Doodles with new Toys

It was Christmas in September when I received this great box of art supplies from Winsor & Newton! I usually sketch in pencil, my roots are in pen sketching. So feeling it a bit rusty, I had to figure out a way to not put too much pressure on myself. The answer? Sketching while “watching” television (gosh, I’m sort of embarrassed to write that!)

So using one of the fineline markers and the pad of paper, I doodled what was right in front of me…

Regarding the materials, I really like the paper. I already work a lot on the Winsor & Newton professional watercolor paper (I cut it into 8″ x 16″ pieces for travel sketching), but this small pad was new to me. I love the proportions and size 6″ x 11″, the paper is very thin and if I mess up, I just tear it off and start over… better than messing up in a bound sketchbook! Less pressure for sure.

I’m working with the watercolor markers to figure out how to use them. So far, there are things I like and don’t like about them. I don’t find they mix or layer too well, which is what I would want in a watercolor marker. But I’ll keep at it for a bit. The set of pencils and charcoal are lovely, I actually really like how the 2B pencil (my preferred) glides across the paper.

If you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, I’ve been teaching my new online classes, Understanding Perspective, which are taking TONS of time. Three classes down, three to go. I’m really enjoying it and learning so much about how to do this better next time, and the participants are all wonderful and very understanding as I figure out the tech. Thanks to all, I hope you are learning a lot! And thank you so much to W&N for the lovely art supplies!!!

Finally, a live online class about perspective!

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. And like an in-person workshop, you’ll see me work and I’ll answer your questions LIVE.

With my background as an architect, I’ve taught perspective sketching in architecture and interior design programs at colleges and universities for decades. I’ve drawn on that experience to create a course that starts with easy concepts and progresses through many aspects of sketching buildings and spaces in perspective. You’ll see and learn things that you could not get in an in-person workshop! Concepts are explained with simple diagrams, together with loads of photos and sketching examples — information that you can incorporate into your sketching now, regardless of your preferred sketching or painting style or media. It’s about getting the “good bones” right!


The course is broken into two sections, with 3 classes in each section. You can take the first 3 basic perspective classes, and if you want to continue with more complex topics, you can sign up for all 6 classes.  Here’s a breakdown of the content:

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
  • Easy, wide-angle perspectives
  • Demo

Understanding Perspective | Advanced

  • 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 1-3 only, Workshop fee is US$135.00
  • Understanding Perspective + Advanced: Classes 1-6, Workshop fee is US$260.00

Workshop fees are payable by check for US participants (preferred) or by PayPal for US and international participants.


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

Session 1:  Sundays at 9am Seattle time (12noon New York, 6pm Paris) Starting September 20 for 6 weeks (September 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18, 25.) Note: this class is particularly targeted to beginning sketchers.

Session 2:  Mondays at 4pm Seattle time (7pm New York; 9am Tuesdays in Sydney, Australia) Starting September 21 for 6 weeks (September 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26.)

  • Each class is expected to run about 2.5 hours.
  • Classes will be limited to approximately 15 participants
  • Additional sessions will be added at future dates and times!

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

REGISTRATION OPENS SEPTEMBER 7, 2020 at 10am Seattle time:

  • When registration opens on September 7, send an email to StephanieBower.Workshops@gmail.com indicating which workshop session (session one or two) you’d like to take, and if you plan to take classes 1-3 or 1-6.
  • I’ll sign up participants in the order your email was received.
  • Payment instructions will be emailed to those who have a spot.
  • Additional information and a list of materials will be emailed to registered participants.

++++++++++ 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. At the end of each class, 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 Sunday morning session is particularly targeted to brand new sketchers.

  • I’m new to sketching and am worried I’ll be overwhelmed. Can I only take the first three classes?

I break up perspective concepts into easy to understand segments, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most people to take the entire course. But if you want to pace yourself, you can indeed take the first three classes, then at a future time (provided space is available), you can take the second set of three classes. The course is structured to allow participants to do that!

  • 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 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?

Homework is optional, but 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 don’t have a computer or tablet, can I still take this class from my phone?

Because this course is very visual and the information is quite detailed, you’ll need a large screen like a computer, laptop, or large tablet to do this course. A phone or small 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 need to have ZOOM downloaded onto your computer (ideal), laptop, or large tablet.** It is a free online download that is easy to use and perfect for this course. Instructions on how to join the live class will be emailed to all registered participants.

  • 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?

At this time, there are plans to only do the live classes–no recordings. One, I don’t have a camera that would work, and two, the Zoom recordings are apparently not very good quality. So only live for now!

  • Will you be offering more classes in the future?

Definitely! I intend to keep offering Understanding Perspective. If you’ve got suggestions for other days and times, please let me know. The plan is to also add more courses, such as sketching interiors. So stay tuned!

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

Harvest!

You can already feel a bit of cool Fall in the air here in Seattle, which means these little jewels are finally ready for harvest! We are so far north here (further north than Montreal and Nova Scotia), that each little tomato is worth it’s weight in gold! Maybe that’s why my favorite variety is called “Sungold”!

I gave bowls of these to a few neighbors, and they looked so beautiful in the backyard in these crisp white bowls, I had to attempt a sketch. The tomatoes were painted in one pass, carefully leaving the white spot for the reflection of light, then dropping in oranges and reds as they dried. I used New Gamboge for the yellow and Pyrrole Orange to add depth. They look good enough to eat!

On another note, I’ve been working like crazy for months developing my live online perspective classes on Zoom. Tomorrow, I’ll post the information to this blog, and registration will open on September 7 at 10am Seattle time. HOWEVER, as a way to say THANK YOU to blog followers, I’m going to open up registration to you 24 hours early. By following this blog, you can sign up on September 6 at 10am Seattle time by sending me an email to StephanieBower.Workshops@gmail.com. Look for details on the courses to be posted here tomorrow!

A heartfelt thanks to my dear friends RooiPing Lim and Angela Williams in Australia who have gone above and beyond to help me and beta test the classes (Chris Haldane too!) Forever grateful to you, my friends!

New book: The Complete Urban Sketching Companion

Yep, another book in this great series comes out in only two weeks, on August 18! The publisher, Quarry Books, has put together a compilation of the best bits from Gabi Campanario’s first two handbooks, Architecture and Cityscapes, and People and Motion; Shari Blaukopf’s Working with Color; and my Understanding Perspective. Everything you need for urban sketching in one book, especially if you are new to this series.

The Companion is the same portable size as the other books in the series, but more than double the number of pages. Look for it now for pre-order now online (since most of us can’t go to stores these days)… I hope you will check it out!!

Drawing or painting or both?

Sorry for the lapse in posts, but I’ve been focusing on creating an online course I hope to offer LIVE via Zoom in a few weeks! It will be a masterclass on perspective sketching made easy (any suggestions for a title??) that is based on an interactive lecture I gave 5 years ago at the USk symposium in Singapore. As I buy more and more equipment to pull this off, my little home office is slowly being converted to a TV studio!

Today I sat in front of my house to sketch, as I don’t feel compelled to go too far from home these days. I also haven’t sketched in a while, and I’m feeling the rusty joints. The drawing part I pretty much have down, it’s the painting where you can often see that I’m out of practice–when I’m not warmed up, I tend to overpaint.

This is the front of our 1911 Craftsman house in Seattle. I realized about 3/4 the way through that I’m currently stuck somewhere between making it a drawing or a painting. I typically like the architectural feel of the drawings with minimal color, so I’m going to blame my attempts to be more painterly on none other than Shari Blaukopf. I look at her beautiful work and I think I need to use more color. Ha! Don’t we all wish we could paint like Shari?

Here is a bit of the process for today. One advantage of sketching at home is that I can run into the house and scan the progress images! Below is the finished line, the underpainting of warms and cools, the addition of the sky dropped into wet paper, and the final sketch.

I actually love the image with the sky, as I’m always a little sad once I cover up my line work! It has a balance that I rather like. I also like how the fence came out. The house itself, well I’m still working on getting those darn values right…

Breaking News: Craftsy/Bluprint Lives On!!!

Just got this letter in my inbox, happy to share this news!

Dear Stephanie,

At the end of May, we shared that Bluprint would be closing its doors. The outpouring of support we received was amazing to see. So many of our instructors and customers wrote in with stories sharing how much Bluprint and our online classes mean to them.  

Today I am happy to share that Bluprint classes will live on! 

Our friends at TN Marketing will provide a seamless transition for current Bluprint customers and subscribers by preserving their access to Craftsy and Bluprint content. TN Marketing will honor previous customer purchases for classes, subscriptions and instructor agreements. This means your content will continue to be available to Craftsy and Bluprint customers, as well as a whole new audience through TN’s communities.

TN Marketing, is a Minneapolis-based global online video subscription and streaming business.  You may be familiar with some of their brands such as National Quilters Circle, National Sewing Circle, Outdoor Photography Guide and Woodworkers Guild of America. TN Marketing has more than 20 years of experience creating content and communities that help engage people with their passions.

The TN Marketing team will be in touch later today or tomorrow to officially welcome you to the TN Marketing family and share more information about next steps. 

On behalf of myself and the entire Bluprint team, we want to thank you for your support over the years.  This journey has been the highlight of my professional career and we have all loved working with you. We wish you all the best as you continue your journey with TN Marketing. 

Sincerely, 
John Levisay 
CEO Bluprint

Do you remember the day drawing “clicked” for you? I do, and this is it.

Do you remember the day that sketching “clicked” for you? I do, and this is it. The year is 19xx something, I’m 21 and in my third year architecture student at the University of Texas at Austin. 
Before we could advance to our 4th of 5 years in the architecture program, a portfolio of our work was reviewed by three professors. Two of the three wrote “weak graphic skills”. Yep, that was me. Weak graphic skills. I was quite depressed at first and considered changing majors (right, just as all my friends were entering their final year of university), but after a few days, that diagnosis seemed to light a fire under me. Frankly, they were right. My style of depicting my projects was simple and cartoony, I cringe when I look at those images now.
That same semester, I took a drawing class that would change my life. It was the final time George Villalva, a local architect, would teach his location sketching class, and I lucked out just to get in. A strict former Marine, you had to be in your seat by 8am as the bells on the campus tower chimed (the earliest class in the curriculum) or he glared at you. But it was such a great class that lots of students took it for no credit and multiple times. He had such a clear way of teaching perspective sketching, methods I have expanded upon and now teach to my students. The drawing classes at UT at that time were great, and they trained a whole generation of architects who can draw.


These sketches reflect George’s approach to learning sketching. They are from the final assignment for the entire course. While I had flickers of moments that showed promised during the semester, something happened this day that made my drawing skills click. ..my brain, hand, and eye worked as one. Perhaps it was all the work that lead up to this moment, or perhaps it was the fact that I tried again and again until I got a drawing I more or less liked. But as I sat on the curb (I had to keep moving my legs for the bus that came by) on a quiet Sunday morning (see, it all comes back!) looking down Congress Avenue toward the Texas State Capitol, some kind of magic happened and my drawing abilities made a quantum leap.
A little about George’s technique. He taught us about linework, perspective, drawing cars, ink techniques, and much more. We started every view with a quick postcard sketch. These were only 30 second to 1 or 2 minute drawings, and it taught us to see the essence of the space and quickly capture the essentials. He timed us with his watch.

Next was a longer line drawing, but still quick. We worked in markers on a 12″x18″ newsprint pad (big so you move your whole arm, and cheap not-intimidating paper so you got over your fear of putting pen to paper). Drawing quickly was best…no time to overthink things, and the line quality had the energy that only speed can bring.
Next came tone…we pulled out a few gray markers and did a tone drawing, so valuable in putting meat to the bones of the linework and for seeing light and shadow.
Finally, the last drawing, and this one was full color. It got muddy as I was probably tired. George always said that first you master line, then tone, then color, as color added so many levels of complexity, it was exponentially many times more complex than a line drawing. 


For this series, my final project in his class, he awarded me with a 98 out of 100, the highest grade he ever gave. He almost never gave A’s in this class, so when my classmates heard I got an A for the semester, I’m sure it raised some eyebrows.


I didn’t know it at the time, but that class changed everything for me. It gave me confidence to continue in Architecture, helped me find a love for sketching as a way to learn about the architecture I see, and gave me a remarkable foundation of knowledge to pass on through my own teaching. Profound thank you to all my teachers including Jorge Luis Diviñó, and especially to Señor George Villalva, wherever you are. You are the first Urban Sketcher in my life.
When things click, magic happens. So the message to my fellow sketchers is to keep up the good work, work a lot…and you will see something click too…

You can see more about this in my talk this past Saturday with Brenda Murray at Studio 56, My Sketching Journey.

Online Talk this Saturday, June 27!

And a journey it is!!! Please join me this Saturday, June 27 at 10am Seattle time (1pm New York, 6pm Paris, 2am Sydney–so sorry!) for a free online talk about my walk through this sketching life. with Studio 56’s Brenda Murray. From my first awkward sketches back in architecture school , to teaching myself watercolor, to sharing my recent and favorite work from Dubrovnik last September–it’s an evolution. I’ll show a variety of sketches and talk about the breakthrough moments and what I learned that helped me improve. My hope is that this talk will inspire everyone to push through the hard times and keep sketching!! Hope to see you there, and thank you so much… (will I ever get a good photo for these promos??) 😉

From Brenda: This is your invitation to attend a live-streaming interview with Seattle-based urban sketcher, architectural illustrator and Urban Sketching Handbook author, Stephanie Bower. The interview will start at 1:00EDT Saturday, June 27. Feel free to invite your USk chapter members and friends.

HOW TO JOIN THE Zoom MEETING
1) If you have not already installed the free Zoom app, go to https://zoom.us/ to install the app. The meeting will start at the appointed time so please download the app BEFORE the start of the meeting
2) click the meeting link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86915734380 and wait for you to be added to the call by Brenda.
3) Your Audio and your Video and Chat will be disabled. However, we would really like to make this as interactive as possible so please send your questions via Facebook Messenger to https://www.facebook.com/messages/t/brenda.murray.7. You may also send your questions in advance of the meeting.

FOR BEST RESULTS
1) the call is limited to the first 100 so arrive early so as not to be disappointed.
2) use the device with the largest screen (laptop is better than phone) so that you can see the artist’s art
3) keep your webcam turned off because it will disrupt the interview and you will be kicked out
4) select “Speaker View” so that the speaker fills the screen

Happy Birthday, little book.

Saying this is a dream come true is an understatement. Four years ago yesterday, June 15, 2016, this little book was officially released.

This particular adventure started in 2015 when I saw Gabi Campanario at one of our Seattle Urban Sketchers meet ups. He was standing near me, and I thought to thank him for including my work in his books, the first two in the Handbook series. What an honor it was, I couldn’t believe it!!! Surprisingly, he looked at me and said, “What about you? You should write a book. Do you want me to put you in touch with my editor?” Literally picking my jaw off the floor, I mumbled, “Sure,” but the voice in my head was screaming, “WHAT did he just say????” Of course, the humble and generous Gabi was true to his word, and very shortly after, he connected me with his editor, Mary Ann Hall at Quarry Books/Quarto publishers.

Mary Ann said I should write up a short proposal with a description, stating how this book would be different from others on the market. Having bought every drawing book on perspective known to mankind, I knew that all the books were focused on studio perspective, that is, something like boxes on a table top — useless if you want to sit on a street and sketch. That was what my book would talk about, bridging the conceptual world of studio perspective with the “what the heck do I do when I want to sketch on location” world. I had been teaching perspective sketching in college for decades, but had just started teaching workshops in Seattle. I knew perspective in and out from my work as an architectural illustrator and my background as an architect. The proposal poured out of me in only a few minutes, and I sent it off. BOOM. It was approved, and before I could catch my breath, I was writing a book!

I knew what I wanted the book to say. I had come up with my own original concepts for teaching, things like “starting with the shape of the face or space”, or ignoring the term “horizon line” and instead using your “eye-level line” (it’s much more relevant to sketching on location.) I had never seen anyone else use these and other terms in the way I talked about them. The hard part was finding the sketches that would illustrate the teaching points. I combed the internet, looking at the work of my hero sketchers, friends, but also finding new folks I hadn’t seen in other books. It was a herculean task to coordinate it all. I’m so incredibly grateful that so many talented artists and architects from around the world were willing to share their work, for nothing but a copy from the publisher and an opportunity.

As I wrote the text, I laid everything out in InDesign for my own understanding, as I had to see how the parts would all go together…the right text with the right sketch, the diagrams in the right order, the right adjacencies and notes. We went through lots of rounds of edits, and I probably was too ambitious in trying to pack so much information into one small book. There was just too much I wanted to say!

Months later, it’s June 15, 2016 and I’m signing copies of the book at the Seattle-based Daniel Smith store. Such a surreal moment, I cannot tell you. I’ve since been sent photos of this book on sale at the Art Museum in Sydney Australia, the Tate Modern in London, the Uffizi in Florence (I went and found them there as well, snuck the copies into a corner, signed them, and put them back on the shelf), and even the Louvre bookstore in Paris, in French. Crazy. Blew my mind to see to see it on Amazon ranked next to the books by my hero authors that I had used in architecture school.

The title, Understanding Perspective, came from Mary Ann Hall, and it was perfect.

I picked the cover image for two reasons: one, everyone loves Paris! Two, it was done during the first few days of my time in Paris with the Gabriel Prize fellowship, so it means a lot to me personally. I hoped it would bring good luck!

The image on the back cover is by Gabi and is a view of the Seattle waterfront (our common home town) and the viaduct, that I knew would be gone a few years later. It’s my nod to thank him.

Let me also say that there is very little money in writing a book, even one that sells well. It’s much more about sharing knowledge and experience, sharing my perspective on perspective (yes, I did just write that), and creating something that will likely outlive me. Hopefully my children and grandchildren can look to it one day and feel proud. My dad had always told me I should write a book (I think he imagined a NYT bestseller 😉 and the opportunity to write this book came just after he passed away. I hope he is somewhere, smiling… as for me, I’m still living the dream and am grateful every day.

4. Wide Angles in the Chiesa

I have drawn the interior of Civita’s Chiesa San Donato a few times times, as for the past 7 years, each workshop group comes here on the last day for the most challenging sketch of all. It’s a space I find both simple and ornate at the same time, and it’s a wonderful, cool and quiet place to sketch on a hot day.

This first image below was done in 2013. It was the first year I taught in Civita–a workshop of one person– so the two of us basically just sketched together. My son, Nicholas came with me too. His plan was to help me haul groceries up the bridge, then hightail it back to Rome to do the youth hostel thing. But he, too, walked through that Porta Santa Maria and entered a different world…he climbed the steps to our apartment, entered, turned and looked out the window, saw the breathtaking view, pulled up a chair, found a book, and stayed in that spot reading and drinking wine (age doesn’t matter in Italia) for at least a week. So much for Rome! Then, he went back to his sophomore year at UW and started studying, you guessed it… ITALIAN! He ended up graduating with a minor in Italian, and he is more or less fluent. Thus is the power of Civita!!

So 2013 was my first year in Civita, my first workshop here, and my first wide angle view sketch!!! This image is loaded with emotion for me.

In 2014, I was in Civita with a 2-month fellowship through The Civita Institute, a non-profit based in Seattle that used to have associations with the University of Washington architecture program. My project was to research the town’s history and draw an illustrated walking guide. What resulted was a sketch of the interior was WAY over the top… I tried to show every little detail that I wanted to call out in the guide. Overworked, it’s like a cake that is too sweet…

Next is 2017. Cleaner, with more control over the drawing (I was probably remembering my overworked 2014 image). Here are some photos taken during the process too. You can see in the “good bones” how I lay out the big shapes and use full ellipses to get the arches.

Those are my favorites…until next year!