As part of the promotion team for the Urban Sketchers 8th International Symposium, hosted for the first time in Chicago, I was honored to represent the organization by appearing on the WGN-TV Morning News. The anchors on this day included Robin Baumgarten, Dan Ponce, Morgan Kolkar and a little help from Mike Toomey.
The idea was to have Liz Steel, Australian watercolor illustrator/instructor and one of the original members of Urban Sketchers, and myself sit in on the broadcast and sketch away as they checked in on us from time to time. We were on during the 9:00 am hour which is a lighter content and the last hour of their morning broadcast. Liz arrived about 7:30 am and sat outside on the summery July 26 morning and sketched the exterior of the WGN Studios. I arrived about 8:00 am and somehow missed Liz painting outside. I went directly into the building, checked in and settled into the green room. Liz joined me about 8:15 and the ladies from PR Chicago joined us to debrief us. Our green room was directly across the hallway from a large pillar with Bozo The Clown painted on it and apparently the old studio where the popular children's program was filmed for many years. I felt nostalgic.
We were to sit in on the broadcast and sketch quietly. They would be checking in on us as they went to commercial breaks and we expected to have one segment where we talked about urban sketching and make sure that viewers knew about the public sketch crawl happening on Saturday the 29th. We were told they would expect us to only be sketching different views of the set.
Robin and Dan chatted with us during the commercial breaks and when they found out Liz had an infectious Aussie accent, Dan prodded Robin to do her accent. She declined knowing that it might be insulting to someone like Liz who actually spoke the language. We sat in the semi-circle stage about 20 feet away from the news desk with a jungle of cameras, teleprompters and cables between us. Our interview segment went exactly as we were told while Ray the cameraman and Mike Toomey came up to me with requests that I sketch them. The cameras were particularly interested in the clip board set up Liz had with messy watercolor trays and water cups with her painting. I covered all of the specific talking points we needed to cover while Liz and I dazzled them with our studio sketches.
In an exciting turn of events, Robin and Dan had technical difficulties while trying to conduct an interview with the author of a new book and turned to Liz and I for a surprise check in. They had time to kill and we were happy to oblige with additional air time. By the time the hour was up, the crew had chatted with us three times and positioned their cameras over us for every commercial break. I'd say our time on WGN was a huge success.