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This just in: I will be teaching at the USK International Symposium in Chicago! July 26-29, 2017

February 8, 2017


Just got the news – Excited to say I’ll be teaching this year at the 2017 International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Chicago! #USkChicago2017. (Register here!)

This will be the first public painting event this year (that I know of right now), and the only in-person workshop I expect to give in 2017. Though I am lining up at least one other demonstration event as we speak.


Chicago will be a whole new challenge for me. Talk about putting the Urban in Urban Sketching :) I feel the need to go practice my glass buildings.

We did see some of that last year in Singapore – but I for one dodged drawing the skyscrapers. I think it was easier to get out of the canyons of the city and into a tropical garden, or in front of a temple/mosque :) This year we’ll be in the Loop district – so I’m expecting a bustling metropolis as far as the eye can see.

I’ll be a kid from a small town, heading to the big city. Can you point me to the nearest cute little church yard please?


So – bear with me for an update this spring, saying exactly what I’ll be teaching. I need to document some step-by-step demonstrations before/while I write the course.

But I do know it’ll be built on the idea of ‘direct watercolor‘. That is: watercolor silhouettes with minimal-to-no drawing underneath. Something suitable for the very high skill level of USk workshop attendees – and matching the high speed, ultra-portable kind of watercolor sketching I end up doing when I’m out with other Correspondents.

16Aug20_Manchester_USK symposium 12_Last Day_Knott Mill Station Deansgate

Can’t wait to see everyone there! I think it’s going to be the biggest USK symposium ever!


24 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    February 8, 2017 1:33 PM

    Marc, Oh how time flies. Two years ago was Singapore. Last year was Manchester. Hope to get into your workshop in Chicago. Aren’t we lucky to have this great organization and people like you teaching in it.

  2. February 8, 2017 1:49 PM

    If registration goes well I will see you in Chicago. Anne-Laure too is planning to come.
    I did the Chicago USK symposium last summer it was great. Looking forward to this mega symposium.

  3. February 8, 2017 1:52 PM

    If I were on the same continent, I’d love to come. Your sketches and watercolor paintings are amazing

  4. February 8, 2017 2:14 PM

    Congrats! I will be signing up for one of your workshops!! Cant wait to meet you!

  5. Margaret Horak permalink
    February 8, 2017 2:19 PM

    Awesome! I,too, will be trying for a spot in one of your workshops, too! Wouldn’t miss it! I would feel so lucky if I got the chance to take a class from you in person. Congratulations!!

  6. February 8, 2017 2:25 PM

    I just got a fat quill squirrel brush and plan to practice, practice, practice, before Chicago!!

  7. Julia Blackbourn permalink
    February 8, 2017 2:40 PM

    Mark, the workshop site is right near Michigan avenue just a block from Grant Park and Lake Michigan. A few blocks from the Art Institute. Beautiful park along the lake. Not all buildings at all.

    • February 8, 2017 3:51 PM

      Hey Julia – Oh I’m sure there’s a lot of great views – and there’s some terrific sculpture in the park. But I always like to capture the unique character of a place – so I think I’m ready to try the modern architecture that I usually dodge :) Looking forward to seeing Chicago!

      • February 8, 2017 6:49 PM

        Hey Marc, I know you have attended many of the USK Symposiums, I was wondering if there are any items that you bring with you that someone who has never attended would not think to bring.. Mostly art supplies. I know there will be vendors..thanks

        I plan to get to Chicago on Mon night, so I have Tues to hit the Art institute etc…

        • February 8, 2017 7:36 PM

          Actually, the main thing is to bring as little as possible ! :) I just end up thinking I have too much to carry all the time. When my bag is too heavy I’m too easily tempted to go for coffee :)

          I bring plenty of paper – that’s the one thing I over pack. My carry-on weight allowance is mostly paper. My wife’s is camera gear. But I bring that box of paper so I can use it freely with no fear of running out. Way more paper than I ever need. I always bring some home. It’s like a security blanket. I have to be ‘free’ to toss an average painting and just start again :)

          I usually only carry 5-7 sheets each day though. The rest stays in the hotel. Tubes also stay in the hotel – to keep the bag light. I also only bring a mechanical pencil, and three brushes – #7 pointed round, #4 mop, and a large oval wash. And I have a duplicate set in the hotel in case I lose any on site. If you do a lot of pen drawing, I encourage you to go on a diet. Only three pens!. Pack the smallest gear bag you can, and do three day trips with it to test everything. See if there is anything you didn’t use – and you can cut weight further! But if you bring too much A: more weight = more tired = less drawing, B: you just lose gear, and C: in these classes you’re drawing so fast, I find I want to stick to my most familiar tools.

          I do bring masking tape, because sometimes you can’t find that in a shop. Also, there won’t be as many art supply vendors as you think on site. So I research the nearest art store before I go.

          Oh Binder clips! Nothing worse than your book always fluttering in the wind. Big black binder clips keep a book open. Wind is the worst on location and this is the Windy City.

          Otherwise I pack light. I don’t bring a folding stool, but that’s because I’m running from person to person when teaching so I can’t use it properly. If you do need one, you need one. But I sit on the ground if I get tired.

          I don’t bring a camera as I don’t have time to use it. Also no easel. I used to bring one, but I’ve given up!. No umbrella – too bulky. Just a rain jacket. No water bottle any more. I used to – but now I buy as I go. We’re never far from civilization at a USK event.

          Here’s one thing – it’s great to get on facebook or the USK site blog when it opens, and try to research who you even casually know that will be there.

          Anyone you know from an online club or from the comments online. or if you’re keen – just post and say “LOOKING FOR SKETCH BUDDIES”. If you can find out who is going, and exchange contact info in advance, you have a much better time knowing there are other people to meet for dinner and late night sketching :) It’s never cool to end up at loose ends when it’s supposed to be a sketching party!

          Also, if you do some research (haunting google maps) and get to know the area – you will be the hero if you know where all the drawing spots and sketchcrawls are:) People are always getting lost!. (These will be posted in the course descriptions – maybe not till the last moment). Besides the class locations, I try to have my own hit-list of things I want to draw within walking distance of the workshop. So every AM and PM I know what I would sketch if I had free time. (Unless someone comes up with something better – which they always do.)

          That’s all I can think of this second – if you hear any good tips let me know!

          Some people like to trade MOO cards? That’s an old flicker thing you can google.

  8. February 8, 2017 4:38 PM

    I can’t wait to take your workshop – direct watercolor is definitely something I’ve been working on and would like to get your perspective on!

  9. Yahoo permalink
    February 8, 2017 5:57 PM

    You MUST go to the Field Museum! Great Natural history dioramas and the most incredible Native American collections. it is a sketchers/ artist dream come true.

    Sent from my iPhone


  10. miatagrrl permalink
    February 8, 2017 11:32 PM

    Yay!! See you there! :-)


  11. Babs Jennings permalink
    February 9, 2017 5:27 PM

    Wish I could go but fear I couldn’t manage all the walking at my age, plus still having issues from a bad knee injury in 2015. Love your newest images in this post, Marc. Can you tell me what paint colors you used in the last one of the two structures with the overpass? Thanks.

    • February 9, 2017 5:52 PM

      Hey Babs! That one has to be based on Quinacridone Gold Deep! I love that orangy yellow color. It’s like the best version of Burnt Sienna. Much brighter and cleaner. The greens are Perylene green and Olive green, and the darks Moonglow. – all Daniel Smith colors by coincidence.

  12. Cynthia B permalink
    February 12, 2017 12:13 PM

    Greetings Marc!
    So happy and delighted to hear that you’ll be in Chicago!
    I’ve taken both your on line classes and am looking forward to seeing you in July!
    Missed the early bird sign up as they filled up at a record rate. Hopefully I will be fortunate enough to “win” when the regular registration opens on the 18th. Either way I will be sure to stop by and say “Hello”.

    Best and Warmest!
    Cynthia B

  13. Barbara Rallo permalink
    February 13, 2017 10:11 AM

    Easton ends on Sunday, July 23rd. Door County starts that Sunday I think, but of course the big stuff isn’t until the next weekend. I would love to see why everyone likes that event so much. But would also be big fun to be sketching with a big group! I do sketching so much better than the pressure of Plein air PAINTING!

    I need to figure out what we are doing as we normally go early or stay later – will put it in the mix and let’s keep talking about it.


    Sent from my iPad


    • February 13, 2017 11:27 AM

      Hey Barbara – just checking – this sounds like part of an ongoing chat? were you meaning to send this to someone else?

  14. March 3, 2017 12:43 AM

    Hi Marc — Greetings from Colorado. Benek and Jody (from your Savannah, GA workshop) here. We read your challenge and we are inspired! I don’t know if we can be successful at getting 100 people on the page, but we will try. We also registered for The USk symposium. Looking forward to seeing you there!

    • March 3, 2017 9:47 AM

      Oh hey that’s great to see you in Chicago! It will be a great time!

    • March 3, 2017 9:50 AM

      And yes, love to see what you get out of a week of people sketching! Just remember – have fun with it :) It can be frustrating as they move around on you. The trick is going fast without somehow getting flustered :)

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