Thursday, December 31, 2015

Travel Sketches, County Donnegal, Ireland

View of farms and a fresh water lake on the trail to Tramore Strand, 09/19/2015, water color on Canson 140lb cold press, 7" h x 9" w, Michael Anderson, 2015.
The next to last day of our driving trip along the Wild Atlantic Way we reached the most northern point in our travels in Ireland but not by car. We hiked approximately 2 miles to the Tramore Strand, a beach that is only accessible by foot or on horseback through a national park.
Snapshot of the view from the picnic table.
The path emerges from a dense stand of pines where a wooden picnic table stands at the edge of a sandy marshland which is a national bird sanctuary. It was a perfect place to sketch and rest before the long walk. It was all the more striking because when arrived at the beach we were the only people there as far as the eye could see in either direction. We had reached the end of of our journey to look out on the Atlantic Ocean in a place of great natural beauty and total solitude.
The majestic Tramore Strand.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Travel Sketches, Dunfanaghy, County Donnegal, Ireland

Sheephaven Bay, low tide, 09/18/2015, 7" h  x  9"w, watercolor on Canson 140lb, cold press, 2015, Michael Anderson.
Our northernmost stop on the Wild Atlantic Way was the village of Dunfanaghy in County Donnegal. The center of this small town overlooks Sheephaven Bay. During low tide the stable near the Arnolds Hotel provides horses and riding tours along the strand of nearby beaches and country side. The rooms at the Arnolds have "sea views" but mainly face the hillside that shelters the bay.

Horse and Rider at Low Tide, Killahoey Strand,  09/19/2015, 7" h  x  9"w, watercolor on Canson 140lb, cold press, 2015, Michael Anderson.
Killahoey Strand, low tide.

Near Horn Head, 09/18/2015, 7" h  x  9"w, watercolor on Canson 140lb, cold press, 2015, Michael Anderson.
As the land moves out into the sea it gradually becomes steeper and more rocky. Beyond is Horn Head, an elevated point at the western edge of Europe that was used as a lookout during World War II to monitor foreign naval activity.  m

Horn Head

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Travel Sketches, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland

The sea view from the Bervie, 09/16/2015, 7" h x  9" w, watercolor on Canson 140lb coldpress, Michael Anderson.
Traveling north along the Wild Atlantic Way in September my wife and I drove through several small picturesque villages including Glengarriff and Adare. Typically the buildings at the town centers are painted in bright colors and occupied by shops, b&b's and pubs. Some consider all the added color as garish gentrification meant to be attractive to tourists. A clear exception is the sparsely populated, stark yet beautiful village of Keel Achill in County Mayo located on Achill Island. A bridge connects the island to the mainland so access is easy but only about 2500 people live there. Sheep roam freely almost everywhere. Most of the buildings in the village are simply whitewashed or abandoned to weather in dull greys amid piles of rubble and lush greenery against a background of rocky cliffs that jut out into the Atlantic. We stayed overnight at the Bervie Guesthouse where the rooms have views of the sea and guests are served tea upon arrival.
The Bervie Guesthouse, 09/17/2015, 7" h x  9" w, watercolor on Canson 140lb coldpress, Michael Anderson. The exterior is trimmed with blue shutters, flowering plants and sea shells.
The Bervie is operated by Liz and John Barrett, life long residents of Achill Island. Liz is descended from a family of hoteliers. She is also a gourmet chef and prepares dinner every evening at the Bervie. Seafood and lamb dishes are specialties. She is a gracious hostess and epitomizes hospitality. m

Snapshot of a view of Keel Achill.
Into the mystic.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Travel Sketches, County Galway, Ireland

