A Buffet of Workshops this Weekend, April 23-24

This coming weekend, French Escapade is hosting a collection of amazing virtual workshops taught by artists around the world! Short and sweet, and taught LIVE, you can take them all back-to-back or just pick your favorites.

I’m honored to be teaching a class on sketching arches in lovely Venice…why arches? Because arches are not horseshoes, of course! They are in fact architecturally structural elements and have a few features that are important to capture…for example, do you know what the Spring Line is? Arches are focal points in so many buildings, so many sketches…I’ll share my tips and shortcuts for getting them right!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taught a class (had to stop to work on the book!), and I’m so excited to get back at it. I hope that you can join us! More info and registration here. GRAZIE!

Yes, this happened.

Ah, life. It’s been quite a challenging year…ALL my time and energy since March 2021 went into a HUGE new book, The World of Urban Sketching…more on that exciting project soon! I stopped most of my sketching and illustration work to devote everything to that project. On top of that, last fall we moved my mom up from Texas to live with us, and sadly, she passed away in late March only 5 days after I submitted the final portions of the book to the publisher. So lots of challenges…

One bright spot is that I had the extraordinary opportunity to design and illustrate four US Postage Stamps which are being released today, April 14, 2022!!!! It was an intense project, with the bar so high for artwork on stamps. Particularly amazing is that the originals will become part of the collection at the Smithsonian. My dad was a HUGE stamp collector, he would be beside himself with joy. And my mom asked me every day for about 3 years, “How are the stamps coming along?” Sadly, she passed away only three weeks before their issue.

Because they are for commercial use only, you cannot buy them at the post office. The print quantities are 30 million stamps (10,000 rolls) and 1 billion stamps (100,000 rolls), respectively. Yep, that’s BILLION with a “B”. Collectors can buy first day covers here and you can call Stamp Fulfillment Services at 844-737-7826 to buy them in strips of 10 for $2.50. You can read about them in Linn’s Stamp News (the stamp bible) here.

Heartfelt thanks to amazing Art Director, Antonio Alcala, who gave me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was also interviewed for a magazine about the project. To learn more about how all this came about, read on…

How do you define yourself professionally? I am an architectural illustrator with a background as a licensed architect. I also taught drawing in university-level architecture and interior design programs for about 30 years, and I’ve authored 2 best-selling books on sketching with a third due for publication in September 2022. I travel and teach urban sketching workshops around the world.

When did you start working on these stamps? I was first contacted to work on these stamps early in 2019.

How did you get linked up wit the Postal Service for this project? Art Director Antonio Alcala said that he had a team combing the internet for a possible illustrator. They came across my sketches on Instagram and apparently, the team selected my work. Antonio then contacted me directly. It’s funny, at first he sent me an email, and I thought it was spam—there is no way that someone would be contacting me about a project like this! But when I saw his name again on my phone as it rang the next day, I jumped to pick it up.

Are these your first stamps? YES!

How was the project described to you? Antonio said that lots of people go into the post office and simply ask for stamps with a US flag on them. He thought it would be good to give them something more by combining flags and barns, two American icons. At first I was to do two stamps, then after seeing my rough sketches, it was decided that I should do a set of four. I have to say, I was quite overwhelmed. The artwork on US stamps is extraordinarily beautiful, I wasn’t sure I could rise to the occasion!

These barns are in four different seasons? I clearly see winter, fall; and I assume the barn with grass is spring…the last one with high grass is summer, yes? Once the decision was made to do four stamps, it was an easy jump to visualize the four seasons…and then four seasons representing different parts of the country. The first is Spring in the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley in Washington state, close to where I live. The second is a hot, dry Summer in some place like Texas or Wyoming. The third is Fall as the leaves are changing somewhere in New England. And Winter is somewhere on a snowy farm in the mid-west.

Are these watercolors? They are indeed watercolors on watercolor paper. I sent the originals to the Art Director for reproduction, and my understanding is that they will be stored somewhere in the Smithsonian. I cannot tell you what a humbling honor this is.

How did the process work? (and the following questions might go along with this…). I started out by searching through images from my memory, my own photos, and the internet. Being an architectural illustrator was helpful, as I could combine and invent different elements of the barns and the settings and put them together in a way that would tell a story. I did rough drafts, sent them to Antonio for review, then I would make adjustments. I did several versions of each image, trying to get the watercolor to behave (watercolor has a mind of its own!) I did my best to show the different seasons while still keeping a limited color palette that would allow the different images to work together as a collection. It was also challenging to get the right angle of the building…it had to be frontal enough to show the flag without too much foreshortening, but we also needed to see the side of each barn for depth. If you look closely, I hint at more of the landscape in the distance…more tulip fields, rolling hills, cattle in the fields.

What kind of models did you use for the flags and barns? Were these structures you had seen or were provided to you? I was provided with some images, but I don’t think I used any of them. Most of the content was invented.

I know the artwork for stamp production has to be relatively small. What is the basic size of these originals and was that any kind of challenge for your process? Each original image is about 7.5”w x 5.5” h. I was provided with a template that gave me the correct proportions for each stamp, so it was predetermined that they would be landscape format. The size was not the challenge…the challenge for me was how close we had to be to the barns in order to see the flags. Most of my work has lots of landscape with small buildings, but these needed to be large buildings with very little landscape. It was very hard! Also knowing how small the stamps would be in the end, I couldn’t show as much detail as I would typically show at this size.

Are the styles of the barns specific to any regions of the country? Yes, I did my best to show barns that were typical for each part of the country that was represented.

Which came first the flags or the barns? Definitely, the barns!

What kind of decisions did you make at the start (anything specific with seasons, landscape, lighting?) The first decision was seasons, and that was driven by what color I would show for each…spring green, summer yellows and browns, fall reds and yellows, and white and cool blue winter. As far as lighting, I wanted to show a dramatic orange sunset on the plains for the summer view, gray skies for winter…

Was there a lot of tweaking or adjusting while working with the art director. There was surprisingly little tweaking. Antonio did a great job sizing and cropping (composing) the images. I had seen his stamps online, he does beautiful work.

Is there anything else interesting you would like to add about the artwork, process or stamps? Indeed there is. My dad was a HUGE life-long, avid stamp collector, as were my grandmother and godmother. Sadly, he passed away before I got this commission, but I know that he would be absolutely bursting with pride. And every time I talked to my mom for 3 years, she asked about the stamps. Unfortunately, she passed away only about three weeks before their issue…but I know they would both be so proud and honored…as am I.

Free Workshop Demo this Sunday, December 5!

Dreaming of travel and sketching next year? Me too!!! To give you a taste for my workshop planned for beautiful Seville, Spain, May 17-21, 2022, I’m presenting a sketching demo and live discussion with tour organizer Brenda Murray this coming Sunday. The subject: an amazing courtyard in the Real Alcázar de Sevilla, a place we will visit during the workshop!

This demo is open to all. To register for this free online event, go here. Nos vemos en Sevilla!

HOORAY! 2022 Travel Workshops are here!

Registration for 2022 travel sketching workshops is OPEN. We are just itching to get out there and sketch the world, right? Here is the schedule so far, with more workshops likely to be added:

Seville, Spain | May 17-22, 2022 | Andalusia is the very heart and soul of Spain, one of my favorite countries on the planet. Where Spanish meets Moorish architecture (Game of Thrones was filmed here), we’ll sketch cool courtyards, ornate towers, meandering streets, and eat the best tapas you’ve ever had! Info here or contact Stephanie at stbower@comcast.net.

Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy | June 2022, finalized dates to follow. No cars, just walk up the pedestrian bridge to an island in the clouds. Once you pass through the Porta Santa Maria, you enter a tiny magical town of Medieval stone streets, Renaissance palazzos, warm people and amazing food (how about a rosemary/orange tiramisu?). We’ll sketch it all, from the lovely church on the piazza to an Etruscan cave. For information, contact Stephanie at stbower@comcast.net.

Croatian Coast (Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar + Zagreb) | September 12-22, 2022 | Imagine the most beautiful water you’ve ever seen, white limestone streets and buildings, one of the most picturesque old cities on the planet dating back to the Romans (there’s a reason Game of Thrones was filmed here too!) I was here in September 2019 and was completely blown away and HAD to return to this sketcher’s paradise. Eleven, yes, eleven days of sketching, organized by French Fusion tours. Info here or contact Stephanie at stbower@comcast.net.

Please join me!!!

