Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Urban Sketchers Are About Telling Stories Through Their Sketches
by Wes Douglas, Urban Sketchers Chicago

I will be part of a three-person team of sketch correspondents at the 
8th International Symposium in Chicago (July 26-30, 2017) who will cover as many events (workshops, demonstrations, lectures and social gatherings) as possible, armed with only our sketchbooks, eyes and ears to record each day's activities. 

Each day we will attempt to divide and conquer by sketch-recording furiously the flavor of 36 workshops, dozens of artist demonstrations and lectures at the Symposium and by night composing, scanning sketches and blogging highlights from the day—reporting on our impressions of what we hear, observe and experience for those who were not able to attend the Symposium or could only be in one activity at a time.

As an Urban Sketcher, I am often asked if this group is just a bunch of artists getting together to draw. While it is true that we are a social group that enjoys sketching together, one of the most critical components of selecting a scene to sketch on location is whether the scene will make a great story to tell. The sketch serves as our prompt to relive the experience.

I am a big proponent of the example and here is a recent post from fellow urban sketcher  Donald Owen Colley that caught my eye because of the great story and help from the impressive visualization:

Century Pens, Chicago
Ed Hamilton, owner/proprietor
Story and sketch by Donald Owen Colley

I walked into Ed Hamilton's boutique pen shop, Century Pens located in the Loop by the [Chicago] Board of Trade, just over eight years ago, and have developed a wonderful friendship with Ed – a Prince among men – who has owned Century Pens for eleven years. 

Trained as an architect and hailing from the fair state of Indiana, Ed and I have spent many hours talking about pens, ink, penmanship, architecture, Chic
ago's history, politics, and tales of our wild youth. I got the fountain pen bug just before I met Ed, who recognized a potential addict the minute I walked in the store with a sketchbook in my hand and an assortment of pens peering over my vest pocket. 

Ed was every bit the enabler and fanned the flames of desire for this draughtsman whose fountain pen collection (I'm sure) passed the $11,000 mark several months ago. I recall talking to one of Ed's regulars whose collection was over 650 fountain pens. 

Century Pens has been the premier fine writing pen store in Chicago and one of my absolute favorites nationwide. Chicago lost Gilbertson Clybourne a couple years back and I fret Ed's age and the prospect that he may hang up the spurs one day. 

Today, I spent most of the day sitting in Ed's store, drawing, sharing take-out lunch, and shooting the bull with Eddie and Charlie. Online is in so many of it's convenient ways a poor substitute for the face to face, hands on, of the brick and mortar experience. Cheers Eddie. Drawn in a Tomoe River Paper sketchbook with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens and a Pelikan M215 fountain pen with Platinum Carbon Ink.

For more on Urban Sketchers Chicago: 

For more sketch stories from Donald Owen Colley: 

Century Pens, Chicago:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Urban Sketchers Chicago Onboard with #MetraManners

Some people text or read, daydream, some meet with friends, while others eat or nap on the 
train. There is, however, a group of artists who sketch a wide range of passengers on various 
Metra routes. They represent a local group known as Urban Sketchers Chicago (USk Chicago) and they are part of a global community of artists that enjoy drawing on location in cities, towns, and villages 
in which they live, work, or have visited. Examples include but are not limited to cafes, street 
scenes, buildings, houses, shops, landscaping, people, domestic animals, transportation 
centers (i.e. airports, train stations and buses) as well as what you see while you are traveling.

Illustration: Brian Wright                              Illustration: Wes Douglas

Sketching people on public transportation is a favorite subject of these artists 
because they are always different and interesting. In our own way, Urban Sketchers 
are quietly doing our part to elevate the current Metra Rail “Ride Nice” campaign
#metramanners. Who knows? Maybe the more smiles we can create with our 
sketches the less riders will be throwing digital jabs at one another about 
inappropriate behavior.

Urban Sketchers do not sketch from memory or photographs but by direct 
observation in person. This becomes particularly challenging because people 
on trains move around a lot. But it is also rewarding when those being sketched 
discover how their likeness is elevated to a fresh new perspective by these artists. 

Wes Douglas remembered hearing one lucky passenger exclaim, “When someone 
snaps your photo on the train, it’s a little creepy. But when someone sketches you it 
is a relief.” These artists capture many different positions, colorful clothing and the 
expressions of commuters on paper. 

Our urban sketchers are located all over the Chicagoland area and depend on public transportation for traveling between work and home as well as gatherings with fellow 
urban sketchers. And since a large portion of their day is spent on commuting, urban 
sketchers make the most of it by knocking out a few sketches to pass the time.

To learn more about Urban Sketchers Chicago and where they will be sketching next 
go to:

To learn more about Metra Rail’s Ride Nice campaign: