pearly afternoon

a portland fire hydrant

Day one of the Urban Sketching Symposium continued. After Lapin’s inspiring lecture about an sketchbook illustration project he recently did for the French wine town of St Emilion, we set forth once more to sketch some urban architecture with Simonetta Cappecchi, the Urban Sketcher from Naples. We were in Jameson Square, but I kind of wandered of on my own a little, looking for things around the Pearl District to get me into the sketching groove. Above is another fire hydrant, this time sketched in a group sketchbook that was being passed around from sketcher to sketcher to each add something. I have a thing about fire hydrants. Answers on a postcard.

I settled at the corner of the square for a sketch of an interesting corner, a building shell converted into some retail and arts space, with the Portland Union railway station in the background. I was going to add colour, but decided to keep it black and white.

jameson square

Portland is a cool place. I wandered about the Pearl district looking for a Portlandesque vista, and found a couple of views that jumped out on me. I don’t recall what that big building by the river with the water-tower on top is called. Answers on a postcard. A passer-by who stopped to chat did tell me, but I stupidly didn’t write it down.

pdx10 old water towerbroadway bridge

I know what that bridge is called though: Broadway Bridge. Bright red steel against a blue sky, you can’t go wrong with that. I liked hw I was looking upon it from what seemed to be riverside wasteland, and it reminded me a little of what parts of the south bank of the Thames looked like when I was a kid, undeveloped but on its way.

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the streets and the thousands of colours

USK PDX 2010

And so, the 1st International Urban Sketching symposium officially began. I liked staying at the Mark Spencer hotel, because most of the non-Portland sketchers were staying there too, and it was nice to meet new people at breakfast. At the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), Gabi Campanario opened proceedings and we set off on our field sketching sessions. You could taste the level of excitement!

pdx10: gabi introducing symposium portland fire hydrant

My first session was Urban Colour with Jason Das. Our group walked a couple of blocks, and I drew the fire hydrant above (I love fire hydrants, and here they are orange).  I was surprised to find that Suzanne Cabrera was sketching with us; I hadn’t realised she’d be at the Symposium! I’ve followed her work for years so it was a pleasure to meet her in person. Jason’s session was quiteNW 11th and Hoyt interactive, which I liked, and made us focus on colour in different ways. It was a particularly grey morning though. While I was sketching, a lady came out of the store in front of which I was positioned and asked if I’d like some work. She wanted to know if I would be interested in painting the big rock she uses to kep the shop door open, in the style of a ladybird (and she said ‘ladybird’, not ladybug, becasue she was British, though she didn’t know I was). Paint a rock like a ladybird? In watercolours with a tiny brush? Not for any money, like, just in case I wanted something to do she said (because I didn’t look busy). I politely declined.

After the first quick sketch, we all did a drawing using a lighter coloured pen than we’d normally use – I used a fairly light blue – and then coloured it. I wasn’t much pleased with my results (partly because I didn’t finish the colour), but it’s all about trying stuff out. I do like drawing street corners though. There it is on the right.

The next exercise was to draw the same scene twice, once with normal colour, and the second with different colour. I liked the idea of this one, and it certainly allowed you to break out of the bounds a little, but I think it worked a little better for others than for me.

urban colour

The final exercise was a winner, and one which made some people understandably nervous. We were to draw a picture in our own sketchbooks of any scene, and then hand the sketchbook to a partner, who would then colour it in themselves. This was very interesting. First of all, the person I was partnered with, Robin Carlson, originally came from, of all places, Davis! Drawing the linework was a little nervy for me, as I knew it would then be scrutinised by someone else, but once the sketchbooks were swapped it was very liberating! I loved colouring in a different book, it was so liberating. Several people said the same – the hard work was already done! But I was so pleased with how robin had coloured my book – see below. The colours are so vibrant, and really leap out (mine are usually a little muted), and complement each other so well. I particularly like the values on the tree. Thanks Robin! This could be a fun exercise, like an online art exchange, you draw something and hand it over to other online sketchers to add their own colour or tints; this is something worth exploring.

drawn by pete, coloured by robin

urban sketching in portland

Thus ended session one. There wasn’t a massive amount of time for lunch, before the lectures began…

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