Monday, June 5, 2017

Postcards from Chicago: #5 Marina City Towers

by Wes Douglas

As we look forward to the 8th International Symposium, I will continue to take you on a virtual tour of my favorite views of Chicago which I have named "Postcards from Chicago." Each week I will post a different scene of Chicago – some may be familiar to you and some may be less familiar – and by the time I am done it should be time for the Symposium. To help me illustrate the popularity of this sculpture, I am happy to feature the work of Chicago Urban Sketchers Alex Zonis, Don Yang, Joel Berman.

The Marina City complex was designed in 1959 by architect Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964 at a cost of $36 million, financed to a large extent by the union of building janitors and elevator operators, who sought to reverse the pattern of “white flight” from the city’s downtown area. When finished, the two towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world. The complex was built as a city within a city, featuring numerous on-site facilities including a theatre, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, several stores and restaurants, and, of course, a marina.

Marina City was the first urban post-war high-rise residential complex in the United States and is widely credited with beginning the residential renaissance of American inner cities. Its model of mixed residential and office uses and high-rise towers with a base of parking has become a primary model for urban development in the United States and throughout the world, and has been widely copied throughout many cities internationally. Marina City construction employed the first tower crane used in the United States.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Urban Sketchers Are About Telling Stories Through Sketches

by Wes Douglas, Urban Sketchers Chicago

I will be part of a three-person team of sketch correspondents at the 8th International Symposium in Chicago (July 26-30, 2017) who will cover as many events (workshops, demonstrations, lectures and social gatherings) as possible, armed with only our sketchbooks, eyes and ears to record each day's activities. 

Each day we will attempt to divide and conquer by sketch-recording furiously the flavor of 36 workshops, dozens of artist demonstrations and lectures at the Symposium and by night composing, scanning sketches and blogging highlights from the day—reporting on our impressions of what we hear, observe and experience for those who were not able to attend the Symposium or could only be in one activity at a time.

As an Urban Sketcher, I am often asked if this group is just a bunch of artists getting together to draw. While it is true that we are a social group that enjoys sketching together, one of the most critical components of selecting a scene to sketch on location is whether the scene will make a great story to tell. The sketch serves as our prompt to relive the experience.

I am a big proponent of the example and here is a recent post from fellow urban sketcher  Donald Owen Colley that caught my eye because of the great story and help from the impressive visualization:

Century Pens, Chicago
Ed Hamilton, owner/proprietor
Story and sketch by Donald Owen Colley

I walked into Ed Hamilton's boutique pen shop, Century Pens located in the Loop by the [Chicago] Board of Trade, just over eight years ago, and have developed a wonderful friendship with Ed – a Prince among men – who has owned Century Pens for eleven years. 

Trained as an architect and hailing from the fair state of Indiana, Ed and I have spent many hours talking about pens, ink, penmanship, architecture, Chicago's history, politics, and tales of our wild youth. I got the fountain pen bug just before I met Ed, who recognized a potential addict the minute I walked in the store with a sketchbook in my hand and an assortment of pens peering over my vest pocket. 

Ed was every bit the enabler and fanned the flames of desire for this draughtsman whose fountain pen collection (I'm sure) passed the $11,000 mark several months ago. I recall talking to one of Ed's regulars whose collection was over 650 fountain pens. 

Century Pens has been the premier fine writing pen store in Chicago and one of my absolute favorites nationwide. Chicago lost Gilbertson Clybourne a couple years back and I fret Ed's age and the prospect that he may hang up the spurs one day. 

Today, I spent most of the day sitting in Ed's store, drawing, sharing take-out lunch, and shooting the bull with Eddie and Charlie. Online is in so many of it's convenient ways a poor substitute for the face to face, hands on, of the brick and mortar experience. Cheers Eddie. Drawn in a Tomoe River Paper sketchbook with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens and a Pelikan M215 fountain pen with Platinum Carbon Ink.

For more on Urban Sketchers Chicago: 
About the USK 2017 Chicago Symposium

For more sketch stories from Donald Owen Colley: 

Century Pens, Chicago:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

10 X 10 = A Sketcher's Delight!

The reviews are in, 10Years – 10Classes is the perfect way to celebrate 10 years of Urban Sketchers!

Urban Sketchers Chicago has completed three workshops in the series:
  • Putting Feeling into a Sketch with Fred Polito
  • Capturing a Little Story: Animals with Deidre Fox
  • Details, Ornaments, and Objects, Oh My with Mark Jones
Next up:
  • Personalities of Urban Vehicles with Wes Douglas
Want to join in the fun? Check here for available spots in upcoming classes

Workshop participants, please, post your sketches to FaceBook and Twitter with the #usk10x10 and #USkChicago #Urbansketchers @usk_chicago @urbansketchers

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sweet Home Chicago

Are you ready for the second class in our 10Years 10 Classes celebration. I am!

What exciting and fun times in Chicago for Urban Sketchers! 

  • We have the ongoing hashtag and tag project. Be sure to tag your Chicago sketches!  #USkChicago #USkChicago2017 #Urbansketchers  @USkChicago  @USkSymposium. 
  • The USk 8th International Symposium is coming to Chicago in July.
  •  AND Chicago is in the second week of Urban Sketchers 10 year anniversary, the Ten Years Ten Classes, worldwide celebration! #usk10x10
Join us when you can!
Pinterest: Urban Sketchers Chicago
Twitter: @USk_Chicago

Thursday, April 13, 2017


by Andrew Banks & Wes Douglas

With the planning of our 2017 International Symposium well underway, the collective use of Twitter and Instagram by USk Chicago will help draw attention to our community and create buzz and awareness of our event.  By no means are these intended to replace our Facebook group.  Rather the use of Twitter and Instagram are intended to re-direct people back to our roots in the Facebook group.  For those who are completely new, don’t worry, they are both user friendly.  Here are some “benefits” and basic “how to’s” to get you started:

Step 1: Sketch your favorite Chicago scene, from observation on location.

Step 2: Scan/photograph your sketch and post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Step 3: In your captions, tell us where the sketch is from, make sure to tag @uskchicago (in Instagram), @usksymposium (in Instagram), @usk_chicago (in Twitter), and include the hashtags: "#uskchicago2017" and "#uskchicago"


Follow @USk_Chicago 

Twitter is a short form blog where users make posts called "tweets".  Tweets are 140 characters or less. 

How to use Twitter
1) Download Twitter App on your smartphone.  Or, sign up for an account on your computer.
2) "Tweet" - post text or photos

Examples of Tweets:
"Heading out to sketch with @USk_Chicago today"
"A sketch from today's @USk_Chicago sketch meet"
"Found this @USk_Chicago blog post helpful"

3) "Re-tweet" - sharing other's posts
A re-tweet shares another user's tweet with your followers.  For example USk Chicago (@USk_Chicago) could re-tweet one of your sketches.

4) Follow other people, groups or organizations (individual urban sketchers, other urban sketchers chapters, artists communities, organizations, businesses etc...)

5) Hash tags (#)
Hash tags make your post searchable.  When a hash tag is placed in front of a word, that word is sent to a database that can be viewed by anyone searching for that word.
For example, #urbansketchers.  Other urban sketchers around the world use this hash tag when they tweet.
When you search #urbansketchers you will find thousands of other tweets related to urban sketching.

6) Tag (@)
When tagging (@) another user in your post, the user you tagged will be notified that you tagged them.  So, when you tweet your sketches, help USk Chicago know that you are tweeting your sketched by including "@USk_Chicago" in your Tweet.

Follow @USkChicago & @USkSymposium

Instagram is another type of short form blog dedicated to posting and viewing photographs and short video clips.  Unlike Facebook where you can make folders to organize images, an Instagram account holds all of your photos in one location.  

How to use Instagram
1) Download Instagram App on your smart phone
2) Post your sketches/pictures to Instagram
3) Hash tags (#)

Include these hash tags (#) in your caption:

4) Tag (@) in your caption
@USkChicago (Urban Sketchers Chicago) 
@USkSymposium (International Symposium)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fermilab Sketchcrawl - March 19, 2017

On Sunday, March 19, about 30 participants in the Chicago chapter of the artist network Urban Sketchers visited Fermilab, located in west Chicagoland, and sketched their hearts out. They drew buildings, interiors and scenes of nature from the laboratory environment, capturing iconic Wilson Hall, restored prairie land and the popular bison herd on site.
Urban Sketchers holds monthly sketch crawls, as they’re called. Their mission is to “show the world, one drawing at a time.”
The sketch crawl was organized by Peggy Condon and Wes Douglas from Urban Sketchers Chicago along with Fermilab Art Gallery curator Georgia Schwender.
You can see more paintings and drawings from Urban Sketchers Chicago on their Facebook page.
Check out their Fermilab sketches below. To see the full drawings and paintings, click on the magnifying glass icon in the lower right corner. Impressions from the artists are included in the captions.
Mary Jo Ernst
We had to make the Bison stop. Have never sketched them before. Just like cows–constantly moving. They have such an odd anatomy.

Fermilab sketch from the second floor balcony facing the main entrance.

This location was a nice change of pace for me, offering really interesting views and very unique architecture. I had no previous knowledge of this place so it was an adventure!

Thanks Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for such a warm welcome! Thank you to Wes Douglas Peggy Condon and Georgia for organizing. It was worth the roadtrip!

Lynne Fairchild
I had a wonderful time at our Sketchcrawl at Fermilab today. Thanks to everyone for organizing it, and to all who attended.

This sketch is, of course, the atrium at Wilson Hall.
I loved sketching in this light-filled space.

I was very inspired by Fermilab's strong commitment to the arts. I didn't expect this for a world-renowned scientific research institution. I really appreciated that they found so 
many ways to honor the arts and culture: the art gallery, lecture series, the awe-inspiring sculptures on the campus, and the design of Wilson Hall (especially the beauty of 
the atrium).

Thank you Fermilab for your hospitality and to Georgia for her warm reception to our group.

Harold Goldfus
It was great to finally be able to get to a sketch crawl. I did several drawings. This one of the atrium at Fermi Lab's Wilson Hall is my favorite and it was the most challenging in terms of perspective. I was able to get at it by treating the view as if I was doing a sci-fi paperback cover and abstracting a lot of the shapes. Not my usual figurative work, but it still felt to me like my style.

My first drawing at Fermi lab on Sunday was a warm-up sketch from the second floor balcony in Wilson Hall. I can see that I was already mulling over the more abstract approach that I used for drawing the atrium in the drawing I posted yesterday. I really enjoyed the aesthetics of Fermi Lab. For a place devoted to cutting edge physics, there were a lot of artistic touches I appreciated.

I regard myself as primarily a figurative artist. At the Urban Sketchers Chicago outing, I expected to sketch figures at Fermilab with hints of the environment in the background. Instead, I found myself taken with the architecture and aesthetics of the interior of Wilson Hall, and decided on a more unconventional approach.

I drew most of this kneeling in the corner which accounts for the unusual angle and perspective. Inspired by the covers of science fiction paperbacks I read in the 60's and 70's, I chose to abstract out a lot of the shapes and 
colors, which adds to the futuristic look of my picture.

Peggy Condon with Jing Zhang

#Fermilab, restored prairie East of Wilson Hall after a recent prescribed burn.

Eileen Ferguson
I drove out west today to sketch at Fermilab. Some people sketched outdoors, but I enjoyed the view from the fifteenth floor.
Alex Zonis
"Radiofrequency quadropole linear accelerator" - RFQ :). Fermi Lab 15th floor. Looks like a cool insect! Thanks to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for hosting us. #Fermilab#USkChicago
Brian Wright Great event and turnout at Fermilab!

Wes Douglas
I am "pleased as punch" that this location worked so well today. Our group tends to favor Chicago locations so I wasn't sure how many would show up to the suburb of Batavia today. I heard that around 44 or so of you did and that blew my mind. You guys rock and so doesPeggy Condon and Georgia Schwender for the idea.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Urban Sketchers and #MetraManners

By Wesley E. Douglas, Urban Sketchers Chicago

Some people text or read, daydream, some meet with friends, while others eat or nap on the train. There is, however, a group of artists who sketch a wide range of passengers on various Metra routes. They represent a local group known as Urban Sketchers Chicago (USk Chicago) and they are part of a global community of artists that enjoy drawing on location in cities, towns, and villages in which they live, work, or have visited. Examples include but are not limited to cafes, street scenes, buildings, houses, shops, landscaping, people, domestic animals, transportation centers (i.e. airports, train stations and buses) as well as what you see while you are traveling.

Illustration: Brian Wright                              Illustration: Wes Douglas

Sketching people on public transportation is a favorite subject of these artists because they are always different and interesting. In our own way, Urban Sketchers are quietly doing our part to elevate the current Metra Rail “Ride Nice” campaign #metramanners. Who knows? Maybe the more smiles we can create with our sketches the less riders will be throwing digital jabs at one another about inappropriate behavior.

Urban Sketchers do not sketch from memory or photographs but by direct observation in person. This becomes particularly challenging because people on trains move around a lot. But it is also rewarding when those being sketched discover how their likeness is elevated to a fresh new perspective by these artists.

Wes Douglas remembered hearing one lucky passenger exclaim, “When someone snaps your photo on the train, it’s a little creepy. But when someone sketches you it is a relief.” These artists capture many different positions, colorful clothing and the expressions of commuters on paper.

Our urban sketchers are located all over the Chicagoland area and depend on public transportation for traveling between work and home as well as gatherings with fellow urban sketchers. And since a large portion of their day is spent on commuting, urban sketchers make the most of it by knocking out a few sketches to pass the time.

To learn more about Urban Sketchers Chicago and where they will be sketching next go to:

To learn more about Metra Rail’s Ride Nice campaign: