Saturday, January 31, 2015

NYC Urban Sketcher Visits Venice Beach!

This NYC Urban Sketcher escaped the cold to Venice Beach and posting new sketches for your enjoyment.  For those who've never been here, Venice is an offbeat backwater of greater Los Angeles filled with old folks, homeless people, tatood types, muscle men, and yuppies.  For years, this has been my home-away-from-home. 

Whenever I'm in Venice I visit the Israel Levin Senior Center on the Venice boardwalk - where else would a geriatrician go?  Over the years I have adopted several of these older folks as my aunts and uncles.  Here are a few sketches.

Pano Douvos is a poet and artist well known in the neighborhood.  He certainlty looks the part.

While at the Center I enjoyed a lunch with the old folks. Kosher of course.

Below is 98 year old Esther Woolf, married to Bob who is 102.  They are my adopted family!  

On my last morning in Venice, I took a stroll along the boardwalk to soak in some of the peaceful vibes as the sun came up.  

So here's to you NYC Urban Sketchers in the cold northeast!  I'm going back to the beach to do some more watercolors!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SUNDAY - The 2nd Annual Portrait Party

Sunday, February 1, 2015:  One year to the day we will be returning to the IBM Atrium (a warm indoor venue) for the Second Annual Portrait Party.

The (warm and comfortable) IBM Atrium

This event has specific instructions so please read if you're thinking of attending:

1.  I will be bringing the paper.  We will be working on high quality 9 x 12 140 pound watercolor paper.  I have enough paper for the first 20 participants. The paper is yours to keep.   I will ask for a voluntary contribution of $5 to help defray the cost of the paper.

2.  When we're done we will be displaying the finished work in a grid (see picture below) so your work needs to be visible at a distance.  That means you need to work BOLD.  You won't be able to see pencil drawings.  So try to bring markers, dark pens, watercolor.  You want your work to be readable at fifteen feet.

3.  Each portrait is going to be timed so think about a medium that will allow you to cover the paper quickly

4.  We'll be sketching round-robin style, so you'll get a chance to sketch everyone and everyone will get a chance to sketch you.  For this reason coming late will create a bit of a problem.  Come late if you have to - but it works better if you're there from the start.

Video of the First Portrait Party:

Where:  The IBM Atrium at 590 Madison Avenue (between 56th and 57th Streets) – Take the 4/5/6 or N/R to 59th Street or the E train to Lexington Avenue

When:  Get there at 10 AM for the warm up.  Use your own paper during the warm up.  We'll distribute the paper and get started on the timed portraits at 11 AM.

Lunch:  We will have lunch at approximately 12:30. We will eat in the Atrium.  Food is available in the building and at a variety of stores nearby.  We will continue after lunch until everyone has had a chance to be the model.

After - Show and Tell:  The Show portion will be at the Atrium when we set up the Grid.  The Tell portion will happen when we're done.  We'll be at  Judge Roy Bean Public House, 38 W 56th St

Can't find us?  
Call or Text Mark - 973-809-9128

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Sketching the Blizzard of 2015

I was pretty much snowbound today after my area of Long Island received about 16 inches of snow overnight. This morning I pulled up my blinds and sketched the view outside my bedroom window.

Later in the day I decided to venture outside for a while. I wanted to sketch some of the people cleaning off their cars but it was too cold to stand out there. I had an idea and trudged over to the community building to see if it was open...success! I stood inside the foyer by the front windows and was able to see someone digging out their car. Unfortunately the snowplows couldn't be seen from where I was sketching.

I hope everyone kept safe and dry through the storm. Maybe some of you had a chance to sketch too.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sketching In Paris At The Crossroads of Life

This sketch and narrative is reposted from my personal blog.

In the summer of 1977 I traveled to Europe carrying a sketchpad. These were my last months of freedom before entering medical school, and I had doubts about whether I was making the right decision. My acceptance letter was hard-earned, but I rationalized the decision by telling myself that medicine is a noble profession and I could still make art on the side.

I wandered the streets of Paris, looking at art and soaking up the scenery along the Seine as I practiced the language learned grudgingly in my pre-med curriculum. I was sitting and sketching in a café on the Left Bank when a young man who looked my age took a table next to mine. He also had a sketchbook, but his was stuffed thicker with drawings and looked travel-worn. He also carried an easel and other art equipment. His skin unlike mine was dark and weathered, and spoke English with an accent. His name was Jacques and he told me this was one of seven languages he knew.

