Saturday, November 30, 2013

Views of Times Square and Around - November 23

I'm not going to repeat the story of how we ended up sketching New York roofs last Saturday, as several lively accounts of it are already written. So I am starting with our first indoor location (and my first location that day) at the 23rd floor of a Times Square office building, looking south.

An aerial view of New York was a challenge. That day I came with a determination of drawing without OCD, as Pat puts it, and wanted to try using watercolors without pen lines, as Mia does. Well, I did not win my first battle, as I found it difficult to "grab" this view even with a pen. Water towers and the light/shadow contrast formed patterns that most fascinated me and I tried to use them to pull the sketch together.

When we moved to the Times Square view, I still had the determination to try the "no line" approach. And so I did, trying several times. I am not sure if I won this battle either and I was hoping sketches would breathe more, but it felt really liberating to not worry about all the details. I decided to post one sketch, at least for the sake of evidence of my future progress.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Getting Ready in Sayville

Since we are not meeting as a group tomorrow I figured I'd find something local to sketch related to the holidays. There is a small town next door to me called Sayville and it is the typical small-town experience. There are a few fun stores, restaurants, and almost always something interesting to sketch. It was cold today so I sat in my car to sketch this corner where the Christmas tree was being decorated...I think they are having a parade with Santa arriving tomorrow. I wish I hadn't missed the guy going up in the bucket to put the decorations on...and if I waited a bit he probably would have moved the truck to decorate the other side.

Sketching the NY Theatre District - November 23, 2013

The Saint James Theatre
In addition to being the densest concentration of NYC Theatres, West 44th Street would also be the ideal spot for a wind turbine to harness the power of the wind coming in off the Hudson River.  It was cold on Saturday but the wind made it  nearly intolerable.  As I sketched people watched and chatted and, as often happens when Urban Sketching, the act of sketching in public became part of someone else's experience of the city that day.

The Shubert Theatre

I moved up the block hoping the wind would be less strong.  Shubert Theatre is located at a mid-block cut through that connects 44th and 45th Streets - known as Shubert's Alley.  If anything, that alley concentrates the wind patterns and gives each blast a chance to turn around and have another shot at you.

A great location, but it was being ruined by the cold and the wind.  Svetlana made a generous and brilliant suggestion.  She invited us to sketch from her office, located a few blocks away with beautiful aerial views of Times Square.

One World Trade Center
Looking down Broadway featured a distant view of the One World Trade Center - also known as the Freedom Tower.

The Water Towers
New York is one the cities that uses large water tanks on top of buildings to distribute water to the offices and apartments.  NYC pressure get's the water up to the wooden storage tanks and gravity feeds the water down to the occupants of each building.  Walking in the streets you catch a glimpse of these wooden structures, but once you're up high, looking down, they're everywhere.

42nd Street Looking East from Times Square
The view looking down at Times Square is a scramble of bright yellow taxis, pedestrians surging everywhere and disappearing perspective lines.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Sketch Outing for November 30th

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.   

With all the family and travel going on it's probably a good time to take a sketching holiday.

We should be back in business the following week.  Suggestions for warm venues will be appreciated.

Theater District, November 23, 2013

(This is a compilation of 4(!) blog posts.)


After a leisurely breakfast in Penn Station Saturday morning, I walked uptown along Eighth Avenue, facing directly into the vigorously cold northerly whoosh of the NW wind, thinking that as soon as I turned eastward on 44th Street it would be warmer. The street was a Valley of Shadows, not a speck of the bright sunlight, but the wind was now pushing at my back.

I saw the Shubert Theater ahead, across the street, it took a few seconds to spot Mark, sitting on his tiny stool, focused on his sketchbook. "Hey Mark, Hi!". Funny thing about that sketching spot. Great view of the catty-cornered theater entrance, just the right distance from it (couldn't pay for a better view - the iconic view - as a matter of fact), not a lot of foot traffic and, in order to take advantage of this magnifico facade, we had to face into the stinkin' wind.

I huddled behind the seated Mark thinking to use him as a windbreak and started quickly sketching. I think I was working on the image for about 10 or 15 minutes when Joan showed up. There was some discussion. Mark knocked the icicles off his glasses and I made some color notes on my drawing (you know, though, that any color notes I make are "advisory" at best) so I could finish it later on.

And then.....
The Angel came and solved everything.
Stay tuned.

(iPad; Sketch Club app, ArtRage app for rough background; New Trent Arcadia stylus.)

Part 1: Looking Down.

Angel = urban Sketcher Svetlana.

She produced her ID, we each obediently flashed our driver's license, gate thingies and elevator doors electronically opened, and we found ourselves looking down at Times Square and across miles of Manhattan rooftops.

Who knew?

When walking down the street, any street, or even on the High Line, you glance up or "over there", one or two water towers come into view. Then you turn around and see another. When we looked out of that 23rd floor window we looked down on hundreds, seemed like zillions, of water towers. The view was so vast and low they seemed all bunched together, like cliques in a schoolyard at lunchtime.

After we went down to the lobby to pick up another sketcher (Mark gave her our location over the phone), Svetlana took us up to the 15th floor and a view of Times Square from above. Flashing lights, hoards of cabs, construction, teeny tiny people - probably all tourists - scurrying here and there and everywhere.

I did the only thing possible. I removed my glasses and just dived right in.

I forgot to snap a pic when on the 23rd floor but remembered to do it while on this floor just before we packed it in for the day. Too bad. The view from the upper floor, with bright sunlight streaming through the window (westward facing, I'm thinking) and a glimpse of river in the distance, showed a completely different city: older, packed tightly together, no sequins and flash.

On this floor we were reminded that midtown skyscrapers dominate this area.
 We were in a corner meeting room. This was the view a couple of the other sketchers chose.

(iPad; ArtRage app; New Trent Arcadia stylus.

iPad took the photos after sketching was finished for the day.
 I finished these three drawings in situ - from direct observation - no fiddling with them later.)

Part 2: Looking Over There
I was finished with loftiness but there was still time for the usual. 
Maria or Marie, I'm not sure anymore. This was my second outing with the NYC Urban Sketchers but it was her first so I'm not the newbie anymore.

I met Joan that day. She also comes via Penn Station but lives way farther from the city. I think that she was standing and sketching on 7th Avenue and 34th Street while I was lounging in the station's warmth stretching out my coffee.

And this was Saturday's Angel with the magic gate/door/elevator-opening card. Swooped us out of the cold and up into the clouds.

(iPad; Sketch Club app, ArtRage app for background roughness only; New Trent Arcadia stylus. And, yes, I added the color later at home.)

Epilogue: Looking out over my coffee.

Back on the ground we split up. It felt a bit warmer, not crazy windy. I walked over to Bryant Park to see what I could see. The seasonal craft fair thingies were all set up - not tents - little structures like individual shops. Why don't I remember to take pictures anymore? Anyway, I had it in my mind to sketch there and scoped out a few possible scenes. The problem - crowded crowded crowded and no way to stand still, sketch and not be in everyone's way. No nook or cranny to tuck myself into. I wandered over to the skating rink where two people were shot by a kid the other week and watched for awhile. Crowded also. (No. I didn't think I was going to be shot at.)

I resumed walking downtown to 32nd and headed west to Penn Station. I NEVER look at the return train schedule otherwise I would find myself just rushing to Catch The Train. Bleh. Don't do that anymore. Train only comes once an hour on weekends and since I missed it I sat and had a coffee and spent the time doing one more.

The End.

(iPad; ArtRage app; New Trent Arcadia stylus
Added color at home.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Great Theatres Tour... Adjusted

Today the NYC Urban Sketchers planned to meet and sketch several theaters in Manhattan.
But good Urban Sketchers know they need to be flexible…and we were.

I took the LIRR from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station…of course I sketched along the way.

I had a pretty good view of this man on the train.

The ticket collector was a good model, but wasn't around for long.
I had to sketch really quickly.

This was another quick pencil sketch.

When I got off the train I decided to sketch the view across the street on 34th St and Seventh Ave. before I met the other sketchers.

When I met everyone by the Shubert Theatre on 44th Street at 11 o'clock, Mark, Pat, and Svetlana were freezing. It was cold and windy. They had also been sketching a while. Svetlana suggested that we relocated to her office building instead and paint the views from there. So we adjusted our schedule and decided to skip any more sketching by the theaters.

Svetlana's building takes up an entire block and has views from all sides. The first room we sketched from was on the 25th floor and we had some good views looking down. 
I thought the views of the rooftops and buildings were interesting
…not quite what you think of when you think of views of NYC.

Here is Mark painting. You can see we had lots of room to spread out.

Svetlana was sketching the view.

Pat was working digitally. It was interesting to watch her work.

Next we went to the 15th floor where we had a view of Times Square.
Marie joined us for her first time sketching with the group. Sorry I didn't get a photo of her at work.

I sketched the view of Times Square. The billboards there are hard to do because the designs on them are constantly changing. Here is what I painted.

And a closer view.

Then I did a view in a slightly different direction.

Svetlana was also sketching the billboards in Times Square.

Around 3 the group split up and headed off in different directions to do various things. I decided since we were supposed to be sketching the theaters today, I should at least give one a try. I headed back to 44th Street and sketched the Shubert Theatre where Matilda is currently playing. 
It was cold but I was able to sketch.

I headed home on the 5:13 train to Patchogue and had a view of a woman facing me 
for one last sketch of the day.

Once again it was a busy day of sketching. I hope to get in to meet 
with the Urban Sketchers again soon.

Upper West Side and West Village - November 16 and 9

I am finally making my debut on the NYC Urban Sketchers’ blog (and in fact any blog), with a couple of sketches from two last Saturdays.

Last week we sketched some grand-looking apartment buildings in the Upper West Side. I am a slower urban sketcher and tend to fall behind the group. This time my tendency was exacerbated by the intimidating amount of details on the buildings, or I should rather say one building - the Dorilton on the 71st St - since I never really made it to its “friends” along Broadway. I really got carried away with the details and my sketches that day ended up being very architecture focused.

I took the same mood to the after-lunch location where I chose to draw the church of the Fourth Universalist Society of New York on Central Park West and 76th St. As a fun fact from Wikipedia, its tower (the one in the sketch) is used by NBC each November as its “high-tech command center” for live coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

And here is one more sketch from two weeks ago. I did it in the court yard of the St. Luke’s School in the West Village.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Looking up at the sky from down on the ground

Another themed tour this past Saturday around some of Manhattan's famous apartment buildings. Which, of course, I'd never heard of but seen plenty of times. Go figure. 

The Dorilton
First up, the Dorilton. The poor thing can't figure itself out. At least, I couldn't figure it out from where I stood, which was a little far away from very far down below.

The Ansonia
Then the Ansonia, which was less of a crazy. Still not an easy subject to paint.
A stoplight surrounded by autumn trees.
So I gave up and decided to draw a stoplight and paint some trees winding down their autumnal transition. 
Some little church at a corner.
Our next stop was supposed to be the Apthorp, which turned out to be a boxy-looking thing manned by Sir Surly Guard, who roundly repelled us from even considering visiting the courtyard (the most interesting thing about the building, at least from the exterior. Also possible that I am a mildly bitter person.). 

Not posh enough, I suppose, for such a travertine tessaract, we heigh-ho'd to another spot a block or two beyond. And lo! we found a wee little corner church that presented itself best from the central street divide lining the upper west side length of Broadway (also conveniently furnished with benches).
Sharing sketches at lunch.
Mark found Peacefood Café, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant with a steady stream of patrons enjoying late lunches. We joined them and sketched between eating some really great food and being at turns both annoyed and charmed by our handsome waiter, whom no one sketched. Ha.
The Fourth Universalist Society.
And finally, after a good lunch and some leisurely time talking and sharing sketches, off we trod towards the San Remo, which didn't afford a good view directly from Central Park West -- we would have to go deep into Central Park for a more dynamic angle, and I personally wasn't feeling up to all that walking. So we perched ourselves on some bleacher seats set up for what we could only assume was the Veteran's Day parade or the upcoming Thanksgiving Day parade. I sketched the Fourth Universalist Society church. And then I sketched a motorcycle.
A parked motorcycle. It was black and shiny.
And finally, a shot of the group that day:
From left: Svetlana, Mark, and Patricia.
Thanks to Mark for organizing another interesting tour with challenging subject matter. And thanks to my fellow sketchers for another fun day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Great Theatres of New York, November 23, 2013

New York City’s theatrical community has a rich and storied past. At the beginning of the 20th century, the theatre district was so brilliantly illuminated by white lights that O.J. Gude would refer to it as the “great white way.” 

In 1904, New York City Mayor George B. McClellan officially re-named Longacre Square as Times Square, in recognition of the arrival of the offices of The New York Times. The theater district sits between the 41st and 53rd Street and between the Sixth and Ninth Avenues.

-  Shubert Theatre - 225 West 44th Street, now playing Matilda the Musical  ( Same block - the St. James Theatre, the Helen Hayes Theatre and the Broadhurst Theatre)

-  Shubert's Alley, right near Sardi's

-  The Booth Theatre - 222 West 45th Street.  Now playing The Glass Menagerie

-  Walter Kerr Theatre - 216 West 48th Street, Now playing A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Bowlmor Times Square, - the midtown bowling alley, near Shubert's Alley.
222 W. 44Th St

-  The Plan - we go for the food and snacks, stay to sketch.
-  Bowling is a just a remote possibility a pricey option.
-  Bowlmor opens at 11 AM

11:00 AM at the Shubert Theater
If you come late, or don't see us:
Call Mark - 973-809-9128

Great Apartment Buildings of New York - November 16, 2013

What a gorgeous day.  The day was perfect for Urban Sketching.  
It allowed us the time to study and appreciate the buildings.

The Dorilton

The details in the first building were endless and fascinating.  
It begs to be simplified.  
I could have spent the day there learning from this building.

The Ansonia
The Ansonia has always been a favorite of mine, but the problem sketching it is there's no obvious great place to stand to take it all in.  Instead I decided to sketch the further tower north of where I stood.

An encounter with an unfriendly doorman persuaded us that sketching the courtyard at the Apthorp wasn't going to happen, ... so we went to the corner and focused on the asymmetric church at the corner.

A quicky sketch looking up 79th Street and then on to lunch.  Between mouthfuls I did a quick sketch of Mia, Svetlana and some guy contemplating his lunch options



Guy contemplating his lunch options