                          Renvyle House Hotel, Connemara, County Galway, watercolor on Canson 140lb cold press, 7" h x 9" w, 2015.  Michael Anderson
In September my wife and I traveled to Ireland. She planned our trip based on her own skilled research along with hotel recommendations from a longtime friend who was born in Belfast. Our itinerary began in Dublin but our goal was to drive across the country to westernmost points and follow the scenic route known as the Wild Atlantic Way to the north. One of our stops was at the Renvyle House, an historic hotel on a 150 acre estate in County Galway. The ivy-covered house was built in 1915 in the Arts & Crafts style and was once owned by Oliver St. John Gogarty, a poet and surgeon. The character, Buck Mulligan, in James Joyce's "Ulysees" is based on Gogarty. 
                         View of the Renvyle House grounds from the orchard, watercolor on Canson 140lb cold press, 7" h x 9" w, 2015. Michael Anderson
The property includes a stretch of rocky beach along the Atlantic, a fresh water lake and a small orchard with lovely views of the mountains beyond. I found a bench in the orchard and sketched the view. Seamus, a white horse that belongs to the estate for guests to ride, came up to the board fence that separates his field from the orchard and peered over to see what I was doing or rather to see if I had anything to eat.
Seamus wanted to taste my sketchbook.
He almost made a snack of my watercolors. The moment was one of the highlights of the trip. -Michael Anderson

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Virtual Sketchrawl - December 19 - This Saturday

It's that time of the month again...time to take part in the Urban Sketchers Midwest Virtual Sketchcrawl. Take part this coming Saturday. The monthly event starts at 11 am EST/10 am CST. Post your work to the Urban Sketchers Midwest group with the title Virtual Sketchcrawl or #virtualsketchcrawl.

Friday, December 11, 2015

An unexpected lesson!

The National Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City recently re-opened after a year-long renovation.  Our sketch group met there and spent the morning sketching.  We had to restrict ourselves to pencil only, like in most museums, and my first thought was how much I need color to do justice to all the new, bright displays!

But a funny thing happened as I drew:  I had to pay a lot closer attention to my line weights and shading in order to capture what I saw.  I had planned to add color later, but changed my mind and decided to leave the pencil work as is.  Once again, I found that everything is an opportunity to learn!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

at a middle school basketball game

Monday we attended another basketball at a local middle school where our friends' daughter attends. The opposing team played very aggressively, meaning Macy's team lost. But during the game, I drew this view from the vintage wooden bleachers. I love the old stone and wood!

I drew this with various gray & black inks on toned paper, mostly using pens with brush tips, then added a bit of buff titanium watercolor and white gouache later at home.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Wilma and I were in Lawrence today for some fabric/fiber shopping. For Wilma, that is. That gave me time to get some sketching done. The old Granada stood out to me.  We've never been inside because the bands that play there are from another planet (spoken by an old fart). They do good work, though, promoting the music scene.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

On Tuesday, Nov. 24 I decided I needed to get out of the office over lunch, and went to the Western entrance of The Prairie Center just West of Olathe. If you haven't been there, you might want to check it out some weekend. If you follow 135th street west out of Olathe, you'll find it. There are trails that wind back through 300 acres of tallgrass can read about it here:

For this painting, I decided to focus on the shapes and pattern of colors rather than a slavish representation of what I could see. I ended up painting the sky a bit darker/gloomier than it really was, and intensified the colors of the distant hill. Overall, however, it's not far off from the real scene. It's a small painting at just 8" by 8" - but it's a convenient size for sketching, especially on a chilly day when I'm confined to my car. 

I used a new paper from a North KC company called Shizen Design - Check out their website for more info, you have to register, or look them up on Facebook. The paper is 100% post-consumer waste and has a very rough texture and deckle edges. It varies a little bit from sheet to sheet in how it absorbs water and paint, but the texture I get from it is worth a little bit of uncertainty. I bought the paper at Artist & Craftsman's Supply on Southwest Blvd in KC, MO. If you haven't been there, I would also suggest you check into it. Looks small on the outside, but it's much larger than you would imagine.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Old Potato Barn

This was once a busy agricultural hub, selling produce on Old Missouri 210 Highway; it bustled with activity near Liberty and Missouri City.  Now new 210 has rerouted most of the traffic and the barn isn't on the way to anywhere except a city park, which is mostly used seasonally, so it's abandoned and falling in on itself.

I used to stop there frequently to buy potatoes and other produce...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waco Bi-plane

When my wife an I were in Maine last month we spent a rainy afternoon at the Owls Head Transportation museum, located in Owls Head, Maine. The museum is home to vintage cars, trucks, and an collection of old bi-planes. What's especially interesting about the museum is that each of its inhabitants still runs and flies. During weekends the old vehicles are out and about on the museum's grounds and the planes take to the air.

Being an aviation buff, this beautifully maintained 1923 Waco caught my eye. So I borrowed a place to sit (actually a large plastic bucket), sat down, and give this sketch a go.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Apple Tree on 2nd Street

By Marcia Milner-Brage from Cedar Falls, Iowa

There are other apple trees growing on public boulevards in my neighborhood. This one is notable: it’s the latest to bear fruit and then, the fruit hangs on the tree well into winter. This year it was particularly bountiful.

Apple Tree on 2nd Street sketch

I wanted to draw it before the first hard frost and the first snow. Before the brilliant autumn colors diminished. Time was running out. The forecast: 2 days of rain and wind followed by colder temperatures and then a snowstorm. With one day left, before the upcoming string of unfavorable weather, it was still too cool and windy to draw outside of the car.

Unfortunately it was Sunday and there were more parked cars then on weekdays. So I couldn’t get the angle on the tree that I had envisioned. I wanted to be across the street, with the tree in the foreground and the car wash sign on the other side of the block in the mid-distance. Hoping that a parking spot with this view might open up, I decided to bide my time and draw this sketch in my pocket-size Moleskin. No cars vacated my optimal spot. Resigned, I launched into a gouache painting, right from where I was.

Go to Eat Local: Scavenge on the Urban Sketchers Blog to see the gouache and  enjoy a closer look at the apples.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I was being discreet. Really I was! We dropped in at Just Like Heaven for lunch (I had a yummy Mexican quiche!) where I began to draw the Western Auto sign. It's been a long time since I've seen one!

I continued on to draw the old guys sitting in the booth, being careful to look away as much as possible (causing them to look a bit wonky). But as they got up to leave, one of them came over to me and said they had been teasing about who was the handsome one I was sketching. I was busted! And a bit embarrassed to be caught in the act, even though I know it's silly to feel that way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Mississippi River at Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota

The weather was unusually warm today, so Roberta and I voted early and biked down the Mississsippi River Trail (MRT) to the River Heights Marina in Inver Grove Heights. We ate lunch on the deck of the Mississippi Pub  (good eats) and (of course) sketched the view. The scenery includes the marina on the near side of the river and on the far side the Northern Tier refinery. Nearly all the boats were out of the water, so Roberta and I sketched the refinery in our journals. There are a great many things to sketch in the marina and the adjoining Rock Island Swing Bridge Park, so we plan to bike there again next year.

Roberta's sketch.
My Sketch.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Camden, Maine...Fall Colors

My wife and I are just back from a trip that took us to both Maine and Vermont. My wife went to do some shopping. I went to sketch, paint, and do photography.

Camden, Maine, our base during our time in Maine, is a beautiful and quaint town. The village is home to a large fleet of schooners that, during the summer months, take travelers aboard to visit and enjoy the surrounding Maine landscape and islands by sail. By mid October many of the boats that populate Camden's harbor have been pulled for the winter. That said, while there, Camden's harbor remained busy with boats coming and going and tourists crowding the town's shops and restaurants. Then too, Camden, and the surrounding area was blooming into a palette of full fall color. This piece was done on a chilly morning and depicts Camden's crowded and busy inner harbor.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Last Thursday I had a meeting in downtown KC, and on my way back I stopped at the "Artist's and Craftsman's Supply" on Southwest Boulevard and discovered a great new paper. Shizen watercolor paper. A local company named "Shizen Design" makes it, or has it made to their specifications, in India. At any rate, I recommend that you give it a's wonderful. Here's their website:

This painting was done on my new Shizen paper - a small 8" by 8" piece with deckle edges. I approached this painting with some specific goals in mind.
#1: I wanted to keep a very limited palette to help maintain a definitive mood. So, I stuck with ultramarine, a little cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna and some gamboge.
#2: I wanted to keep all washes/colors fresh, so I made sure the previous wash was dry before applying the next layer. I think there's maybe 4 total washes.
#3: I wanted to create a more dynamic composition than what I found in nature. In order to achieve this, I extended the buildings on the right and left sides up to the top of the paper to frame the higher key center. I also added a darker wash to the upper portion of the sky to help create a value contrast with the central area and the bright yellow tree.

I'm pleased with the outcome, and look forward to my next painting on Shizen paper.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dairy Queen with ink and more

By Marcia Milner-Brage, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Dairy Queen Inside

The DQ on 18th Street here in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has been on my to-draw list for a couple years. It looks like a red barn you'd see in the Iowa countryside. The large oak tree behind it was always a big part of my attraction to this place. I sat in the parking lot, working from the passenger seat of the car. It's been unseasonably warm this fall. I had the windows down. The grass is still green, yet the trees are starting to change.

I'm participating in the #inktober drawing challenge--an ink drawing a day for the whole month. This was Day 6. Here's what the drawing looked like when it was more just ink:

DQ as ink drawing

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kirkwood Amtrak Station

Kirkwood Amtrak Station
©2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor in Strathmore Visual Journal (140-lb CP paper)
5" x 7" (13 x 18 cm)

I met up with the St. Louis Drawing & Painting Meetup Group at this month's Urban Sketching outing.  We sketched the historic and picturesque Amtrak train station in Kirkwood, Missouri.  There were so many people out on this beautiful early fall morning; people walking dogs, shopping, and attending a nearby farmer's market across the street.  Several trains (both freight and passenger) moved through the station area while we sketched; the freight trains operated at deafening levels and seemed to take forever to pass by.  But very cool nonetheless.

I had intended to substitute out a few paints in my kit (Quin Gold & Hematite Burnt Scarlet) before heading out to the event, but forgot in my haste to get out the door on time.  Both of these pigments work well on my larger palette, but I feel that I like the weak opacity of a true raw sienna when I'm sketching on location, as I use it a lot for rendering stone, masonry, etc.  I have been experimenting with Quin Gold as a substitute for Raw Sienna, but again, seem to be preferring the Raw Sienna.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Here's an Opportunity to Put Your Art on the main USK Masthead

From Los Angeles Coorespondent Shiho Nakaza...

We are ready to feature more people on Urban Sketchers main blog flags
(masthead). This is open to any Urban Sketchers member or a
correspondent on either main blog and regional blog, so if you are an
admin for a regional group, feel free to pass the information along.

Please send the following to with subject line:
"Flag Material from (your name)":
- A high-resolution photo of you sketching, or a photo of sketchbook
page shown next to the background where you're sketching (photos from
smartphones are OK as long as they are at least 960 pixels wide)
- high-resolution scan of the sketch
- location of the sketch/photo (city, country)
- your website/blog/Flickr site with your location sketches

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gas Dock - End of the Season

This is a sketch of the floating gas dock at our marina. The piece was done last Friday while I was relaxing after a day of work getting our boat ready to pull out of the water for season. The dock, usually busy with boats coming and going, is quite now. The season is winding down, boats are coming out of the water for the cold months ahead, and White Lake is settling down for fall. For those of us who sail it's a sad time of year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I found a new coffeehouse in Lawrence

I finally found a coffee shop that's been open a while but under my radar. Decade Coffee. A fellow sketcher mentioned it at a recent Lawrence sketch crawl but I didn't take notes. Took me a little web surfing to find it but I did. It's on the very east edge of town, down by the tracks in a mostly industrial area that's not on the way to anywhere.

Friday morning I headed out to check on it and sketch a little. It turned out to be my kind of place. With a fresh latte I sat down and took out my gear for a nice quiet sketch session. Less than a dozen fellow patrons but several come and go. A father and gradeschool age son were there, and I think it's his minivan that had the bumper sticker that I mentioned in the sketch. Brought a smile.

I used a fountain pen with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink to lay it out. Then used my watercolor pencils and waterbrush. BFK Rives 140# in my own journal. Started the text there, then took it home to finish the text and add the map.

John Payne

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Notan sketches, St. Louis

Belleville Exchange Club sketch, 3" x 5". The sketch is post dated to coincide with a fund raising auction to benefit  the Belleville(IL) Historical Society.  I will not be able to attend the event but organizers requested all donated works bear the date of the auction. They are after all historians!
Recently I have been reading about what artists refer to as the art of Notan. It is the practice of establishing relationships of light and dark patterns used by master Japanese & Chinese brush artists. There is a great explanation of the method in a USK Singapore Symposium class hand-out by Urban Sketcher Virginia Hein just published and made available in the most recent edition of Drawing Attention. The USK newsletter also provided links to several several class handouts. They are all free and are a great resource for sketchers.

I have been attempting to use Notan sketching as a preliminary step in my plein air painting efforts and have found it to be a great help. The sketches here are done in a small Strathmore spiral bound sketch book of recycled paper with a set of 6 Pitt shades of grey artist pens by Faber Castell. The sketches are quickly composed layers of tones that are begun by laying down the lightest areas first followed by the darkest shapes in the scene. I keep the sketch book on my easel and refer to it like a road map of pattern and value throughout the painting process. I sometimes add the color relationships I am going for such as the triad of Red Orange/Blue Violet/Yellow Green or record the pigments I used in my palette.

Urban sketching is really an art & method unto itself to be sure but the same techniques practiced by sketch artists are useful in other fields including painting, design and architecture. The ability to sketch and the portability of a sketch book makes it possible to design anywhere at anytime.
Snapshots of my easel with sketch book.                                                                                               

Urban Sketching in St. Louis -- West Port Plaza

I organized an urban sketching event in St. Louis for the St. Louis Drawing and Painting Meetup Group.  We met at West Port Plaza in the morning, then spread out to sketch in the many nooks and crannies of the plaza.  We had a great turnout, and the weather cooperated; while we could have usd a little more sun (to emphasize shadows), the temperatures stayed tolerable and it didn't rain.  Everyone had a great time and we ended with eager discussions about where and when to have the next event.  I hope that some of you outside the St. Louis area will be able to join us sometime; I plan to hold these roughly at the last weekend of each month.  I'll post on this blog with notifications.  Stay tuned!

More info about the sketches I did at

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eldridge Hotel - Lawrence, Kansas

 I've been practicing a lot of architectural subjects in anticipation of an upcoming trip.  The new Lawrence-based sketch crawl group was a great opportunity!  I found a shady spot for my stool on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and the breeze kept me cool for a good hour and a half (I'm a notorious plein air wuss!).  At one point, a waiter from he hotel brought out a cup of water!  Love small town America!

3 Days Sketching at the Minnesota State Fair

Every year, the Twin Cities Urban Sketchers gather at the Minnesota State Fair for a sketch-out.  This year, I went to the State Fair on two additional days. I  like sketching people and there's no better place to sketch people doing lots of different stuff than the State Fair. I also like to sketch animals.

I wanted to work big and quickly, so I mostly used a series 400 11X14 inch Strathmore toned paper pad. I also did a few sketches in my smaller, toned paper journal. I use a Pigma Graphic 1 pen and color with mostly Prismacolor pencils.

Here's some of my sketches:

One of the entrances to the Fair.


I like sketching the Sham-Wow guys.

A military vehicle attracted lots of people.

A Woody Guthrie concert. I got autographs.

A cow.

More cows.

More Fairgoers.


The Jefferson Lines booth.

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