of representing the translucency of the panels comprising the building.

I present here my two different "sketches" for comparison.

This one was completed in its entirety at that first outing in April 2015:

And here is the second done two months ago in October 2017:

As you can see (hopefully) these two "sketches" depict the same building with very similar conditions (did I mention my cold hands?) in terms of general lighting, point of view, perspective, etc.

The difference is with the treatment of the subject.  I believe, now, that the original work is more a plein air painting; I spent the entire time outside on this one view. The second would more accurately be described as a sketch.

The question is: Does the distinction matter?

I do not believe it does except to me personally. I believe I have grown a lot over the past two and a half years in my art. By observing my fellow sketchers and learning and growing with them, I have discovered the following:

  • Every sketch/painting does not have to be perfect. I have learned that it is perfectly fine to let go of my compulsive need to get everything right and accurate
  • Quick loose sketches can often be more lively and dynamic than a formal painting
  • I need not be terrified of sharing my work among other artists or online
  • I have become more bold in my palette, a lesson learned from observing my fellow sketchers over the last years. 
  • Each painting or sketch is comprised of a learning experience, whether recognized or not
  • When the same subject is drawn or painted more than once we can see subtle changes to the environment we are sketching. These differences, even if we are not cognizant at the time, are evidence of the documentary role that Urban Sketching serves. In this case:
    • The large tree was even taller
    • The foliage in the front had changed due to fall color.
    • Though the days were both sunny, the light was a little different due the first being in spring and the second in fall. 
    • The Conservatory wings were now covered in black plastic film. 
    • A car was present during the first outing, but not the second 
  • My sketching style has become faster and more loose
  • It is OK to say: "My hands are cold and numb and I am going inside (or elsewhere) to sketch" which I did. 

Most important perhaps, though, are the changes in my heart and soul and mind about being a part of this amazing group of artists.  At the first outing I was still a bit nervous around my fellow sketchers, intimidated by those who were so accomplished, a bit shy. On this most recent outing I felt a true sense of belonging to this amazing group, a sense of friendship, a sense of simultaneous individuality and common community purpose. 

Does it matter if what we do is classified as a plein air painting or an urban sketch? For purposes of posting on the official website, both these works meet the criteria of both. What is important is that we are creating, we are documenting, we are recording observations and we are communicating through visual means with our fellow artists and the world at large. 

Correspondent: Beverly Choltco-Devlin

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Flexible at the Freighthouse

For our First Saturday outing, we were scheduled to sketch in a children's tea room. Tom had made the arrangements but when we arrived, it was locked up. He came prepared and called the owners, who had forgotten. They sent an employee from their main venue but he didn't have a key that worked!

Good thing Urban Sketchers are flexible and pretty much happy to sketch anything. The rest of Freighthouse Square was decorated for the holidays with lots of interesting scenes to draw. We just spread out and carried on.  

I only got one sketch done as I spent a bit of time talking. First, I thought I might sketch some of the holiday decor. But I moved down to the food court and those neon signs just pulled me in! I've long wanted to sketch this Fish & Chips sign. I'm still working on simplifying complex scenes and I think I did OK with this one. That's what has stumped me before when I wanted to sketch the sign.  Bonus: getting another sketcher in the image.

It was a fun day, despite the snag at the beginning. Three new sketchers to the group and so many great sketches at the throw-down. Most of us went to the food court for lunch, grabbed a very long table and had interesting conversations along with our food. 

A couple more photos here:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

December 2017 Outings

Listed here, in chronological order, are both the regular monthly outings and the ad hoc outings for  December 2017.  To access them later, go to either the Monthly Outings page or the Ad Hoc Page The first two days of the month are stacked with events!


December 1: PCAF event for World Aids Day  (Ad Hoc)
 Star Center, 3873 S 66th St, Tacoma WA 98409

Pierce County Aids Foundation (PCAF) is having a special 30th anniversary celebration event (and World AIDS Day observance) on Friday Dec. 1 from 6- 9 pm at the Star Center in Tacoma.

We sketched at their event last year and they would like us to attend again.  The lobby will be filled with many historical art projects and archives for people to peruse before and after a formal program around 7 pm.  There should be ample and varied scenes to sketch.

Most interaction will be during the reception / mingling from 6-7, and the formal program from 7-8 might be a good time as well. After that, is just more mingling, and people should feel free to leave when they need to.

Important: Please register for the event:
Be sure to register at this link:  While we will be there doing a service, PCAF will provide us food and beverages if you wish. Registering will help them with the count for the caterers.

First Saturday Monthly Outing: December 2 
 Le-Petit Olive Branch Tea Room 

East end of Freighthouse Square.  

600 East 25th Street, Tacoma, WA 98421

Enter here:

We’ll meet at 10:00 AM by the wooden Big Foot carving outside Le-Petit Tea Room (near the Rainier Room on the East end of Freighthouse main floor.

Edit 11/27:  To clarify, there are two Olive Branch Tea Rooms (on opposite ends of the Freighthouse building).  We will sketch at the "Le-Petit Olive Branch" that's set up as a children's tea party room on the art gallery end of the building (the end closest to the parking garage). 

 For lunch, we can either walk to the other end of Freighthouse to the adult version "Olive Branch Café" (that entails going outside because of the Sounder/Amtrak section blocks the interior passage), or people can chose from any of the food court options available on the art gallery end of the building.


Free parking across East 25th Street (now a one-way street) at the Tacoma Dome Station garage.

At 12:30 PM we’ll regroup for sketch sharing and photos, followed by lunch at the Olive Branch Café & Tea Room (opposite end of Freighthouse) or any of the food-court establishments in the middle of Freighthouse Square.


Ad Hoc, Saturday, December 2: Gage Drawing Jam

Gage Academy of Art
1501 10th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102

Meet at 9am.  Find us in line or in the auditorium.  Get there by at least 8am for best parking options.  

Cost: $15/person, available at the door (kids 15 and under get in FREE).  Or get your ticket online at the link above.   Entrance free includes all sorts of drawing opportunities with models and still life.  Also a wide variety of drawing materials are provided at no cost from several well known suppliers. 

Feel free to sketch what you want, but what we share to Urban Sketchers on-line would be sketches of the larger scenes, capturing the environment of the event.  Remember, posed models and still life do not fit Urban Sketchers guidelines.  But we've enjoyed the Drawing Jam for the past couple years!


Third Wednesday December 20:  Murano Hotel

1320 Broadway, Tacoma, WA 9840

We've been before, 3 years ago, but this time we're hoping it's decorated for the holidays.  Meet in the lobby at 10 am.  

The hotel is named after the Italian island which has been home to glassblowers.  The hotel itself houses a collection of glass art.  The halls of each floor feature a different artitst.

Lunch will  be in the hotel restaurant, "Bite".  


Street parking.  Or take the light rail.  Stops are either Convention Center or Commerce street. Then walk up the hill to Broadway. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sketches That Make Me Smile

It has been a long time ago since sketching this pictue of a cafe in Venice, Italy, but everytime I see it my mind goes immediately to 2007 when my brother and I romped around that country for 17 days having a great time. I had come across this charming scene with the tables empty and prepared for the evening meal and was compelled to capture it. I am I so glad I did! I always marvel at how a personal drawing has such power to act almost like an emotional time machine. I am smiling now, as I write this post. 😊 My hope is that your sketches have that same ability for you, too!

Happy Thanksgiving!