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Portland Urban Sketchers Workshop

August 9, 2012

I’m just back from Portland Oregon, where Shari Blaukopf and I spent three days with 26 participants painting on location. We did a wide range of subjects, including heritage buildings, steel bridges, a Victorian house, and even sketching the color and activity of the Farmer’s Market.

We had some record breaking weather – reaching the all time high of 102 Fahrenheit. That’s challenging just walking around, never mind dealing with the watercolor drying instantly. It felt a lot like working in Belém Portugal last year. Everyone was happy to be in the South Park Blocks for our final day sketching under the trees.

There’s more photos of the event up on our Montreal Urban Sketchers Facebook, or the USK Flickr stream.

Onto the demos! I approached things in a similar manner to the recent Santo Domingo workshop. First demoing the drawing stage, then walking through the three passes Tea, Milk, Honey. Between washes, I’d make rounds helping people with their own pieces. So we had about three hours in each location, but more than half the time was running around looking at sketches and giving what tips came to mind.

The demo I think turned out best was the Telegraph Building. A classic subject that gave good opportunity for lit shadows filled with reflected color.

As we approached the Burnside Bridge, it suddenly occurred to me “whoops, this is a terrifically difficult subject”. Besides the bridge itself, with all its ironwork, there’s an entire city on the opposite bank. But we had a game group of artists, very much up to the challenge. Everyone handled it with panache. It was a great example of how to simplify on location. I’ve been saying lately,  “Drawing on location edits itself”.

If you start with the most attractive part of the composition and work outwards until you run out of time – the stuff you didn’t have time to include obviously wasn’t very compelling to you, and therefore didn’t really need to be in the picture in the first place:)

Locals will note the complete absence of the convention center and the office blocks behind the bridge. Also that the supporting girders aren’t really drawn – only indicated. I got what interested me – those two concrete piers with their minarets and oddly castle-like bases. I managed to have time to sketch a barge that passed by in moments, but somehow never really got to drawing the freeway on the far bank.

That’s what an artist can do, that a photographer cannot. We draw what we see, not simply everything that’s there.

My personal favorite location had to be the Skidmore Fountain. It’s exactly my kind of subject. The sculptures on the fountain, the colonnade. Great subject!

We hit this spot on a Friday, as it’s the location of the hugely popular Saturday Market. The next morning, the square we’re standing in will be completely packed with vendors booths and tourists. What I didn’t realize is, they start setting things up the day before. So we had the extra factor of workers building giant metal tent frames all around us. But, that’s just part of what makes location drawing exciting!

So – Thanks to Linda Daily who invited us out, and everyone who came to the workshop! We had a great time putting this on, met a lot of awesome people. I’m sure we’ll be doing more workshops next year. Like all of the events in the USK workshop program, we’ll be donating 10% of the profits back to Urban as part of the educational program that brings local students to the annual Urban Sketchers symposium. It’s great to be able to give that bit back to the sketching community, at the same time as having all this fun!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Tony permalink
    August 9, 2012 6:27 PM

    HI Mark. Again FANTASTIC! What kind if pencil are you using? What color grey is that? I’m still waiting for your DVD lessons to be ready and offered.

  2. August 12, 2012 5:37 AM

    beautiful work – i can lose my self in your paintings. wonderful balances of brushwork and colour. nice one!

  3. January 27, 2014 5:19 PM

    Really nice work Marc! I’m new to your Blog and wonder if you talk anywhere about your materials/equipment (especially the plein air easel shelf)?


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