Meet our instructors: Joel Berman

Joel USk instructor

Joel Berman, LEED-AP, is the founder and president of Joel Berman Architecture & Design, Ltd., a Chicago architecture firm specializing in inner city adaptive reuse and heritage restoration for restaurant, hospitality, institutional and residential development. Project work includes an award winning historic preservation renovation of a 1920s White Castle Hamburger building, and conversion of a 1906 Chicago fire station into a major video production facility. For Joel, clear and fast sketching has been a factor in the success of his design work and architectural practice.

In addition to running a successful practice, Joel has taught architectural sketching at the Art Institute of Chicago (1997), Columbia College School of Interior Architecture (1997-2004), the Chicago Architectural Foundation Adult Education Program (2005-2011), and for the United States National Endowment for the Humanities/Chicago Architecture Foundation Urban Gateways Program (2009-2013).

See things Joel built –

Considering all this great architectural experience, it is not surprising that Joel will be teaching Workshop 7: How to Sketch like an Architect on Sunday morning.

Some of Joel’s sketches:

When Joel is not building, renovating, designing or sketching you can generally find him on the river, boating or kayaking.


Meet our instructors: Keelan Kaiser

Keelan photo

Keelan has always loved to draw; he started young with imaginary cars and robots. His parents never discouraged him from drawing, probably they should have. He was often in trouble in school because he drew a lot and didn’t read or do his math. He made his way from engineering to architecture as a major after stumbling through the first year of chemistry and material science and seeing how much fun the architects were having. He learned to draw like an architect in college at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where he completed the M.Arch. with a specialty in representation and design.

Keelan enjoys travel drawing, mostly the travel and gastronomical parts, but also the drawing. Most recently his drawing and painting has sought to hybridize an airy drawing technique, inspired loosely by the drawings of John Singer Sargent and Alberto Giacometti; with the Velasquez Palette of Burnt Siena, Ultramarine Blue, and Yellow Ochre, common to architectural watercolorists; as well as the rich and deep technique present in Chinese watercolor. Architectural watercolor artists Moh’d Bilbeisi, Douglas Lew, and Huck Scarry are also influential. While a professor of architecture at Judson University, he is largely a student.

Read Keelan’s thoughts on architecture and environment on his blog –

Keelan will be teaching Workshop 6:  Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor twice: once on Sunday morning and then again on Sunday afternoon.

Some of Keelan’s sketches:

Keelan’s credentials include the most impressive collection of abbreviations we have ever seen: Keelan is AIA, NCARB, LEED AP bd+c | Chair, Department of Architecture Judson University. Not that we know what half of this means. Perhaps you can ask him during his workshop.

Meet our instructors: Alex Zonis

 Alex sketching in Architectural Artifacts profile 2-15-2014

Alex always wanted to draw and paint, but thought she couldn’t because she lacked “talent”. Instead she got a degree in mathematics and worked in IT for 20+ years.

Because she just wanted to make art Alex started making beaded tapestries woven on a loom. Her tapestries were shown in galleries nation-wide, including SOFA Chicago and New York.

In 2009 she threw the idea about “talent” to the wind and started drawing in graphite. A year later she picked up watercolor, a year after that – oil. Today Alex is a professional painter and a painting instructor. She teaches Indirect Oil Painting technique and Flemish painting method in her studio in Chicago. She offers a similar oil painting course online via Skype for long distance students. 

More of Alex’s work on her blog and web gallery Alex Zonis on DailyPaintworks.

Alex will be teaching Workshop 5:  Taking Guesswork out of your Color Work on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon she will lead Workshop 8:  Sketching as a Team Sport  together with Don Colley.

Some of Alex’s sketches:

Alex discovered Urban Sketching in 2009. For three years she sketched alone and waited for someone to start Urban Sketchers Chicago so she could join it. In 2012 – tired of waiting – she started USk Chicago chapter.

Hooray! A repeat of Workshop 6: Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor

keelan 1

Dear sketchers and Chicago Seminar attendees!

We are happy to announce that we will repeat Workshop 6: Rapid Travel Sketch with Watercolor on Sunday afternoon. This will be a repeat, not a continuation, of Workshop 6.

All sketchers who were wait-listed for Workshop 6 will hear from our Registration team asking them how they would like to amend their Seminar schedule.

Our great thank you to the workshop instructor Keelan Kaiser for his time and efforts!

Meet our instructors: Allana Pierce

 Allana Pierce

Allana is a self-taught artist who studies Library Science. She is a wife, hedgehog mom, and self-proclaimed art supply addict.

Allana has been sketching in Chicago since 2013 and sketches most often with ballpoint or fountain pens or watercolor. Her style is still evolving, but her most recent work has been compared to Quentin Blake.

See more sketches by Allana on her blog and Instagram Imaginerhetoric.



Allana will be leading our Workshop 4:  Supply Speed Dating on Saturday afternoon.

Drawings by Allana using various media:

Allana brings a wonderful mood of enthusiasm, fun, humor and love for drawing to any  sketch meet she comes to. Don’t miss her workshop – it is going to be enormous fun!

Important Changes in Registration

Our workshops are filling rapidly!  In fact, Workshops 2, 6, and 7 now have waiting lists, and there are very few spots remaining in the other workshops.  Therefore, we will no longer accept payment by check.  Registration through PayPal is faster, with a greater likelihood of securing a seat in your chosen workshop.

When you register, please clearly indicate your first choice in workshops AND any alternate choices.  We will try our best to accommodate you!

There will be alternatives to the workshops.  We are planning some fun and interesting activities, such as a sketching scavenger hunt, an architectural sketch crawl, and a timed sketch run.  We will update our blog soon with the details of these activities, which will be available to sketchers who choose not to attend a workshop, or who were unable to get into the workshop(s) of their choice.

Stay tuned for further developments!

Meet our instructors: Don Colley

 Don at Whole Foods 1-18-2014

Don graduated with a BFA from the University of Texas, Austin. His illustrations have appeared in Inc. magazine, Playboy magazine, eCFO magazine, Andante Records, Faber-Castell USA, Inc. catalogs, as well as other publications. He taught drawing at Drexel University, Philadelphia PA.

Don has exhibited regularly since 1983. He currently shows with Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago. He tours the country lecturing and presenting demonstrations on behalf of Faber-Castell USA, Inc.

Prior to attending his first Urban Sketchers Symposium in Portland in 2010, Don had kept a regular practice of documenting the urban scene for 30 years. Don has been sketching with USk Chicago since 2012.

See more of Don’s work on his website –

Don will be teaching Workshop 2:  Creating a Rich Drawing on Saturday morning. He will also facilitate Workshop 8:  Sketching as a Team Sport  together with Alex Zonis on Sunday afternoon. Don’t miss his rock star like appearance, rarely in Chicago!

Drawings by Don:

The idea of having a sketching seminar in Chicago started last spring. Don and Alex were drawing and drinking tea in cafe Metropolis on the North side when Don asked an innocent question “Why won’t we have our own conference…?” So if this endeavor will turn out a disaster, we will know whose fault it is!!