Saturday, August 22, 2015

Abandoned Municipal Buildings...again...

We went fishing at Lawson Lake again last night...this was my final sketch of the evening, as it was getting on toward night and clouds were coming in from the west.  I only had time to keep it fairly the time I added the power lines it was almost too dark to see.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


This seems to be my summer for painting bridges...I love the arches and the reflections, as well as the history.  The one at top is just off 92 Highway in Tryst Falls Park--as you can tell from the name, it was a very popular meeting place in our area.

Because of the falls, there was a grist mill that utilized the power of water in the 1840s and 1850s...long since gone except for the lines carved into the limestone that show where it was.

The other three images are what's known in our town as Golf Hill Bridge, connecting our downtown valley where I live and the golf course and fine old neighborhood on the hill.  It's in Isley Park Woods, a Missouri Natural Area, and beside a street known as Lover's Lane...are we seeing a trend here?

Joseph has been warm-water fly fishing while I sketch and explore...a lovely summer!

NOTE:  I just got in touch with our Public Works department to find out more about the Golf Hill was built in 1914!  Amazing it has weathered so many floods...

St. Charles - Main & First Capitol

St. Charles - Main & First Capitol
(c)2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb paper in handmade sketchbook, 
6.75" x 10.25" (17 x 26 cm)

I sketched this on location while sitting in direct sun on a hot, humid day.  I'm starting to realize how much Urban Sketching can be an endurance sport!  I liked the angle from which I sketched this scene, but next time I'll scope out a shadier spot...!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Civil War Weekend at Fort Snelling

It was a marvelous sketching opportunity this weekend at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. It was two days of authentic costumes and activities, all at the fort where it really happened--- talk about "production value"! The end of the Civil War was 150 years ago, therefore the sesquicentennial. I worked in a hard-bound Kunst & Papier watercolor journal with my Preppy carbon ink pen, a watercolor pencil and my indispensable Whiskey Painters watercolor palette.
Part of the 1865 Fashion Show

From the 1865 Fashion Show

Private gets paid at end of his mustering-out

Sketching Event in St. Louis

I'd like to invite those of you in the Urban Sketchers--Midwest group to attend an Urban Sketching outing I'm hosting in St. Louis on Saturday, August 29th.  This outing is not an official Urban Sketchers--Midwest or USk event, but something I'm hosting as part of the St. Louis Drawing and Painting Meetup Group.

We'll meet at 9:00 a.m. on 8/29 at the St. Louis Bread Company (Panera) restaurant at:
147 West Port Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63146
Here’s a map >

We'll sketch from 9am-11am, then gather again at St. Louis Bread Company to socialize, view each others' sketches, have lunch, etc. Be sure to come a little early if you want to grab a coffee or a quick breakfast item.

More info about West Port Plaza >
There are lots of great hotels and restaurants on the property and within walking distance of the event.

Hope to see you there! -- Steve

a sketchcrawl with grandson Quen

On Saturday we drove to Round Top, planning on taking Quentin to Royer's Cafe for lunch and some sketching. We arrived around 10:00 only to find out that the cafe doesn't open until 11:00. So we found a shady tree to sit under to sketch while we wait. Except that I discovered that I had brought two sketchbooks and a travel palette . . . but had taken my pens out of the bag and forgot to replace them! We had one water rush and one pencil between us (I added ink later at home).

Quentin prefers working with abstract designs so he used the water rush while I drew this historic log cabin. Flowers bloomed all around the town square, as did the butterflies.

We returned to the cafe at 11:00 . . . and 11:30 . . . and 12:00. They never did open. So we went to Royer's Pie Haven nearby and ate pie for lunch! The empty container in my sketch is all that's left of Quen's key lime pie. And yeah, the pie is too yummy to take time drawing it!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Civil War Homecoming at Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, MN

This weekend the Minnesota Historical Society staged "A Civil War Homecoming", re-enacting the return of soldiers to Fort Snelling in 1865. This event is part of MNHS's Sesquicentennial commemoration. I'm crazy about sketching people in period costumes, so I was there on Saturday and Sunday. Roberta was there on Sunday and did some nice sketches.

The soldiers marching into Fort Snelling.
More Civilians.
A Colonel.
War Correspondent (artist David Geister).
More Soldiers.

Sketching the Sketchers

Sketching the Sketchers
©2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and Micron pen in Moleskine sketchbook
5" x 16.5" (13 x 42 cm)

I attend life-drawing sessions every so often to work on my observational and figure-drawing skills, but I've always drawn the model--never considering that I could draw the people who are drawing the model. So, my goal was to do just one drawing during the evening and try to sketch the sketchers--to capture those who were intent on drawing the model.  At the beginning, I was unsure what sketchbook/format would work best; I finally decided on my watercolor Moleskine since I felt a panoramic format would be best.  I first roughed in the figures in pencil, then followed up with a Pigma Micron 03 pen; watercolor washes followed.

Olive Garden

Olive Garden
©2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and pencil on
Strathmore 140-lb cold-press watercolor paper
in Strathmore Visual Journal sketchbook
9" x 12" (23 x 30 cm)
Sketched on location in Richmond Heights, Missouri.  I sketched this scene during lunch while sitting in my car in a parking lot across the street from the restaurant.  The weather was warm but, with the windows down, there was enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable.   

Saturday, August 15, 2015


This is a quick sketch while waiting for a friend at one of the nearby coffee shops. The sketchbook is a nice little Strathmore book that I got from Hobby Lobby. I wasn't looking for a new sketchbook, but when I saw that the paper was 100% cotton rag I just couldn't pass it up. I used a run of the mill roller ball pen...nothing special.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thank heaven for company!

My husband and I tend to take things for the National World War I Museum, which we have always intended to visit, but we just haven't gotten around to it.  Our recent visitors wanted to see the museum, so we finally saw it.  The subject matter makes for a sombre experience; fortunately as a sketcher, I could distract myself with the images instead of dwelling on the absolute futility and frustration of the war.  Now we need someone to come to KC who wants to see the Federal Reserve Bank.....

Saved, again!

This is the historic old Bennett Garage building that has survived who knows how many floods (at least 2 just this year actually got in the back of the building, the bridge to the right of the building being replaced, and now the highway bridge uncomfortably close on the left!  We were all concerned when they took down the old bridge that was hard by the old brick edifice...but they managed to drop it with no harm to Bennett's!

(Of course I had to note the young guy who walked by, ranting at the top of his voice...)

I sketched one of the basement windows years ago...loved the calligraphy of vines and textures...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meet the Correspondents: Ken Avidor

I'm Roberta Avidor's husband, Ken. It is an honor to join this blog with its talented urban sketchers. We live in Union Depot train station in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We have been sketching for many years. We belong to two sketching groups here in Minnesota; Twin Cities Urban Sketchers and Metrosketchers, a Facebook-based group. We are also bicycle and transit advocates and our multi-modal lifestyle is very much a part of our artwork.

As Roberta, mentioned, recently we have been traveling with our Brompton folding bikes on Jefferson Lines buses and sketching along the way. You can see our those sketches at our travel blog. We are looking forward to traveling throughout the midwest and of course, sketching. We'll post those sketches here.

You can see more of my my sketches and other artwork at my page.

Here's a news report from our latest trip up north:

Abandoned Municipal Buildings...

This is the old water treatment plant, no longer in use, in Lawson, Missouri...these lovely summer mornings, we've been getting out early to sketch and fish.  The little building is at a lake my husband loves to fish in, so it's the best of both worlds for us!  I wonder where they treat their water now...?

The front entrance, up the hill from the lake...

I can see this is going to be the subject of a whole series of sketches...I explored it up close the other day, and found all sorts of interesting textures and details.

I used my bent nib calligraphy pen on this one...I like the lively lines!
This little metal pier seems to be some kind of makes noise.  You can see the same little building in the background...

These two are from last month, a different angle...what is it about abandoned buildings that captures our imagination?

Good morning, fellow Midwestern Urban Sketchers!

I am pleased to join the blog. I love to artfully document the area I live in and other areas I may travel to. It's important to me to capture the feel of a place through pen & ink and watercolor, whether the subject matter is an important landmark or a derelict structure that is about to be torn down, such as the old warehouse in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul. And it's always fascinating to see how other artists capture their environments.

Recently, my husband Ken and I have been traveling with our folding bikes on Jefferson Lines to their various destinations. You can visit our travel blog. If you want to see some of my other works, go to

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mini Travel Palette

I have had some issues with my old travel palette (Cathy will recognize this - it's an old Winsor & Newton travel palette that holds full pans. She has one that's identical) I took out the pans and use tube watercolor in the small wells. Below is a photo of my current portable sketch set. The W&N palette, a collapsable water cup, two Utrecht travel brushes, a 1-inch flat squirrel hair brush, a small flat synthetic and a rigger. This is the set I use to paint 95% of the Urban Sketching paintings that I do. I also have a larger travel palette that's really nice and has a lid that seals - but it's too large to carry easily sometimes.

