Day 2: Happy mistakes, cityscapes made easy, intimate sketches and more

[By Béliza Mendes, Symposium Correspondent in Chicago, USA] 

The first day of workshops was hectic to say the least. Wes, Vincent and I each have our workshops to cover and today I went to see what was happening with Paul Wang, James Richards and Asnee Tasna.

Paul Wang’s workshop called ‘Sketching dangerously – Turning happy mistakes into expressive movement’, was all about taking advantage of mistakes like smudges, wrong lines, dripping, and turn them into opportunities to make sketches more vibrant. Participants were encouraged to bring out the child in them by warming up with a page of ‘mistakes’. A certainly freeing concept, I left the workshop with a much more relaxed attitude towards sketching and the day ahead.

When I arrived at James Richard’s workshop, ‘The grand illusion: achieving a dramatic sense of depth’, he was advising participants individually on how to improve their sketches. Tirelessly giving tips on how to express depth, and showing examples form his sketches, from fellow urban sketchers’ work and even from great masters, James appeared like the fountain of knowledge and wisdom any sketcher would love to learn from.

One show and tell later and I was on my way to the Asnee Tasna’s workshop location.

Asnee’s workshop has a pretty self-explanatory title: ‘Penciling Chicago Capturing the modern cityscape in gray scale with flat tip lead pencils’. When I arrived, participants were busy sketching the cityscape in pencil, making sure not to go too much into detail and focus more on values instead.

I was invited to try the exercise myself, so I added the cityscape in pencil to my sketch (see sketch above).

Participants I spoke with were enthusiastic about this exercise and so was I. This is definitely a fun way to deal with a very complicated subjectmatter.

After lunch, I headed to the Art Institute of Chicago to catch a glimpse of as many workshops as I could. My first stop was at Norberto Dorantes’ ‘Dynamic ink’, in which Norberto showed participants his work process and best tips. He very patiently answered the flow of questions coming his way while demonstrating at the same time. After all, images speak louder than words.

I then stumbled upon Lapin sketching a participant in his ‘Big head portraits’ demonstration. The atmosphere was intimate and exactly reflected his words when he was saying that portraits were a way to create an intimate connection with the subject and getting to know them.

I finished with Peggy Wong’s demonstration on ‘3 basic book binding for beginners’ along with another participant, Eileen. Peggy makes book binding look easy and was very generous with tips, even allowing us to put into practice what she had just demonstrated. Eileen certainly seemed thrilled, talking already of all the ways she was going to use her knew knowledge in the future.

The day ended with excellent lectures by Marc Leibowitz (‘what’s in your pocket?’) and Tapas Mitra (‘Urban sketching ground rules in art’). People were eagerly listening, taking notes and sketching.

For my part, too tired to completely focus on the lectures, I was bemused to catch Mike Daikubara sketching Cal, one of the volunteers who had been working at the Art Institute of Chicago in the afternoon, while he himself sketched Mark I assume. At the same time I think I was myself the subject of someone’s study. That’s an Urban Sketchers symposium for you.


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