Tuesday, December 29, 2020

SATURDAY: The Gangster Sketch

Thanks to Jerry Shafer for the idea

Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

The bad ones, the rule breakers, the people who ignore our laws and even common decency,  they are with us, they walk among us, and admit it, we are fascinated by them.  The world of petty criminals up to the lords of international crime - is a parallel universe that we see on television and in the movies, we see them on the news.  And if we are unfortunate, we might even have had a personal encounter.

For today's sketch you are invited to search for the faces and scenes of the criminals of society.   Pick any time, it doesn’t have to be current.  Lizzie Borden? Billy the Kid?  Al Capone?  John Gotti?  From pickpockets to mass murderers.   If they are bad - let’s sketch them.

One more suggestion, let the style you use say something about the people you sketch.  Sketch real villains, not TV or movie representations.  

AM:  The faces and  situations
PM:  The places, and the world in which they lived.

Here are a couple of sites to get you started
NYC Mobsters:
Mug Shots:
Death Row:


Our annual Holiday Party is in one week on Saturday, January 9th.  Registration will begin on Friday (New Year's Day).
Our annual Portrait Party will be on Saturday, February 6th - more info soon.

There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Weekly Theme: “Sketch the Light”

"Jeff  Walking Winslow" Photo courtesy of Sandra Han Levine 

Theme Suggested by Karen De Mauro

While Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and other end of the year holidays may come at one of the darkest times of the year, they all have one thing in common ... it is LIGHT. As the days grow shorter and the mornings darker with the absence of the sun, it's the time of year that we turn inward and create our own light. During this Season of Light, let's spend the next two weeks looking for and finding the light in our artwork .

Photo courtesy Ellyn Joyce

Photo courtesy Beryl Polin

Whatever festivals you’ll be celebrating in the next two weeks, it is likely that the kindling of light will be part of the celebration -- the flickering flames of the Hanukkah menorah, the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, the glowing candlelight of the Kwanzaa kinara. Decorative lights are all around us -- in shops, windows, homes, churches streets, and parks. At this time of year, natural light is celebrated by The Solstice, The Night Sky, the special light of snow, ice, sunrise, and, depending where you are -- The Northern Lights. 

Photo courtesy Melissa Fischer

All through Art History painters have studied and skillfully painted the light -- Caravaggio, Vermeer, Monet, Turner, and Rembrandt, just to name a few. Contemporary artists like James Gurney and urban sketchers like Shari Blaukopf have their own special way of rendering light. In the sketch below, Suzala expertly balances the lights and darks for a dramatic effect.

Sagamore Hill Sketch by Suzala Zahler

Let's experiment and see how many ways we can Sketch the Light: in your own drawings, by copying  old and new masters, or by capturing the light in special ways, such as from your kitchen window or how it falls on a object and creates shadows. Have fun and interpret this theme however you like.

For more inspiration:

How to Paint a Light Effect by James Gurney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPaqqQEz-Rs
With the Right Light by Shari Balukopf https://shariblaukopf.com/2015/09/23/with-the-right-light/

Sketch by Sophie Cheung

Night Streetlights sketch by Win Naing

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


For today's sketching excursion, Jeanine and Cecilia will be taking you to the beautiful Positano and the other gorgeous villages and towns of  The Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is a Unesco World Heritage Site which has been featured in many movies and is a well known travel destination for the rich and famous. Perhaps the appeal of the Amalfi Coast lies in its Mediterranean climate, featuring warm summers and mild winters as well as its breathtaking shorelines and cliffside dwellings.

We will visit the very picturesque town of  Positano with its fabulous coastal views and its  jaw dropping settlement suspended vertically on the face of a cliff.

We will visit the other gorgeous villages, towns, and harbors of The Amalfi Coast including the magical island of Capri.

Although you are invited to use whatever source material you like to create your sketches today, you will probably find the special website that Jeanine and Cecilia created more than enough.  There are loads of great photos and interesting information specially prepared for your sketch event.

Our Special WEBSITE:   https://5fcc6f0bd065e.site123.me/



There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

SATURDAY: Sketch American's Historic Homes

There are some buildings that make my sketching hand almost twitch with the mad desire to start sketching.  I see things I want to change, other things I want to emphasize.  I want to get that image down on paper and make it my own.  Maybe you can relate?

Cecilia came up with a load of suggestions.  Almost all of them were interesting and a couple were great.  This one is in the second category.  She found a website that shows Historic Homes of America.  It’s a wonderful dense site with great photos of homes across the country.  When you click on any listing in addition to exterior shots they also show wonderful interior views.  I’d be happy drawing almost anything they listed.

Here is this week’s challenge​:​  Using the website Cecilia discovered​,​ find a home that appeals to you. In the morning we’re going to explore the outside views and in the afternoon we’ll be doing the interiors.  Your challenge is to put people in the picture.  Add yourself, or friends and family, or even your fellow sketchers.  You might even try adding famous people, actors, politicians and celebrities.  

Historic Homes of America

AM - Exteriors - with people
PM - Interiors - also with people


There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Thursday, December 3, 2020



Holiday Decorations

NYC USK to be featured in Drawing Attention

Christmas Decorations In Mid-Town Manhattan, 9 West 57th Street; New York  City, New York, United States Of America - Stock Photo - Dissolve

Cathy Gutterman has been writing articles for our Ezine, Drawing Attention featuring the newest chapters in the organization.  She has now been asked to do a feature article on Holiday Decorations.  Let's get in there and help her out!!

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Cathy will be contacting chapters all over the world to submit pictures of holiday decoration in their areas and wants to include some of our own NYC USK members.  To have your sketches considered for the article please follow these guidelines:

  • All sketches must be done according to USK guidelines: done live and on site
  • Use any medium you wish
  • Use any size or format you want
  • Deadline for submission is Monday December 7

The sketch can be anything from your own house to the fabulous displays that NYC is know for.  It would be especially good if you could include something recognizable as NYC. 

Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center


If you are not leaving you house or neghborhood consider doing your own decoration or those you see from your window.  If you are willing to go a bit farther afield consider decorations in your neighborhood, pop-up holiday markets, displays at churches/synagogues (indoors or out) , midtown Manhattan, Rockefeller Center, NY Public Library (I love the lions with wreaths around their necks!), the skyline with buildings lit for the holidays, the Bronx Zoo, parks and plazas ablaze with holiday lights, Salvation Army Santas, Santa at Macy's......you get the idea!  If you are up for a challenge, try one of the fabulous store windows on 5th Ave!

central park holiday lighting


When you finish your sketch(es) upload them to our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/nycurbansketchers) as you would normally do.  Cathy will be monitoring the site and send ALL images forward for consideration by the editors of Drawing Attention. 

washington square park tree

Join in the holiday fun and remember that all the sketches must be done on site and live.  The can be indoors at a mall, store or house of worship..... or outdoors anywhere.  They can be of ANY holiday decorations, not just Christmas.  

Union Square Holiday Market

And remember that the sketches have to be posted no later than MONDAY DECEMBER 7! 

Hello Panda Festival

(Are you a true New Yorker?  Can you identify the locations in the pictures??)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

SATURDAY:  Sketch Gaudí

No city has been influenced as much by a single artist as Barcelona.  Antoni Gaudí’s presence is felt everywhere, even the buildings that were not designed by him still show his influence.  His design vision is so different and so unique that it challenges your ideas about architecture.  And to understand Gaudí, we need to draw his buildings.

Perhaps his most incredible masterpiece is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia - although based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals this church is like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Gaudi combined traditional christian iconography with an incredible unique personal vision.  Construction began 137 years ago in 1882 and continues to this day.  It is considered by most people to be the architectural / religious masterpiece of Barcelona - a city known for its architecture.

  • AM:  We will explore the Sagrada Familia.
  • PM:  We will sketch Gaudí’s other masterpieces

There are many many sources for images of Gaudí’s Barcelona.  You are welcome to get creative and find your own source material or use these links:


There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

SATURDAY:  Sketch the Roar!

Yes,  it’s the Roaring Twenties!   

The War to End All Wars was over, the world was finally done with a devastating global pandemic.  The lucky people left alive did what we all want to do - they partied!  

They partied, and danced and drank and celebrated like there was no tomorrow.  The clothing was looser and the world was awash in technological marvels.  The roaring twenties was the time when electricity became common in NYC.  Automobiles were becoming a common site and shared the streets with horse drawn carts and carriages.  Women wore short dresses and were called flappers, everyone smoked and everyone was crazy for Jazz.  The Urban Sketchers of their day were part of the Ashcan School.  Alcohol was declared illegal for the entire decade and everyone drank anyway.

The tallest building on earth was here in NYC.  For the entire decade people marveled at the miracle of the Woolworth Building our symbol of capitalism.

On Saturday we are going to explore the world of 100 years ago.  Our focus is the decade and all the things that made it - the Roaring Twenties.  Feel free to explore in any direction you like. 

AM:  The things they did
PM:  The places they went, and what they wore, and all the little details





There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Weekly theme: "Holiday Food Art" or "Cook Your Art"

Calling all holiday chefs, bakers and bartenders! 

Noodle Kugel Recipe Illustrated by Marianne Milzoff

For this week's theme, Marianne Milzoff suggests that we share our favorite holiday recipes by turning them into pieces of art. Handwritten and illustrated recipes can be very inviting and heartwarming such as in "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," a vegetarian recipe book written and illustrated by Mollie Katzen. It's a great way for us to be festive together even though we are physically apart. 

So, search through your Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and other seasonal cookbooks and select your favorite recipe to illustrate: Cranberry bread, Stollen, gingerbread cookies, etc. But you don't have to limit your creativity to the dessert table. Try illustrating a recipe for a main dish or a seasonal drink like Rum and Bourbon Eggnog. 

No recipes to share? How about drawing your traditional holiday dinner menu, special family dish or table setting? Have fun with this and be as traditional or as whimsical as you like!

Holiday Cookies Sketch by Lois Bender

Need some inspiration? Check these videos:
Draw Tip Tuesday: Illustrating a Recipe 
Koojse loves drawing food and illustrating recipes. And she loves sharing the joy of it! Here she does a super quick illustrated recipe - you can totally make it happen too!

Illustrate Your Favorite Dessert Recipe with Natalie Woo 
Natalie Woo will show you her favorite tips and tricks using Gelly Rolls Pens, Koi Coloring Brush Pen to illustrate her favorite family recipe - Gâteau au Chocolat des Ecoliers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

SATURDAY: Sketch the Big Apple


Will provide a detailed description of what we'll be doing on Saturday and how to register.  
You need to register in advance to participate (see below)

Yes, our focus for this Saturday's Virtual Sketch event will be our own hometown.  Since the pandemic started, each week, with the help of the internet we've been exploring the world with our drawings.  However, we've largely ignored our own wonderful city.   As a special treat for our visitors from other parts of the world, and as a reminder to us - let's share our love for the Big Apple.

Using the NYC Tourist website to frame our exploration, we've created an interesting day of sketching.  We are going to concentrate on Manhattan.  Although it is physically the smallest borough, in square miles, it is also probably the place most visitors picture when they picture New York. 



For the morning portion of our sketch, each breakout room will be assigned to a NYC neighborhood.  Everyone in your breakout room will be working on the same Manhattan neighborhood.  If you click on your assigned  neighborhood below it will take you to the Google Images search page.  You are welcome to use whatever source materials you'd like to complete the morning work



Artist's Choice:  Select whatever neighborhood you'd like to explore.  Searching these place
names will provide a rich source of material: 

The Flatiron District,
The Meatpacking District
The Garment District.
Times Square,
Union Square,
Lincoln Square and
Herald Square 
Washington Heights and
Morningside Heights.
SoHo (SOuth of HOuston Street),
NoHo (NOrth of HOuston Street),
Tribeca (the TRIangle BElow CAnal Street) and
NoLita (NOrth of LIttel ITAly)

Upper East Side
Midtown West
Stuyvesant Town
Midtown East
Garment District
Murray Hill
Lower East Side
Morningside Heights
East Harlem
Greenwich Village:   
Upper West Side:   
Central Park:  
Times Square:  
East Village:   
Little Italy:  
Hell's Kitchen:  
Financial District:



There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

SATURDAY: Sketch the Grand Canyon



Today we are sketching the Grand Canyon, with its iconic vistas of layered rock, the Colorado River, and wide open blue skies. The Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It stretches 277 miles across Arizona’s arid landscape, is 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep. We will be exploring different parts of the Canyon in the morning and afternoon sessions.

Morning Session:

We will start the day at the South Rim, where most people enter the Canyon. 

We will sketch the views, observing the great variety of strata - layer upon layer of limestone, sandstone, shale, schist, and granite - representing the most complete record of geologic history that can be seen anywhere in the world. Then we will venture down the Bright Angel Trail to the Canyon floor. The trail goes through 4 ecological areas on the way. For every 1,000 feet of descent, the temperature will increase 5 degrees F (so dress appropriately.) If you prefer, you can rent a mule for the trip, though the 9.3 mile ride down the trail is not as comfortable as you might think. 

Click for views of theGRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM

Click for views of the:   GRAND CANYON BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL 

Click for views of the:    CANYON MULE RIDES on the BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL 

Afternoon Session:

After the long trek down the Bright Angel Trail we will rest ourselves, and the mules, at the Phantom Ranch, on the north bank of the Colorado River. The log cabins at the Ranch were built in 1922, and originally hosted wealthy tourists from all over the world. You can stay overnight at the Ranch, if you plan ahead - fifteen months ahead, since reservations are distributed by lottery. However, sketching is free. And we’re not staying. River rafts await to give us the experience of white water rapids. A waterproof jacket is useful here. The river through the Canyon contains many rapids rated Class IV (Difficult) and Class V (Extremely Difficult). The scale goes to Class VI, which is probably Death. In the slower patches of the river you will be able to sketch wildlife along the shore, including bobcats, coyotes, beaver, rabbits, bighorn sheep, elk, red-tailed hawk and peregrine falcon. 

Click for views of the:    GRAND CANYON PHANTOM RANCH 

Click for views of:  RIVER RAFTING on the COLORADO through the GRAND CANYON   

For Those Still Curious:

For geology of the Canyon, I recommend Wikipedia’s excellent chart showing the names of the different rock layers, their thicknesses, and approximate ages.

For history of Canyon exploration, nothing beats John Wesley Powell’s The Explorations of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, published in 1875. Powell was a Civil War veteran and trained geologist, hired by the US Government to travel through the Canyon, map the River and its tributaries, and take notes on the geology. The book is based on Powell’s epic 1869 journey with four boats and nine men through the length of the Canyon. Spoiler alert - they faced starvation, killer rapids, bad weather and not everyone came out alive. The book has remained a classic of adventure literature. Powell later became the second Director of the US Geologic Survey. 


There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome