Exploring Downtown Chicago and Beyond

Exploring Downtown Chicago and Beyond


[By Richard Sheppard in Chicago, Illinois] 

Accommodations for the Urban Sketchers Symposium can be quite comfortable if you have a friend who’s nice enough to use thousands of accumulated Marriott points. My friend Phil had enough points to score the Blackstone Hotel, just two blocks from the Goodman Center where the Symposium was centered in downtown Chicago. Thanks Phil!

The historic hotel was built by the Drake brothers, hiring architects Marshall & Fox to design it. It opened in 1910 and at the time it was the tallest building in Chicago. Noteworthy guests have included 12 consecutive presidents from Taft to Carter, Al Capone, and others. The Blackstone has also been used as staging for several notable films, including The Color of Money and The Untouchables.

The narrow view we had out our 19th floor room included Grant Park and Lake Michigan off in the distance where two of my Symposium classes were held (Thanks Shari and Virginia!).

Across the street from our hotel was Grant park where the city of Chicago runs a free SummerDance series (with live band and instructors included) that’s available for anyone with two feet. So, why did I draw this food stand instead of the dancers? They showed up in droves about the time I was wrapping this painting up.
Once the Symposium was over, it was time to explore more of the great city of Chicago. Since the Symposium took every ounce of time and energy I had, I was glad my mother-in-law invited us to stay with her, rest up, and explore this amazing city beyond the downtown area.
The house my wife Marilyn grew up in. 

One thing I’ll always remember about my visit to Chicago is this antique clock in a corner of my mother-in-law’s living room. Its art deco styling and colors are what attract me most, along with soft chimes that dance each quarter hour. The clock has been passed down for generations, and no doubt will be treasured by family clock keepers to come. It makes this corner a special place where I’d like to spend a day with a good book and a cup of tea.
Although I enjoyed the pizza at several downtown restaurants (including Exchequer) while at the Symposium, my favorite pizza restaurant in Chicago is still Pizzeria Uno. My wife and I went there on a Tuesday afternoon to avoid the crowds and were seated at a table with a view. I couldn’t have been happier. I placed my order for a Numero Uno “the works” pizza with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms and Uno’s unique chunky tomato sauce–topped with mozzarella and grated Romano. Then I began to draw my place setting, leaving space to sketch in my pizza when it arrived.
Deep dish pizza was invented in Chicago and Pizzeria Uno’s claims they introduced it to the world. But as with any number-one-claims-to-fame, there are controversies surrounding who actually owns the top spot. But who am I to argue? I just want a great tasting Chicago style deep dish pizza.

Chicagoans are proud of their public transit system, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and they should be. Since the late 1940’s, the CTA has been providing a reliable, economical, and relatively safe way of getting around the city. The buses and trains we’ve used while here have been on time, clean, and an enjoyable way to travel.

While waiting for the bus to arrive, Marilyn and I played footsie at the station. I started to sketch our feet but it wasn’t long before the bus arrived and cut my drawing time short. Once we found a seat, I used my water brush to add some quick color to the line work. The bus took us to a train, which then left us at our final destination, the Art Institute.

Surprisingly, independent coffee houses (other than Starbucks) are hard to find in Chicago. But Copi Cafe in Andersonville is a nice alternative to the usual cup-o-joe. There we met an old friend of Marilyn’s, Tim, a native Chicagoan who’d lived briefly in Michigan, had returned to Chicago a few years ago.
We sat on floor pillows near the front window where we could watch the rain. After ordering a double Americano, I joined the discussion on politics, movies, and more. Marilyn asked Tim about his Lobster Butter Love t-shirt, which, it ends up, is RoosRoast’s signature blend coffee from Ann Arbor.

My trip to Chicago wouldn’t feel complete unless I visited Wriggly Field to watch the Cubs play. It was a good day for the Cubbies because they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 12 to 4. Hot dogs and peanuts for everyone.
Although I’m not a huge hot dog fan (though I loved the one I had at Wriggle Field), I occasionally get a craving that just won’t let up. One afternoon as we drove past the cool vintage sign for Superdawg, a fire was lit in my belly and an image of a hot dog was etched into the craving side of my brain in glowing neon. 
As we pulled up to park at the restaurant, I noticed the glowing retro menu at the passenger side. So Superdawg wasn’t just a diner, but a true old fashioned drive-in. Supercool! I hadn’t been to a drive-in restaurant since I was a kid. We parked and I rolled down the passenger side window to read the menu.

The array of choices was dazzling. Not only did they have Superdawgs but they also had: Whoopskidawgs, Whooperburgers, Superchickenmidgees, Supertamales, Superonionchips, Supermalts, and Supersundaes! The selection was a mind spinner, but what made my taste buds really stand at attention was a good ol’ fashioned hot dog with mustard. (In this town, I’m told ketchup on hot dogs happens about as often as peanut butter on eggs.)

I pressed the service button on the Order-Matic to request a Superdawg with fries and a Coke. Ten minutes later, a cheerful carhop fastened a full tray to the driver’s side window.

Marilyn passed me a drink and a cardboard box that, when opened, was stuffed full of ridged fries and, of course, a hot dog. I dove in, and before my wife could ask how it tasted, it was gone. “That was super!” I said. “But without pickles or onions, it’s not a REAL Chicago dog,” she quipped. “I wanted a Superdawg, not a superpickle,” I told her.

What could she say to that? The answer, my friends, is not much. And with that we flipped the tray pick-up switch on the Order-Matic and were on our way.

While shopping just north of Chicago near Lake Michigan, I began to realize that the end of my Chicago visit was near: there was only one day left to sketch the city. After browsing around downtown Evanston, we headed toward Northwestern University, driving amongst the ivy-covered buildings.
As we pulled into an outdoor parking lot, I spotted a clear and complete view of downtown Chicago. My spirits lifted as I left the car, sketchbook in hand, and strolled closer to the shoreline for the best vantage point.
Listening to the gentle splash of shallow waves against the steel pier, I watched clouds gather in dark formations miles east, above Lake Michigan, then watched as sheets of rain poured into the lake. I could have sat there for hours soaking up the view and listening to the waves. What a peaceful yet energizing way to cap off my time in Chicagoland.


Published at Wed, 30 Aug 2017 05:35:00 +0000

This entry was posted in Art.

Pink and chartreuse in Iowa

Pink and chartreuse in Iowa

[By Marcia Milner-Brage in Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA]

  It’s a small house, close to the old town downtown. It’s pink. The color app names it to be light salmon or tulip. Neither of those monikers resonate. To me it’s the color of Pepto Bismol or Bazooka bubblegum. Unlike other cities in the United States that have traditions of houses painted in bright, richly saturated colors–like San Francisco or New Orleans, my hometown is a place where exterior house color is invariable not notable.

The lack of variety and flare in exterior house color here is encouraged by the much used option of aluminum siding. Homeowners of older homes are covering up their wood siding with aluminum, never to have to paint again. Iowans are known to be pragmatic, sensible. Another thing about Iowans is when in conversation, if you get the response, “That’s different”, you know you’ve stepped too close to the line of what’s acceptable. By being different here, perhaps you’re taking an unnecessary risk. Anyway, back to the color of houses. Unfortunately, the color choices for aluminum siding are limited and, pardon me for saying, an aluminum sided house looks canned–the difference between a TV dinner versus dinner made from fresh ingredients.

When this house on 4th went pink–not pastel pink or pink that’s more mauve, but P-I-N-K with an attitude, I was delighted. I felt my neighborhood had been enriched. It had been spiffed up. I go out of my way to pass by this house. It’s uplifting. Yup, it makes me happy. I go by this house and I can’t help but think–there’s one loved house.

This house on 3rd Street is also small. It’s been uninhabited for as long as I can remember (and I’ve lived here for 30 years). Yet it’s minimally tended–no broken windows, a hose hanging on the side, the roof in good shape, the foundation not cracked, the lawn mowed. To me, it’s the chartreuse house. I’m attracted to this house because I like the color. And face it, chartreuse is not a common color to paint ones house. It’s unusual and yet understated. The color endeared it to me. The color makes the house elegant to my eyes. Over time, the paint has chipped and faded. What is it now? Faded chartreuse? Chrome oxide green? Grasshopper green? Khaki? Mindaro? In the 1950s when this house was built, it was called Wheatgrass and it must have been a color in vogue. No need to name it, really, I’ll just draw it and the pink house and give them the attention they deserve for being different.


Published at Sun, 27 Aug 2017 02:14:00 +0000

This entry was posted in Art.

Zero to Hero with iPad+Procreate-Santa Monica, USA

Zero to Hero with iPad+Procreate-Santa Monica, USA

Zero to Hero with iPad+Procreate

Workshop Information

10am – 5pm (with a 1-hour break for lunch)
Saturday 16 September, 2017
Santa Monica, USA

Instructor: Rob Sketcherman

Workshop Description

Sketching and painting on an iPad is relatively new. Artists, illustrators and creatives of all stripes around the world have been turning to Procreate to conceptualize, sketch and paint on their iPads, and now you can too.

Like any tool or medium, there is a learning curve, so this workshop is structured in small steps to get you comfortable with Procreate through a series of demonstrations and exercises. Consisting of two 3-hour sessions over a single day, Zero to Hero with iPad+Procreate is a carefully-paced immersive deep-dive, designed to get you up and creating art on your iPad, even if you’ve never dabbled in digital drawing before.
You’ll learn to understand the user interface and best practices for available tools. Discover gloriously juicy brushes and rich organic textures, all without having to clean another brush or pen!

By the end of the workshop, you’ll have a very clear idea of the potential of Procreate + your iPad as a fantastic mobile digital studio for doodling, visualizing, sketching on location and a whole lot more. Print samples will be shown so you know how screen translates to paper.

Time to sketch on location is liberally integrated into the workshop so you can begin to master skills learned, ask questions and get guidance as you work. You’ll leave Zero to Hero with iPad+Procreate feeling much more confident about whipping your iPad out whenever inspiration strikes!

