Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sketching in Brooklyn Heights

We lucked out again because Sunday was another beautiful crisp day with lots of sunshine - a great day to sketch Brooklyn Heights.  I started early and set up my plein air rig in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This area was a wasteland ten years ago and is now a beautifully sculpted park.

This one took me about two and a half hours.  I used a bamboo pen with Sumi Ink, along with my watercolor set.

Here it is finished... well, almost.  There's still a lot of room for improvements but I just set it aside.  

I joined up with the group in time for lunch.  Here are the sketchers on the Brooklyn Heights promenade with our fearless leader, Mark.

While the group fanned out on the sidestreets I set myself up in front of the Heights Cafe.  What a splendid neighborhood with lots of young families and good vibes.  

Here is the finished product, spanning two pages of my sketchbook, which is a Strathmore 500 series. I used a Japanese pen with a name I don't know, and my regular watercolor set.  Thats a Ginko Tree with hanging branches at top.  The dog appeared at the very end and I needed to use white paint to accomodate him.  He adds a lot.  

So sketchers, enjoy the fall season, and I hope to see you all again soon!

Brooklyn Heights

The first thing that grabbed my attention walking onto the promenade was the view!

I had a little bit of time left to do this quicky sketch overlooking the BQE. I have to laugh... when I am on this expressway the traffic is at a standstill, but when I was sketching it was like the Autobon! 

After lunch it was time to tackle something more structured! I picked the first, most complicated building that I saw ;^) . Another great location I would love to spend more time at.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Forecast is for rain on Wednesday.  We will move indoors to Brookfield Place (World Financial Center) and then possibly St Paul's and the new Fulton St subway rotunda on Broadway, depending on what the group wants to do. 


Meet at 10:30 as planned in front of Le District, the new French Supermarket on the lower level of Palm Court.  We can draw, have something to eat at Hudson Eats (or bring your own) and then move on to other indoor locations.  If the weather breaks and there is an outdoor figure drawing session we can take advantage of that in the afternoon.  If it is still raining we can move to other indoor locations. 

NOTE:  If the sun is shining we revert to the original plan

Monday, September 28, 2015

Weekday Urban Sketcher on Pier 25 Wednesday

Pier 25, at the foot of North Moore Street, is a reclaimed treasure on the NYC waterfront.  With beautiful river views, historic ships, playgrounds, miniature golf, and lots of people we should have plenty to draw.  

In the afternoon we will take advantage to one of the few remaining outdoor figure drawing sessions in the South Cove of Battery Park City.   


TIME: 10:30 AM  Note: in order to allow enough time for sketching on the pier before we head to the figure drawing session, we are meeting a bit earlier than usual.


TRANSPORTATION:  1 train to Franklin Street or A,C,E to Chambers Street then walk west to the waterfront.

LUNCH:  Since there are not many places in the area for food, please bring something along with you.

Please RSVP directly  Raylie Dunkel at  Looking for us, call Raylie at 201-978-6387.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fun in Brooklyn Heights

I just loved today's location in Brooklyn Heights! It was my first time there and I probably could have spent a week sketching the buildings there.

I started along the promenade, and although the city views were impressive, I was attracted to this building with all the foliage around it. Between the color of the building and the striped awning how could I resist?

I loved this view with all the vehicles heading towards me on the BQE. They move so fast that most of them are a bit of one vehicle and a bit of another. I liked having the bridge off in the distance too.

When I finished lunch I decided to do a quick sketch of this couple and their dog that were facing us. Of course I sketched the couple and then the head and front paw of the dog and then they got up and took off. I had to do the rest of the dog's body from memory...can you tell my memory is going? LOL

Then it was off to sketch the brownstones on Columbia Heights which were so great! I probably could have sketched the entire street...both sides.

I'm hoping we make a return visit at some point.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Returning to Gowanus to Sketch

My first Urban Sketching experience was in Gowanus one year ago, and it was a pleasure to join the group again to sketch the same neighborhood and celebrate with friends and a beer.  Gowanus, as you may know, is an area in Brooklyn known for its industrial history and polluted and sometimes malodorous waterway.  The photo below was taken from the elevated F Train station.

I arrived early and set up my plein air rig on a side street under the Gowanus Expressway and did this painting below.  The building to the left is a smoked fish distributor and it really smelled like that.  

Toward the late afternoon I painted this street which is across from Lowes. You can see a glimpse of the elevated train on the upper right of the sketch below.

Wrapping up our afternoon presentation, Marcy is showing her work for the day. Thats the famous and talented Melanie Reim second from the left.

