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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