Workshop Learning Goals

Working digitally is relatively new, even for very advanced sketchers, so this workshop is designed to help you get really comfortable with Procreate, especially if you’re new to digital sketching. You can expect to:

  • See how to customize the interface for whether you’re right or left-handed
  • Collate your favorite digital tools for easy access
  • Learn to customize digital brushes
  • Create infinite palettes of custom color
  • Think in layers for ultimate flexibility
  • Understand how your work goes from screen to print
  • Learn to handle the 3 challenges of sketching digitally on location: glare, power and weather
  • Explore various helpful accessories; styli, cases, tablet holders etc
  • Adapt your analog style to digital media


Workshop Location

This workshop will be held in a space in Santa Monica. More details and the exact location will be emailed to participants.

Workshop Schedule

Session One: 3 hours total (10am-1pm)

Introduction and Gear (10 min)

Introduction of the instructor and potential of Procreate. Discussion and demonstration of helpful gear and accessories, especially styli and tablet holders.

Getting to Know Procreate (60min)

A series of demonstrations and quick exercises will familiarize participants with Procreate and its interface. They will then learn how to customize important settings, set up favorite tools for optimal use, see what effects are possible, and learn to create their personal digital toolkits.

The Digital Workflow (20min)

Participants use what they’ve learned to do some quick 5-min sketching exercises that help cement the concept of a digital workflow. This prepares them for sketching outdoors on location.

We will also look at print samples and preparing your artwork for print.

Sketching Exercises (50min)

Participants apply what they’ve learned and sketch while the instructor goes among them to offer guidance. The session ends with a review of work, sharing and Q&A.


SESSION TWO : 3 hours total (2-5pm)

Replicating Analog styles in Digital Media (20min)

Most users of Procreate want to know how they can get the look of their favorite traditional mediums before exploring other aspects of digital potential. This segment explores the most common media styles and how to replicate them digitally. We then look at ways to go beyond that.

Advanced tools in Procreate (20min)

Demonstrations and exercises to introduce participants to advanced tools in Procreate for various purposes, including useful layer effects, object manipulation, rendering accurate perspective, lettering & calligraphy.

Sketching on Location (140min)

Participants apply what they’ve learned and sketch while the instructor goes among them to offer guidance. The workshop ends with a review of work, sharing and Q&A.

Workshop Registration and Cost

Workshop Fee: $110 (lunch not included)

Please contact Louisa at louisa@sketcherman.com for space availability and PayPal link.

Maximum number of participants 15 (minimum 10) All levels welcome
*In the event of too few registrations, all monies will be refunded less Paypal Fees.

*Please note: cancellations up to September 1, 2017 will be refunded the full amount minus a cancellation fee of $15.00, and no refunds will be granted after that date. Thank you for your understanding.

Supply list

  1. An iPad (iPad Air or newer highly recommended. You will probably be frustrated with the performance of anything older.)
  2. Preinstalled Procreate app (USD5.99 or equivalent on the iOS App Store)
  3. A stylus (You may use any stylus, although I highly recommend one that supports pressure-sensitivity.)
  4. A stool / chair for sketching if you have one.
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Sun protection: Hat / umbrella

You’re also welcome to email questions to rob@sketcherman.com

About the Instructor

Rob Sketcherman is an artist and illustrator from Hong Kong who has been using the iPad exclusively as his creative device for the past 4 years. He is one of the 5 administrators of Urban Sketchers Hong Kong. While not sketching on the streets, he handles illustration commissions of all kinds, and is occasionally asked to speak, demonstrate and run workshops on his artistic and professional work on the iPad, including at Apple and educational institutions.


Published at Sat, 12 Aug 2017 06:19:00 +0000

This entry was posted in Art.

How to teach your kids to write and draw


Children learn to write and draw in four stages from 15 months to 3 years old. These are the years when the child is the most creative. Creativity lets your child become inquisitive, thoughtful, and become a confident learner. One of the ways to encourage your kid’s creativity is to give the child different art materials to experiment with. Once he or she starts to scribble or draw with the crayons, you will find that the writings and drawings are improving and becoming more controlled. These are some tips to teach kids how to write and draw.

Make time for art

Give your children different crayons that are easy to grip. You can also provide washable markers and thick pencils. You should give papers to draw. You can tape the paper on the table so that it doesn’t move when drawing. As the child grows, you can provide child-safe scissors and glue, doughs, etc.

Don’t give instructions

Give your child the freedom to explore and experiment. This independence will help the child to become competent, intelligent and confident. You can sit down beside your child, observe and enjoy the activities.

Experiment with different art materials

Let your child experiment with various art materials, like sponges, cotton balls, string, etc. You can give them glitters and paint. You can add some drops of food coloring to the water and show them what happens when you mix colors.

Encourage your child’s writing attempts

Whatever your child scribbles on paper, encourage your kid. You can ask him or her to write down the shopping list or write a letter to Grandma. This way children will learn the importance of writing.

Creative activities help children to learn faster. They feel confident about the choices they make. It gives them ideas to express themselves.

This entry was posted in Art, Blog.