View from one of two ancient gates into the old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Gosh, I’ll miss this place!!!

Join us to sketch at Daniel Smith Fine Artists’ Materials store in Seattle in the Sodo neighborhood, this Sunday, September 5 at 10am. We will sketch as a way to remember this wonderful store and say THANK YOU to the amazing staff. Please post your sketches, photos, stories, thank you’s to them at #thankyoudanielsmithstoreseattle on Instagram.

Daniel Smith Store is closing. And where have I been…?

Yes, it’s been terribly long since I posted to this blog! Sincere apologies for the absence. I am fine, my family is fine. So where have I been? The answer is WRITING A BOOK! Yes, it will be my third book, and it is HUGE. I can’t go into details yet, but just know that I stopped my day job and teaching back in April to get it up and running. More on this in the future, and on to the business at hand…

Yes, tragically, the center of our creative and arts community, the Daniel Smith Store and mothership is closing. It has been closed throughout the pandemic, although I’m happy to report that they retained ALL their full-time staff by moving them from sales to paint production, which is BOOMING. They are now the top seller of paint in the world! But I have many memories from this place and the wonderful staff who became friends…book signing opportunities, workshops from amazing people from around the globe, not to mention the beautiful, tall, sunlit space with aisles to explore and tools that you could actually hold in your hand and even test before you bought them. Gone are those days. But here are two ways to say THANK YOU for all they have done for us over the years.

  1. If you are from this area, consider this is an invitation to say THANKS to phenomenal Daniel Smith store staff: Join Seattle Urban Sketchers this Sunday, September 5 from 10am-1pm for an opportunity to sketch the store!!! Yes, inside or out, wearing masks.

2. Post your sketch on Instagram, or any sketch or photo you have–maybe of a workshop you took–and story you’d like to tell, or even just say “Thank you” and then tag #thankyoudanielsmithstoreseattle so that the staff can read all the stories and know how much they are appreciated.

And as for my sketches, I’ve done a few and will go back in time and post a few…like the day it was 108 degrees out and I was sleeping on the basement floor…? Hope everyone is well.

Me in teal, then the fabulous Patrice, Lin, Thom the store manager, and Janice…all creative people and artists who helped us for so many years. You are appreciated and will be missed!

PS, I’ll be personally signing copies of my 101 Sketching Tips book there on Sunday!

Are you ready to learn to sketch and paint in the new year?

Dates are set, the new sessions are about to start! Registration opens promptly on Wednesday, January 6 at 10am Seattle time.

UNDERSTANDING PERSPECTIVE | LIVE online masterclasses in perspective sketching made easy with Stephanie Bower

  • Do you fear or fake perspective sketching?
  • Can’t figure out how to start a perspective sketch?
  • And where is that darn vanishing point anyway?

Understanding Perspective is a LIVE online course that makes perspective sketching easy! I’m Urban Sketcher, workshop instructor, architectural illustrator, and author Stephanie Bower, and I’m excited to offer this course to anyone wanting to finally understand how perspective works. Perspective is easy when you know what to look for!

This course is a live, interactive 6-part online class taught via Zoom in which you’ll learn by drawing along with me in real time. In each class, we’ll take notes and sketch together as I present perspective concepts in a crafted PowerPoint presentation, then we will apply those concepts in a step-by-step sketching demo that we will draw and paint together. Yes, you’ll learn lots about watercolor technique too! And like an in-person workshop, you’ll see me work up close, and I’ll answer your questions LIVE.

Understanding Perspective

  • Class 1: Creating a Road Map to Follow
  • The foundations of a perspective sketch in 3 simple steps
  • Demo
  • Class 2: Perspective Fundamentals
  • One and two point perspectives—what’s the difference?
  • View Angles and View Eye Levels
  • Demo
  • Class 3: The Importance of Foreshortening
  • Foreshortening
  • Thumbnails
  • Demo
  • Class 4:  Multiple Vanishing Points
  • Streets, Roofs, Stairs
  • Demo
  • Class 5:  Circles in Perspective
  • Ellipses
  • Arches (they are not like horseshoes!)
  • Demo
  • Class 6:  Looking UP
  • Towers are like wedding cakes
  • Domes are round
  • Demo

++++++++++ WORKSHOP FEE

Understanding Perspective: Classes 1-6, Workshop fee is US$325.00

Included are 6 classes + Tech Check/Intro to Materials, crits during the classes, personalized crits and markups via email on the optional homework assignments, and access to view the class recordings. I’ll send you Notes before each class, and after class, I’ll send scans of the completed demo for your reference.

Workshop fees are payable by check or Zelle for US participants or by PayPal for international participants. Info will be sent to all registered participants.

++++++++++ DATES AND TIMES

Session 1:  Sundays at 9am Seattle time (12noon New York, 6pm Paris) for 6 weeks. January 17, 24, 31, February 7, 14, 21

Session 2:  Tuesdays at 4pm Seattle time (7pm New York; 11am Wednesdays in Sydney, Australia) for 6 weeks. January 19, 26, February 2, 9, 16, 23. Note: this class content is particularly targeted to beginning sketchers. If you are new to sketching, please sign up for this session.

  • Each class is expected to run about 3-3.5 hours (It goes by very quickly.)
  • Classes will be limited in size.

++++++++++ HOW TO REGISTER

Registration opens promptly on Wednesday, January 6 at 10am Seattle time. Email Stephanie at stephaniebower.workshops@gmail.com at that time, and be sure to indicate which session you’d like, Sundays or Tuesdays (beginners).

++++++++++ QUESTIONS?

  • During this class, will you be sitting outside on location or are we working from photos?

Sadly due to the pandemic, we cannot sketch together live on location just yet. This will be the next best thing as you join me in my tiny studio and we work from carefully selected photos with the understanding that ultimately, the course is about location sketching. In some ways, you’ll see the demos BETTER than when done in person, as Zoom will allow you to look at my sketches up close.

  • What do you mean by an “interactive PowerPoint”?

I’ve created these classes to mirror a real college course. Most of the information is delivered through detailed PowerPoint presentations that I’ve developed. I’ll pause throughout the presentation so that you can draw and take notes, and I will sketch along with you as well. After the PowerPoint and a short break, we’ll apply the concepts learned to an actual live demo. I’ll draw and paint a scene step-by-step so that you can also draw and paint with me at the same time. And before each class, I’ll email participants a worksheet that they can print out and use for notetaking or simply to help them follow along.

  • I’m new to sketching, is this class OK for me?

YES, I love teaching beginners! If you are new to perspective, or simply want to improve your knowledge and skills, this class is for you. The Tuesday afternoon session is particularly targeted to new and beginning sketchers.

  • I’m already a pretty good sketcher, will I learn anything new from this class?

YES! Even seasoned sketchers will benefit from seeing this approach and for the deep and detailed dives into architectural elements like multiple vanishing points, ellipses, and domes. I’ll also show lots of shortcuts to sketching complex subjects in simple ways.

  • Will there be homework?

Yes, but homework is optional. I’ll provide a few images at the end of each class that you can work on at home and at your own pace. I’ve created a private Facebook group where you can share your sketches and homework with others in the courses.

  • I don’t have a computer or tablet, can I still take this class from my phone?

You will need a computer or laptop to do this course. A phone or tablet will not work.

  • What art supplies will I need for this class?

You’ll need your basic sketching equipment, including watercolors. I’ll email participants a list of supplies.

  • What equipment do I need for this class?

Use the largest screen and best wifi connection available to you! You will also want the newest equipment possible with the best camera so that we can see your work well.

You will need to have the free online download ZOOM downloaded onto your computer (ideal) or laptop. Instructions on how to join the live class will be emailed to all registered participants each week.

I’ll schedule a Tech Check on Zoom the Saturday before classes start so that everyone knows how to access Zoom’s “side-by-side” viewing mode. I’ll also go over the art materials we’ll use in the class and talk , including how to mix my “Magic Gray”.

  • How does this course compare with your Craftsy classes and books?

The biggest difference between this class and Craftsy and my books is that this is LIVE instruction! You can ask questions and I’ll answer in the moment. Most of this content is brand new, and doing the live demo together at the end of each class will cement the concepts you are learning.

  • Will this class be recorded to show again at a later date in case we cannot participate in the live classes?

Yes, recordings will be available for viewing (not downloading) after each class. These have proven to be extremely helpful for participants who prefer to work slowly or who have to miss a class.

  • Will you be offering more classes in the future?

Definitely! I intend to keep offering Understanding Perspective. If you have suggestions for days and times that might work better, please let me know. The plan is to also add new courses, such as sketching interiors. So stay tuned!

Thanks so much for your interest in this course! I hope to see you on Zoom!

I hope to see you soon on Zoom! And Happy New Year!!

Born to do this…

Yes, I think I was probably born to teach. As I prepare for the next round of online workshops, I realize that teaching these classes is getting me through the isolation of this pandemic. I’m so grateful to the many folks from around the world who have joined me to learn about perspective and watercolor from the comfort (and safety) of our own homes. I hope that these classes are helping you too.

At AsiaLink Sketchwalk in Taiwan 2019. A GREAT USk symposium!!!! Shocking now to see us all so close together, isn’t it? Photo by Rob Sketcherman 🙂

I also think back to how I started teaching. You may be surprised to learn that for most of my 5 years of architecture school, I was not particularly good at drawing. Before entering our 4th year in the program, our portfolios were reviewed by 3 professors, and you had to pass this review in order to move on. In my review, two professors literally wrote “weak graphic skills”. I was so discouraged, especially after already investing 3 years in college, but I turned it around and took it as a challenge to do better. And wow, look what happened! I clearly remember struggling with learning how to draw, and it’s that struggle that helps me be a better teacher today.

But this isn’t how I actually started teaching…after graduating with my 5 year architecture degree from UT Austin (as Valedictorian, no less–HA, that will teach the architect who discouraged me from going saying women shouldn’t be in architecture!!!!), I moved to NYC to attend graduate school in Interior Design at Pratt in Brooklyn. I arrived without ever seeing the place and knowing no one. Coming from an architecture degree, I placed out of the required drawing courses, which helped me to find time to work (I had an entry level job at HOK in Rockefeller Center–every time I see the Christmas tree on TV, I remember seeing it out the window from work!)

My fellow classmates, however, had to take the drawing classes which were unfortunately taught by a teacher who didn’t actually teach. He would take them outside and simply let them loose and say, “Draw.” Now this method could work if you have a lot of time, but the trial and error involved is too quickly discouraging. So… they came to me and asked me if I could teach them!!!! I went to the department chair, who said that due to union rules, I couldn’t “teach”, so we started a “Sketching Club”. Twice a week, they would meet me for lunch and I’d project slides and teach them to draw the way that I was taught in architecture school. I loved it.

The year after finishing grad school, I started teaching at Parsons in the Environmental Design/Architecture program, then I was asked by Tim Gunn (yes, that Tim Gunn) to be the first hire for the new Interior Design program they were putting together. I ended up teaching at Parsons for 10 years. We moved to Seattle, where I taught briefly with Frank Ching at the University of Washington, then a number of years at Cornish College of the Arts, the Parsons of the Northwest. Once my dad got sick, I left teaching university and started the travel workshop life, thanks in large part to Urban Sketchers (I just sent in my annual donation, nudge nudge.) I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have parallel careers in teaching and architecture/illustration my entire adult life.

Sydney, Australia 2017. Photo by RooiPing Lim.

As this terrible year comes to a close, I find myself grateful for so many things in life, including the ability to teach during a global pandemic. Who knew? Teaching fills some inner need to share and pass on what I have learned, to see the light bulb of understanding illuminate in someone’s eyes. It’s why I always ask, “What was your ah-ha moment?” Mine is that teaching teaches the teacher so much. Thank you to every single student over the many years for what you’ve taught me.

I get quite emotional looking at these photos. I love teaching so much, and I love the friends I see in these photos, friends made along the way. I miss you all. Let’s hope for some in-person 3-D learning and travel in a better 2021!

Annual workshop in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy.

Hunkered Down for the Holidays

It’s been dark outside in the cold of winter, which makes the bits of light inside our home glow a little brighter! Thank goodness, we’ve passed our annual “hump day” and the days are getting a little longer bit by bit. We really feel it this far north in Seattle.

Welcome to our circa 1911 living room. For those of you who have taken my workshops, you’ll see an underpainting of yellow ochre with a mostly washes of Magic Gray in this sketch! My favorite bit: the table top and my shell collection in the lower left.

From our home to yours, I hope you are cozy and well!