USk Chicago Sketch Seminar in Review (Part 3/3)

The second day of the Seminar opened up with 2 new workshops and another sketching activity.  Alex Zonis led a color theory workshop entitled Taking Guesswork Out of Your Color Work.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Meeting in what is locally known as the “Viagra Triangle” intersection of Lincoln Park, sketchers had an ample selection of views and subject matter to put Alex’s lesson to use.  The workshop provided an understanding of color when sketching on location using Johannes Itten’s color theory principles.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Sketchers braved the brisk winds and sparse sunlight of a typical Chicago Spring day, but Alex kept everyone’s attention and preoccupied them with applying her lesson to their sketches.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

While the color theory workshop took place, Keelan Kaiser taught the Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor workshop.

The Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor workshop took place at the Newberry Library, around the corner from the Palette and Chisel Academy.  A professor at Judson University, Keelan has a deep understanding of architectural details and illustration.  Applying this knowledge to on location sketching, Keelan introduced the Velazques Palette of colors and Chinese watercolor techniques.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Sitting on the steps of and across the street from the ornate Newberry Library, Keelan’s students sketched a loose pencil drawing of some of the architectural features of the building.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Then, after a demonstration on the Velazquez Palette and Chinese watercolor techniques, sketchers added color to their own drawings.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

The goal was not to produce photorealistic paintings, but rather to build up value, shade, and shadow with just three colors and provide sketchers with a skill set in the watercolor medium which allowed them to produce quick, information packed on location sketches.


© Andrew Banks 2014

While all of this was took place, the morning’s sketching activity met in the loop.

Wes not only taught two workshops, he also organized a laid back sketch meet called USk Sketch About at City Park Plaza.


© Andrew Banks 2014

This plaza is located at the beginning of the Magnificent Mile, aka Michigan Avenue, a bustling city landmark with incredible city-scapes in nearly all directions.Sketchers chose from beautiful views of the Chicago River, several iconic buildings including the Trump Tower, The Wrigley Building and the Tribune Building, as well as an ever changing flow of pedestrians.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Not to mention, the Wrigley Field bleacher seats provided a perfect photo opportunity for the group as well as seating while they sketched for the remainder of the activity.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Here is a 15 minute pencil sketch I made of the Michigan Avenue Bridge:


© Andrew Banks 2014

And here are the group’s sketches laid out at the end of the activity:


© Wes Douglas 2014

The second half of Sunday, and last session of the weekend included a repeat session of the Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor workshop as well two new workshops.

Beginning with a slideshow presentation at the Palette and Chisel Academy, Joel Berman, of Joel Berman Architecture & Design presented an introduction to his How to Sketch like an Architect workshop.  Students drew with a limited range of values, creating balanced compositions that originated from a series of thumbnail sketches.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

Here you can see  the workshop sketching at various spots of the square as well as listening to Joel discuss examples of people’s work as he points out some of the successful techniques that were executed during the session.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

While this was taking place, at the other end of the square, Alex and Donald led the Sketching as a Team Sport workshop.

You may be wondering what exactly that actually means and looks like.  Urban sketching is often an individual activity, even at organized sketch meets.  We usually tend to sit down and produce a sketch on our own, from our own unique point of view.  We include what we want and illustrate it using whatever media we like.  The Sketching as a Team Sport workshop challenged sketchers to make sketches that fit together to form a 360 degree panoramic view of the square.  Sketchers sat around a tree conveniently located roughly in the center of the square, faced outwards and sketched the views directly in front of them.


© Andrew Banks 2014

However, the catch was to make sure that their drawings fit in with the sketches of their neighboring sketchers.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

I sat in on this exercise and it was definitely a fun and challenging activity.  The group displayed all of the sketches together to see how the panoramic turned out.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

At the end of Sunday, sketchers gathered back at Palette and Chisel for some final conversations about the weekend.

Here are a few final group photos of the planning team and sketchers:


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

By the end of the Seminar I was blown away by the positive response and enthusiasm from each of the attendees I spoke with.  Throughout the weekend I heard people ask questions like “will you be coming back to next year’s seminar?”, “when does USk Chicago meet during the year?”, “how do I join USk Chicago? “ how did you manage to keep the cost of the seminar so low?.”  On top of that, while the workshops took place, numerous people stopped by to observe what we were doing.  They were curious and eager to engage with us.  We even gained several new USk Chicago members just from the weekend.  All in all, the Seminar was a huge success and the planning team is thrilled to hear all of the positive and constructive feedback.  For me it has been a really fun year getting to know the planning team, building new friendships, and learning a lot through the entire process.  Being able to spend the entire weekend documenting the Seminar through photographs and sketches was just the icing on the cake and the only fitting way for me to celebrate the efforts put forth throughout the year.  Thank-you to everyone to helped make this Seminar a possibility.  We look forward to meeting you at future USk Chicago sketch meets and in our online communities.

If you missed the first 2 blog posts, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2, which gave a brief background to the planning of the Seminar as well as the first day’s workshops and activities.

And lastly, make sure to check out USk Chicago’s other pages, where you will find many more photos and sketches from the weekend:

Facebook: Urban Sketchers Chicago
Twitter: @USk_Chicago
Instagram: @USkChicago
Pinterest: Urban Sketchers Chicago

And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to follow our group blog.

Andrew Banks
USk Chicago Correspondent


USk Chicago Sketch Seminar in Review (Part 2/3)

Saturday morning kicked off with 2 workshops and an uninstructed activity.  Taking place at the iconic intersection of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, just a stones throw from Lake Michigan, Wes Douglas and Barbara Weeks led A Crash Course in Urban Sketching.


© Andrew Banks 2014

In A Crash Course in Urban Sketching, Wes and Barbara gave a brief history of the Urban Sketchers movement, clarified what counts as an urban sketch, taught how to fill a blank page and turn what they observed into to a well designed sketch journal page.  Introductions to Urban sketching also informed sketchers about urban sketching books, blogs, websites, the USk Manifesto as well as the instructors favorite sketching tools.  The course culminated with sketchers spreading out to create their own drawings in the nearby streets, and sharing their work at the end of the workshop.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Wes Douglas 2014


© Wes Douglas 2014

image (2)

© Andrew Banks 2014

While workshops like these each took place at one general outdoor location, Allana Pierce led the Architectural Walk activity and took a group of sketchers for a tour of several churches including the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Christ the Savior Church, Holy Name Cathedral and St. James Cathedral just to name a few.

I caught up with the group at the St. James Cathedral where everyone sat and drew different points of interest of the church building.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

At the same time, Donald Colley’s workshop Creating a Rich Drawing took place on Wacker Drive and Dearborn St. along the Chicago River in the Loop.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Donald’s class tackled the challenge of creating a rich drawing by encouraging sketchers to use a wide variety of sketching tools.   Instruction went beyond sketching individual objects, scenery or people to discussing how to suggest mood, light, season, weather and even time of day.


© Andrew Banks 2014

I had the chance to sketch a bit during this session. Here’s the sketch of one of the workshop students sketching on a balustrade overlooking the Chicago River.


© Andrew Banks 2014

While doing this sketch, I talked with a newer member USk Chicago as she sketched the Marina City Towers (aka. the corncobb buildings).  Here is her sketch:


© Andrew Banks 2014

The weather was perfect (at least for a Chicago native, especially after this past winter).  Being able to take thirty minutes to sit, sketch and take in the beautiful weather was just really relaxing for me.  My sketching partner agreed, and said that urban sketching was a great way for her to forget about the stresses of a busy schedule and to simply focus on and enjoy putting marks down into a sketchbook.  I really enjoyed the conversation and thought it was great example of one of the benefits of urban sketching.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

During the lunch break I caught up documenting some of my other sketches.  Here are a couple more sketches I completed during the morning sessions:


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

The second half of Saturday was just as busy as the first.  While Donald held a repeat session of Creating a Rich Drawing (due to popular demand), 2 new workshops and another activity all took place at the same time.

In Allana’s Supply Speed Dating activity, sketchers had the opportunity to test out one another’s pens, inks, paints, pencils, and sketchbooks.  In a rotating circle, sketchers spent about 20 minutes with someone else’s travel sketch kit and then rotated to the next kit.  You don’t often get the chance to do something like this and it was great to see the conversation and knowledge sharing take place at this activity.


© Alex Zonis 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

One of the great things about this seminar was that it offered a wide range of workshops which tailored to a variety of interest and skill levels.  In Urban Sketching with an iPad, Wes gave a great overview of sketching on electronic tablets and shared a few of his own tricks he’s learned along the way. Wes broke the ice by having each sketcher stand up and give their own brief introductions, telling the group a little bit about themselves, why they sketch and what draws them to the sketching on electronic tablets.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Wes’s workshop helped sketchers understand the variety of tablets, styli and sketch apps available on the market, demonstrated how to build a “hand bridge” that prevents hand interference and unwanted marks on your sketch as well as best practices for working with an iPad.


© Andrew Banks 2014

The final activity on Saturday was Alex’s Sketching Scavenger Hunt.  With arguably one of the most creative minds in the planning group, Alex gave this group of sketchers the challenge of searching out and sketching storefront manikins.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

Sketchers walked to Oak Street, set up their chairs and got some great figure drawing practice.


© Alex Zonis 2014

After the first day of the Seminar, a good number of sketchers gathered at Mity Nice restaurant at Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue for the Dinner and Drawing event.  Over food and drinks, all of us got the chance to sit down, rest and talk about the highlights from the day, share some of our sketches and participate in a raffle drawing where people won a variety of sketching materials and T- shirts provided for by our sponsors.


© Wes Douglas 2014


© Wes Douglas 2014

The T-shirts (which were a huge hit), were made by Chicago based screen printing shop, Monkey Pencil.


© Andrew Banks 2014

Thanks for following back up today.  Tomorrow’s post will cover Sunday’s workshops and Activities.

If you haven’t already, make sure to check out USk Chicago’s other pages, where you will find many more photos and sketches from the weekend:

Urban Sketchers Chicago
Twitter: @USk_Chicago
Instagram: @USkChicago
Pinterest: Urban Sketchers Chicago

And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to follow our group blog.

Andrew Banks, USk Chicago Correspondent

USk Chicago Sketch Seminar 2014 in Review (Part 1/3)


USk Chicago Sketch Seminar Group Photo on Palette and Chisel Stairs © Andrew Banks 2014

© Andrew Banks 2014

© Andrew Banks 2014

On June 7th & 8th, 2014 Urban Sketchers Chicago hosted its first Sketch Seminar in and around the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.  62
sketchers and 12 planners and instructors gathered for a weekend of 8 workshops and 3 sketching activities.  Situated within a 15 minute walk to downtown Chicago and surrounded by an array of beautiful parks, architecture and vibrant activity and city life, Palette and Chisel served as an ideal venue for the Seminar.  On behalf of the entire planning group and seminar, I would like to extend a huge thank-you to Palette and Chisel for providing us with such a generous use of their space for the weekend.  Your willingness to open your doors to us was recognized by everyone who attended and we are grateful for the opportunity.  Thank-you!

As the correspondent I had the privilege of seeing the Seminar from a really unique
perspective.  For both days, I rode my bike between each of the workshops and activities, photographing and sketching the events, talking to and meeting seminar attendees and learning from the instructors lessons.  It was a really exciting and rewarding weekend that proved to be more than worth the year long planning process.


© Andrew Banks 2014

In 2013, Alex Zonis (USk Chicago’s founding member) and Donald Colley began brainstorming the idea of a USk Chicago Seminar.  These early ideas of inspiration eventually developed into a planning team that had its inaugural meeting following one of USk Chicago’s monthly sketch meets.  All of us met over dinner in China Town as we listened to Alex and Donald’s visions for a Seminar.  A real sense of excitement and enthusiasm quickly grew for the possibility of something like this to take place in Chicago.  All of us were familiar with USk’s global symposiums and wanted to see if we could make something like it a possibility for the Midwest.  With Chicago’s large art scene and nearby USk chapters like USk Midwest, we certainly thought there would be an interest.  Over the next year, 12 volunteer planners and instructors divvied up responsibilities and tackled all of the details in their own spare time, meeting in coffee shops and in online planning groups.

From the very beginning we wanted to create an event that was accessible to as many people as possible and that provided a great atmosphere to teach and learn urban sketching.  So, this meant pushing for a low cost registration fee and a close proximity to the city.  Everything else seemed to fall into place from there.  Along the way, we were able to bring in the support of our amazing sponsors.

Our sponsors provided us with very generous gifts including sketchbooks, pencils, pens, markers and t-shirts.  Many of the sketching materials got great use over the weekend.  I personally got to start a fresh new Stillman and Birn Zeta book which I carried around with me the entire weekend.  Here is just one of several sketches I made in this sketchbook.


© Andrew Banks 2014

After much anticipation, the planning team arrived ahead of time to set up for the weekend.  With the sun out and hardly a cloud in the sky, I knew that the weekend would get off to a great start.  The weekend kicked off on Saturday morning with a brief opening message from Alex Zonis followed by a group photo on the Palette and Chisel stairs.


© Andrew Banks 2014


© Kelly Brown 2014


© Andrew Banks 2014

Make sure to check back tomorrow for part 2 of the 3 installments of this post, for a full review of Saturday’s workshops and activities.

In the meantime, you can view many more photos and sketches from the Seminar on our following pages:

Facebook: Urban Sketchers Chicago
Twitter: @USk_Chicago
Instagram: @USkChicago
Pinterest: Urban Sketchers Chicago

And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to follow our group blog.


Andrew Banks
USk Chicago Correspondent

Seminar Program and Map

With just three days until the Seminar, we want to provide you with a Seminar Program and a Seminar Map.  Please take a look at both of these and familiarize yourself with the format, timing and locations of the workshops and activities for the weekend.  All workshops and activities are located within walking distance of each other and the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts.  Upon arrival to the Seminar, make sure to check in at the registration desk inside the lobby of Palette and Chisel Academy of Arts   We not only want to sign you in but also give you a variety of handouts including a seminar program, a map of the workshops and activities and lastly, a few surprises from our sponsors that we hope everyone will enjoy and get great use out of during the weekend!  See everyone soon!



9am – Opening

9:15am – Group Photo

9:30am – 12:30pm – MORNING WORKSHOPS

Workshop 1: A Crash Course in Urban Sketching
Workshop 2: Creating a Rich Drawing
Activity 1: Architectural Walk

12:30pm – 2pm – Lunch


Workshop 2: Creating a Rich Drawing (repeat)
Workshop 3: Urban Sketching with an iPad
Workshop 4: Supply Speed Dating
Activity 2: Sketching Scavenger Hunt

5:45pmDinner & Drawing – Mity Nice Restauraunt


9:30am – 12:30pm – MORNING WORKSHOPS

Workshop 5: Taking Guesswork Out of Your Color Work
Workshop 6: Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor
Activity 3: USk SketchAbout

1:00pm – 2:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm – 5:00pm – AFTERNOON WORKSHOPS

Workshop 6:  Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor (repeat)
Workshop 7:  How to Sketch Like an Architect
Workshop 8:  Sketching as a Team Sport
Activity 4: Portrait Exchange

6:00pm – Closing


Seminar Map


A Note From the Correspondent

#USkChicago2014The USk Chicago Sketch Seminar is just around the corner!  In just 5 days, sketchers, artists, doodlers, architects, designers, creative types, both beginners and experts will gather in and around Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Lincoln Park.  The Seminar weekend will comprise of 8 workshops and 4 sketching activities focused on teaching the art of urban sketching and related skill sets.   As the Seminar Correspondent I will document the Sketch Seminar through sketches, photographs and blog posts.  For those of you who are getting ready to attend the seminar and those who will be following the activities from around the world, here is a preview of what you can expect to see from me during the weekend:

1003309_571371311176_246545014_nEach workshop will take place within blocks of each other.  To help capture and document the activities and instruction at each workshop, I will ride my bike to and from each workshop; sketching, photographing and posting what I see in real time to our Twitter, Instagram and Seminar Blog accounts.  USk Chicago’s accounts are: Twitter: @USk_Chicago, Instagram: @USkChicago and Pinterest: Urban Sketchers Chicago.  This is our group’s blog.
Make sure to follow these accounts to stay updated with the weekend’s events.  If you want share your own photos or sketches, tag your posts with #USkChicago2014.  At the end of each day, check back with the Seminar Blog for a blog post re-cap of the day.

This is an exciting weekend for USk Chicago and the USk global community.  We are 1613931_590673823786_1979600472_nexcited to see how we will grow as a chapter and to be able to show the city of Chicago one drawing at a time.  I look forward to documenting the Seminar and sharing my sketches, photographs and experiences with you all.  I hope you will check out our Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and blog accounts and follow the events of the weekend.  Don’t be a stranger. Feel free to comment, ask questions and connect with the USk Chicago group.  Talk to everyone soon!

Andrew Banks

4 FREE Activities Added to Sketch Seminar Weekend

10151434_10150383970969970_1076175484607548216_nWho doesn’t enjoy free entertainment?  If you are looking for something fun to do next month, USk Chicago has good news for you.  We have just added 4 FREE group sketching activities to our June 7th & 8th Sketch Seminar weekend.  The sketching activities will be an Architectural Walk, a Sketching Scavenger Hunt, a SketchAbout, and a Portrait Exchange.

Led by our seminar planners, each group oriented activity will encourage sketchers (beginners or veterans alike) to bring the sights of downtown Chicago to life through observational, on location sketching.  Urban sketching is not only an individual hobby and past time, but also a great way to meet and connect with other local artists.  Sketchers will have the opportunity to draw at a variety of locations in the beautiful neighborhoods of Lincoln Park as well as share, discuss and compare their work with one another.

For those of you who are on a wait list, or did not get to sign up in time for a workshop, this is a great opportunity to still participate in our seminar!  (Activity registration is separate from workshop registration)

To register:

  • click here to read about the activities
  • Email your full name and list which activities you plan to attend to 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Meet Chicago Seminar Correspondent: Andrew Banks

Banks Headshot for web

Andrew Banks is a freelance illustrator living on Chicago’s north side. Earning his Masters of Architecture degree from Judson University in 2011, Andrew seeks to use his design education, passion for watercolor illustration, photography, and urban sketching to build his career doing what he enjoys most: making art.

Andrew has always enjoyed sketching, but it wasn’t until a transformational 6 week study abroad trip to Europe in 2008 that solidified his passion for on location sketching. Visiting cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, Andrew was inspired by the ancient architecture, urban fabric and vibrant city life. For the duration of his trip, Andrew captured these experiences in sketchbooks, illustrating architecture and recording sights, sounds and smells of each new location. His favorite sketching tools are watercolor and fountain pens.

Andrew started following the Urban Sketchers movement in 2008 and has been a member of USk Chicago since 2013. Andrew is a contributor to the USk Chicago Blog and will serve as this year’s Sketch Seminar Correspondent.

In his free time Andrew enjoys biking, exploring new neighborhoods and restaurants, cooking, traveling and has a hard time passing up a good rock show.

During our Seminar Andrew will be our Correspondent, reporting live and in real time from our various classes and activities. He will be sketching and photographing the Seminar’s progress and posting his documentary on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. You will see him everywhere!

Some of Andrew’s sketches and illustrations. More on his Facebook page – Andrew Banks Illustration & Photography