“I travel from city to city doing portraits,” he said. My interest heightened as I fantasized that this was the life I wanted. He told me story after story of his itinerant life in foreign lands making art and meeting beautiful women. I was enthralled, and deep inside I was regretting my decision to return to New Jersey to go to medical school. My mind raced as I started thinking of cancelling my return flight.

“What a life!” I exclaimed. “Aren’t you thrilled every day by living such a wonderful, romantic dream?”

My new friend made a sour face, scratched his head, then looked at me in astonishment. He was shocked at my innocent and idealistic question.

“Are you kidding?” he blurted, “work is work!”

I was startled by his response and settled back in my chair, my thoughts drifting toward the future. “Medicine is indeed a noble profession,” I thought, “and I could still make art on the side.” This was no longer a rationalization, but a life plan.  I would support my life as an artist through a career as a physician.

Recently I was going through old sketchbooks and found the drawing I did that day as I sat at a café on the Left Bank of Paris. It shows a stylish couple on a date, walking in front of a subway station. I scanned and posted it above. It’s hard to believe that this drawing is 35 years old, but the moment it captures is powerful.

I loved the idea of being an artist, and felt that deep in my soul this was who I was. But I was terrified of failure and the financial risk that went with it. I grew up with too many horror stories of life in the Depression to risk that route. During my long career in medicine I’ve enjoyed the intellectual challenges and relationships with patients and colleagues, and still managed to make art on the side. Yet years after this sketch, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had cancelled my return flight.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Criminal Court - January 15, 2014

Last Thursday, Shirley and I joined the weekday NYC Urban Sketchers at 100 Center Street. We had to empty our pockets of everything but I forgot about the keys in my back pocket so the alarm sounded and the cop blocked my passage.
We were in the Criminal Court and the plan was to sketch in one of the courtrooms of the Arraignment Division.
Raylie waited for more people to arrive so Shirley and I entered room 1 where we found a couple of sketchers hard at work. Any sense of discomfort or self-consciousness immediately dissipated - we seemed to be completely accepted.
The attorneys were standing around waiting for their clients, blocking our view, moving around. Everyone was in almost constant motion.
It was a very interesting experience but I was really glad that I was not on the other side of the gate. Occasionally a "perp" sat amongst us waiting for further instructions from the court.
The people awaiting arraignment were moved through quickly but were treated respectfully and attorneys were either setting out the charges or telling their side of events.
The only ones standing motionless were those whose turn it was to face the judge.
iPad; New Trent Arcadia stylus.
Apps Used: Finngr Pro and ArtRage


It's Gonna be a Doozy

Checking the weather for the sketch event this weekend was depressing.  The Weather Channel actually said it's going to be "a real doozy".    Noreaster, snow, slush, winds, ... great!

At this moment we are CANCELLED for this coming Saturday.  The intention was to go to the Dr. Sketchy Sirens of Shanghai show after drawing together.   I just sent Dr. Sketchy a note asking about their refund policy - in case you prepaid.

If this storm changes direction or loses some of it's ambition - let's reserve the right to setup a last minute event. However,  at this moment it looks bleak.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Subway Sketching

What a coincidence that Mark just posted "How to Draw People on the Subway," as I have been trying my hand at just that.  Inspired by the Urban Sketchers and the manifesto to CAPTURE THE MOMENT I've been carrying my sketchbook on my commute to and from my downtown office.  The biggest challenge is to catch people before they get off or the view is blocked.  If I am lucky I have time to take out my water brush.  Here are some samples of recent work:


Have fun Sketchers, and thanks for the inspiration!

Penn Station Sketch, Dog Sketches, and Studying study

Penn Station, "Ghost Plinth"; Ballpoint Pen

Studying at home; pencil

Hazel-the-dog  (left) and end-table (right); pencil

Dog Sketches: Hazel (left), Payton (right)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Correction:  Weekday Urban Sketchers will meet on Thursday January 22, 2015.

Weekday Urban Sketchers at African Burial Ground

From about the 1690s until 1794, both free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6-acre burial ground in Lower Manhattan, outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, later known as New York. Lost to history due to landfill and development, the grounds were rediscovered in 1991 as a consequence of the planned construction of a Federal office building.  

Interesting displays, artifacts and dioramas with full size figures should provide amply materials for us to sketch.  


TIME: 11:00 AM TO 3:00 PM

LOCATION: 290 Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets


1, 2, 3 [Chambers Street]
A, C [Chambers Street]
R [City Hall]
4, 5, 6 [Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall]
J, Z [Chambers Street]

NOTE:  We will sketch in the Visitors Center until lunch. When we break for lunch we can decide where our afternoon site will be: Pier A, City Hall Park or the courts. 

Please RSVP directly to Raylie Dunkel at  Call or text to 201 978-6387.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Draw People on the Subway

In case you missed Joan's post to our Facebook Group page you should check out this hysterically funny piece about Drawing People on the Subway.

 I know almost everyone in the group has at one time or another done this so you'll love it.

The post was created by Hallie Bateman, and was originally posted at The Awl.  Hallie is a NY based artist living in Brooklyn.  Joan became aware of Hallie's work when MataGirl, (who's work you may have seen)  an Urban Sketcher and friend sent her the link.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review of a Vintage Winsor Newton Travel Palette

This is a review of a vintage Winsor Newton travel watercolor palette I scored on Ebay.  I don’t know the model number or year it was made and if anyone has this info I would appreciate if you passed it on.

I’ve been using a metal travel palette with 14 half pans and was looking for one larger with more paint space and I found this gem on-line.  I heard about the old enameled Winsor Newton palettes from my watercolor teacher Tim Clark so I bid for this item  which was located in Britain.  The vendor kindly wrapped it in fragrant, delicate paper that added to my experience opening the foreign package. 

The palette measures 5.5” x 2.75” and folds out to yield 3 large mixing wells and a flat surface.  Both rows yield space for 16 half pans, and there are metal dividers between pans and a center area to keep a brush.  Two removable metal strips hold the pans securely in place.  My palette was partially used and 5 paints were caked with age but the remainders were creamy luxurious colors, particularly the Winsor orange and Venetian red. 

The enamel case had a few chips that were easily fixed with Testors paint.  I was especially thrilled when I realized that the center row can be used for more colors, so I got busy with my on-line art store and ordered a new row of half pans to make a nice spectrum of watercolors.  The only problem is I am afraid the enameled case might get chipped and I don’t want to leave home with it.  Who knows when the next one is coming up on Ebay!

So if anyone recognizes this palette and knows more about the year or model number please leave a comment.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

SATURDAY - NY Historical Society

Saturday January 17, 2014 – 
New York Historical Society Museum & Library

Event Planned by Elaine Langer

The New York Historical Museum has a rich array of artifacts from New York past. The New York Historical Society collection contains over 300 relics.  These relics are on display and waiting to be drawn!  Further there are approximately 3,000 toys and games (and remnants of the holiday train show) on display. These may prove to be interesting subject for sketching. Additionally there is an area displaying “tools of the trade”. “The collection includes thousands of objects used in the home, on the farm or in workshops and offices, from the Dutch colonial era to the twentieth century. Included are items related to food preparation and household maintenance, as well as tools used in manufacturing, trades and professions. Notable in the collection are a chest of woodworking tools used by the New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe and tools used by glassworkers at Tiffany Studios.”

And if that isn't enough there is a special Spotlight on the “eminent American sculptor Daniel Chester French was sixty-five when he was asked to create the most iconic monument of his long career—the statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.” The model on display is the only full size maquette of the head.  The plaster head was used to see the effects of light in the Memorial building. 

 Come and check it out!

Where: 170 Central Park West, NY, NY at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), ( just south of the Museum of Natural History

When: At 10 AM. Running late? Don't worry - come anyway, we'll be there.

Admission: Adults $19 / Children 5 – 13 years of age $6 / Senior Citizens/Educators/Active Military (62+): $15  
HOWEVER - Elaine negotiated a Special Urban Sketchers discount = $14 for everyone

Lunch: At 12:30 at Isabella’s (Pasta and Burger place) 359 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024 (Located at the intersection of 77th and Columbus Avenue)

Afternoon: 1:45 - Back to the Museum for more sketching

Show and Tell:  3:30 at Amsterdam Ale House, 340 Amsterdam Avenue, NY, NY (Located at the intersection of 77th and Amsterdam Avenue)

Note: The museum prefers we work in pen, pencil or charcoal - basically anything that doesn't drip!

Directions (see map):

Click to Enlarge

By Subway:


SubwaySubway to 81st Street
Subway to 79th Street


Bus to 77th Street
Bus to 81st Street and Central Park West

By Car:


There is a limited amount of street parking on 77th Street, 76th Street and Central Park West.
Nearby parking garages can be found at:
203 W 77th Street, (212) 362-2308
207 W 76th Street, (212) 496-8553
201 W 75th Street, (212) 874-0581
All garages are between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

Can't find us?  
Call or Text Mark - 973-809-9128

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Reflections of a beginning urban sketcher...

NOTE:  Sometime you read something that's too good not to share.  I'm assuming the author would be delighted to have a wider audience.  I'm reposting without permission, which I hope is acceptable - and offer apologies if it's not.  Here's some great advise: 

Reflections of a beginning urban sketcher...
Reposted from Urban Sketchers Manchester, UK

...or what I wish someone had told me at the start of the year.

As I write this I’m sat at a café in a small seaside town where my family live; I‘m reflecting on my urban sketching adventures and thinking about what I would tell myself as I sat here last New Years Eve having not picked up a pencil in 15 years. Perhaps this might inspire someone else to pick up a pencil and draw his or her life.

The remains of the pier in the seaside town where my family live

1 – draw, draw, draw – the more you draw, the better you get. It’s all about practise not making it perfect.

2 - Draw the everyday things around you, the coffee cup, the cake, the pens you use, and the shoes on your feet. 

The coffee table at a friend's house

3 – Don’t rub out those mistakes, learn from them and live with them. Often when I thought I had done a lousy drawing, I looked again, a while later and could appreciate it much more.

4 – Don’t get sucked into thinking you have to have the right materials to draw – use what you have, if you don’t like it what you have then ask for advice from others, borrow stuff and try it out and if you don’t like something – perhaps, find it a new owner or home. Don’t think that having the most expensive stuff is the key – three pencils, a waterbrush and a pen were used in my favourite sketch of the year.

5 – Try not to work across too many sketchbooks – taking them all out makes your bag very heavy.
I’m now working across 3 – an A4 moleskine, a medium sized one and a Stilman and Birn Epsilon book…

6 – Date your sketches and number your sketchbooks – it helps to see your progress

7 – Your sketchbooks are precious –but not so precious you are scared to make mistakes or not use them.

8 – Ask for advice and feedback from others, it can be a little nugget of advice that can move you forward. One of the best I received was two words about drawing people ‘draw bigger’. Thank you, Lynne.

Tram bridge in Sheffield, one of the pieces produced in a workshop run
by Lynne Chapman - Afraid of Colour?

9 – Add your thoughts to a sketch, it helps to remember what you thought of it, what mistakes you
noticed and what you thought went well.

10 – Carry a sketchbook and a pencil or pen… always.

11 – Draw often, short but everyday is better than 4 hours once a month. If you think you don’t have time, turn the TV off and turn on your creativity.

12 – You don’t have to share your sketches until you are ready to. My early ones were not seen by anyone.

13 – Drawing ‘bits’ is less intimidating – a nose, ear, foot, window, door rather than a whole person or building.

14 – The ephemera of life can be worth keeping – I spent a lot of time on trains – those tickets are stuck into the sketchbooks… collage is art…

One of the many train tickets from this year.

15 – Review your sketching kit regularly otherwise you will take everything including the kitchen sink. Make each piece earn a place in your daily kit. Thanks Liz Steel.

Part of my kit, drawn one evening

16 – A little bit of perspective knowledge goes a long way

17 – Simplify – you don’t have to draw everything, exactly as it is.. embrace wonkiness. See the stained glass window in this painting.

I simplified the stained glass in this window and experimented with wet in wet watercolour (with bunny)

18 – Eventually you find some materials and a style, enjoy them but carry on developing, experimenting and learning.

19 – Add observations to your sketches – my favourite from a gentleman while his daughter watched me ‘it’s like photography, only slower’

20 - Seek out and share inspiration with others, follow them on facebook, twitter, pintrest, flickr, post your sketches online, join an online class, watch a you tube video… look for those nuggets to help you move on.

This was done after taking Paul Heaston's class on Craftsy

21  - Don’t give up, when you look back you will be able to see progress.

With thanks to all the Urban Sketchers who I have met, followed and/or drawn with from across the world. Particular thanks to Lynne Chapman, Simone Ridyard, Mike Dodds, Adelina Adelydee, Ann Marie Percival, Andrea Joseph and Liz Steel.

Below is my picture of the year; one of the totem poles in the British Museum - a culmination of all the advice from above :o)