This setup has worked great and is a convenient size, but the little palette is terribly messy and I am constantly cleaning up paint spills. Below is a photo showing how the liquid will flow right out of it if it's still wet when I fold it back up.

I have to include a disclaimer here - I am not advocating the use of a tobacco product, it just happens that the little tins that Camel Snus comes in (snuff in pouches) are perfect for setting up a mini portable palette. You could buy a tin of Snus for about $6 and throw out the snus, ask a friend who uses it for one of their old tins (that is what I did) or look on eBay as I've seen people selling small bunches of empty tins there. Here is a photo of the tin with my glasses close by for size comparison.

As you can see, it's very small - which is something I was looking for. The other thing I was looking for was that I wanted something that had a watertight lid.

If you look closely at the inside of the lid, you'll see a small rubber/foam seal that circles the edge.

It holds 8 half pans perfectly! I painted the inside of the lid with an off-white spray enamel to make it easier to judge colors. (A tip I took from one of Cathy's posts on setting up a portable palette - thanks, Cathy) I used masking tape to cover the foam seal and the outer portion of the lid. I used small dabs of RTV Silicone on the bottom of each half pan to hold them securely in place. As you can see - it's small enough to fit nicely in the palm of your hand, or your pocket. It's a little bit of a challenge to open, but not too difficult. I'll let you know how it goes after I've tried it out a few times.

I'm also in the process of setting up a slightly larger palette in a waterproof cell phone case. (Photo below) It was $5.97 at Walmart. Once I get it completed, I'll post photos and info on how I set it up.

I hope some of you find this useful - I'm looking forward to putting this little fella through the paces.


waiting for my hot dog

Today we took our grandson Quen to the Southern Flyer 50s style diner. Quen was disappointed that these table-side juke boxes were not really hooked up. But the large free-standing juke box still works and was cranking out 50s tunes. The diner is located out of town, at the Brenham Airport --- Many customers fly their private planes in just for lunch.

End of the Race - In the Basin

This past Friday, August 7th, we took part in the Clipper Cup race with our boat Amadeus. The Clipper Cup is a sailing race that starts in Muskegon, Michigan and ends between the pier heads in Port Washington, Wisconsin...about 70 miles across Lake Michigan. We had good wind all day and quite a ride 'cross the lake. This is a shot of our boat with the chute up that was taken by a friend with her cell phone from another boat.

We had a slip for our boat in Port Washington but we were back in the marina's basin where a large number of the boats were rafted up post completing the race. This sketch was done while sitting in the cockpit of our boat and is of several of the racing boats that were rafted up in the basin. The best part of the race for me was having our entire family on board as crew for the crossing.

Monday, August 10, 2015

West Port Plaza, St. Louis

West Port Plaza
©2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and Micron pen on 
Strathmore Gemini 140-lb cold-press watercolor paper
in handmade sketchbook
6.75" x 10.25" (17 x 26 cm)

West Port Plaza is a mixed-use retail, entertainment, and office development in Maryland Heights, Missouri.  Lots of great restaurants here.  Normally, the Plaza is a busy, bustling place; however, during the hot & humid afternoon while I sketched this, the plaza was nearly empty.  Too early for evening dining, I suppose people were either out doing their back-to-school shopping or staying in where it was cool; not sitting on a park bench sweating and sloshing paint around as I was...  :)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lawrence Sketch Crawl

We had our second sketch crawl yesterday. This time at the Eldridge Hotel on Mass Street in Lawrence. This town has so much history, and this hotel is no exception. Wish the walls could talk. In its 150 years it had been burnt down by the sheriff (pro-slavery sheriff didn't like the free-state owner), then by Quantrill. Three different investment parties. It keeps on ticking.

There were five of us sketchers. My tools are fountain pen and watercolor pencils with waterbrush. Others either use watercolor or stick with pencil sketching. Nice variety.

Arctic Ice Sno-Cone Stand

Arctic Ice Sno-Cone Stand
©2015 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor & Sharpie pen in Moleskine sketchbook
5" x 16.5" (13 x 42 cm)

Sketched on location in Creve Coeur Lake Park, Maryland Heights, MO USA.  Creve Coeur Lake is the largest natural lake in Missouri.  I sketched this scene of the Arctic Ice Sno-Cone Stand while sitting at a picnic table across the bike trail from the little snow-cone building.  The park was busy with people riding their bikes, running, walking (both for exercise and walking their dogs), people sailing on the lake, and people fishing.  The snow-cone stand had lots of customers while I sketched; the warm and humid afternoon lent itself to indulging in a cold, sweet treat.

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