On the way back I stopped off on East Broadway to bring home Chinese food, and took a detour into Seward Park where I had the opportunity to sketch these elders on a bench, one of whom had itchy feet.

I look back on my Urban Sketching experience from last year and think my skills have improved.  You can compare for yourself by looking at my Gowanus post from one year ago.  Thanks Mark for your leadership, and the invitation to join.  And special thanks to Jessica Dalrymple for helping to arrange the day in conjunction with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and cooking lunch!

So Sketchers, I look forward to the Fall season, and meeting up again in New York City!  You can also check out my sketches on my Facebook page, or on Instagram @jlevinemd. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

SUNDAY: Sketch Brooklyn Heights

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Brooklyn Heights is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods 
in the nation: Travel and Leisure Magazine.  

Our day starts at the Promenade:
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade will take your breath away. Made famous by cameo appearances in movies like Annie Hall and Moonstruck, it is one of the most romantic spots in New York City, and has been the destination for thousands of first dates, wedding proposals and anniversary celebrations. One-third of a mile long, it offers a vista of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the majestic Brooklyn Bridge. Lined with flower beds, trees, benches and playgrounds, the promenade is a favorite destination for tourists, joggers, strollers, families,  lovers, and of course - Urban Sketchers.

The afternoon will be spent sketching the rows of historic 19th century brownstones, the leafy streets, lush gardens and charming dead-end alleyways.  The landmark designation has kept the neighborhood looking much as it did 100 years ago.  This is a sketching treat!


When:   Sunday at 10 AM.  Sleeping late?  Really?  Come anyway you'll only miss some of the heart-pounding sketching excitement.

Where:  The Brooklyn Heights Promenade - walk down Montague Street to the end.

How:  Subways include:
-  Clark Street - 2, 3 train.
-  Court Street - R train
-  Borough Hall - 2, 3, 4 or 5 train
-  The High Street or Jay St. Metrotech stops on the A, C train

Lunch:   Picnic Style to enjoy the view.  Bring your own or find food to take-out on Montague Street.

Afternoon:  We will explore the streets, sketching brownstones, people and street views.

Show and Tell:  3:30 - Henry Street Ale House, 62 Henry St, to share drawings, good stories and a beer or wine if you're so inclined.

Click to Enlarge

Can't find us?
Call or Text Mark - 973-809-9128

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Weekday Urban Sketcher in Parks Near City Hall on Thursday

Within a few blocks of City Hall there are a number of parks that offer very different views of the city that surrounds them.  We will meet in Foley Square Park with a view of the classic Court of Appeals and then decide where to go next:  The Collect Pond Park, the newest addition to the area, with a view of the Criminal Courts or City Hall Park with a view of the Municipal Building and Publishers Row and beautiful fountain and lush plantings or one of the others that dot the area. 

DATE:  Thursday September 24, 2015

TIME: 11:00 Meeting Time

MEETING PLACE: Foley Square Park on Center and Worth Streets

TRANSPORTATION:  J or Z train to Chambers Street, 4, 5 or 6 to City Hall Brooklyn Bridge, R to City Hall.

RSVP directly to Raylie Dunkel at  Looking for us? Call Raylie at 201-978-6387
Foley Square Park

City Hall Park
Collect Pond 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Civil War Reenactment Sketches

This weekend one of the towns near me was having a Civil War Reenactment. I'm not much of a history buff, but I thought it would be a fun place to do a few sketches. I figured that I would be safe sketching a soldier standing guard, but before I could add any paint he was called to "muster" and left his post. lol Typical!

There were a few tables set up with objects and information about that period in our history. I sketched one of the tables and then this lady in full costume came to talk to people. She was fairly cooperative until she sat down with her back to me. I had already started painting the sketch so I didn't mind.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gowanus Canal

It was a fabulous outing to Gowanus Canal, many thanks to the organizers! Hard to decide on any single motif, and between big views vs interesting details, I went for the latter... Not totally happy with the results. I went with too many untested materials and maybe my choices were too ambitious as well... but anyway, here are my sketches from the day.

On the first location, at the end of the Salt lot, I started with two small compositional/value sketches. One depicts the view over the canal and the other some concrete blogs right in front of me, partly under water. Definitely need softer pencils next time, I got hardly any contrast from the ones I had. Also, the sketch of the big view might have warned me because I realized how complex the scene was. Nevertheless, I chose that view for a larger scale sketch.

The evening before I had watched instructional videos by urban sketcher Shari Blaukopf and was eager to try out some of the techniques for washes. Well, they are more difficult that they look when Shari demonstrates them...

The sky wash in the original sketch made on location did not turn out the way I wanted it. I reworked it later from memory to bring out the clouds and even out the blue colour. It's now more the way I intended it, but unfortunately it has lost some of its freshness.

The second larger colour sketch, a view of the canal from the waterfront at the local Whole Foods market.
And two quick small sketches during our show & tell at Halyards.


It has been a busy September, with the start of school (I'm a university professor), along with a flurry of exhibits and illustrative work. Between the cracks in the occasional half hour or fifteen minutes given or even just prior to hitting the hay, I'll sneak a sketch in. Below are a few recent sketches.

Drawn after lunch at the Rockaway Beach Club in Rockaway, NYC. Nothing is ever simple, corrugated tin siding, license plates and potted palms sit, intermixed with people drinking, moving and gesticulating.  Watercolor added later. Favorite bit...the licenses.

I teach students how to draw. When they begin, I don't hector their efforts too greatly, but allow them to make their attempts in earnest before receiving critique. In the entire room, everyone was busy behind their drawing boards--not visible--yet, a break in the staccato interplay of boards and easel legs yielded one moment to zero in on. 
This is a drawing done before bed time of my beagle mix, Whiskey. As she was pushing a feather up and down I figured I'd have an opportunity to switch up and use pencil to get this sketch. Initially I thought I might make a watercolor of this, but has I worked, using the pencil almost as a weak pen line, I went with the compulsion to build the values up by hatching them. I like this one, it provides a good sense of my sleepy puppy and was a good break from my pen brush which I typically use to make sketches.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sketching the Gowanus Canal

It may not be the prettiest place around, but all of the sketchers and painters today seemed to have a great time at the Gowanus Canal. My thanks to Jessica Dalrymple and the members of the Canal Conservancy for inviting us to come and sketch the views. I did feel a little guilty (but not for long) in the morning watching the volunteers hard at work lifting and cleaning while I was sitting on my chair in the shade. 

I found a good spot outside the salt lot to sketch the view across the canal. What drew me to this spot was the "End" sign and the view of the cement factory behind it. As gritty as the location is there are spots that just call to be sketched.

The Third Street Bridge was a great view too.

The views on the other side of the canal were interesting. 
I liked this side view of the cement factory too.

Painting right near me was Jeanne Pierre who was working on an oil painting. It is hard to resist sketching another artist at work.

It was a great day and I really enjoyed the show and tell and seeing the pieces that everyone created today...lots of excellent work!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

New York Transit Museum 16th September

This was a fun event ... my blog name is weird...apologies. Jan Finlayson (from Australia)

Highbridge Park

Thanks for the welcome to your group. I had a great time and hope to join you over the next weeks while I'm in NY. The subject of these sketches was dictated by the sun...or rather, the shade.

SATURDAY - Sketch Gowanus

Saturday, September 19, 2015

About a year and half ago we went to Gowanus in what turned out to be one of the best reviewed sketch events we've ever had.  Jessica Dalrymple and her friends at the Canal Conservancy prepared an amazing day for us.  She's back!

Gowanus is an evolving urban landscape. Industry, development, and the green movement overlap here attracting artists, documentarians, horticulturists, landscape architects, photographers, eco-hipsters, and more. Historic factory buildings, a new Whole Foods (powered by wind turbines and solar panels), train trestles above, waters below, billboards, bioswales, and lots of sky (due to the open space & low rise buildings) all make this a great place to sketch.
Gowanus Artwork by Patricia Gaignat

Gowanus Sketch by Joan Tavolott


When - Saturday starts at 10 AM. Sleeping late?  Come anyway -  you need your beauty rest - but you're missing some good sketch time.

Where - Meet at the Salt Lot (2 Second Ave, BK, NY, see map below) The Conservation Committee is providing free coffee & snacks to get us going

How -  F Train To Smith and 9th Streets.  Walk one long block east (the sun rises in the east so you'll be walking towards the sun).  Make a left turn on 2nd Avenue and walk until the street dead-ends at a curve in the canal.  The Salt Lot is on your left - you'll see lots of interesting activity.  (see map below)

Morning - 10:30 - 1 PM - Paint and/or sketch at the Salt Lot and/or nearby vicinity

Lunch - 1:00 - 2:00 BBQ lunch

Afternoon -  2:00 - 4:00 - We will change the perspective to enjoy the view from the Whole Foods Promenade

Show and Tell - 4:30 Happy hour at Halyards, 406 3rd Ave to share drawings, good stories and a beer or wine if you're so inclined.

Click to Enlarge

Can't find us?
Call or Text Mark - 973-809-9128

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome