Urban Sketch

Being an urban sketcher is more than just sketching in a city versus the peaceful countryside. Urban sketching also involves dealing with the dynamic and unpredictable urban life itself. Here in Washington, DC, that includes suspicious federal agents. As I was completing this sketch one afternoon after work, I found myself being observed rather closely by an individual, whom started to ask me questions. The questions became a little too personal, to which I eventually objected. Turns out, my interrogator was Steve, claiming to be a federal agent (he showed me a badge), and informed me that he was in the area watching an important individual, whom I assumed worked for the law firm in the building I was sketching. Steve tried to play it off nice and friendly, but I decided to tell him to have a nice day, subsequently ignore him and continuing to sketch. He eventually left me alone, but then again, such is urban sketching in paranoid, pressured, security-freaked Washington, DC.

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Lunch Lines

This abandoned building, in the upscale West End neighborhood here in Washington, DC, is surrounded by the trappings of gentrification; shiny new buildings with trendy restaurants, hip stores, and luxury apartments. Soon enough, this building will fall to the wrecking ball, and a generic gentrification building, with a pretty facade and empty soul, will take its place. Decrepit as it may be, it still has plenty of beautiful visual character, and that’s why I chose to sketch it little-by-little during my lunch breaks over the span of seven days. The last day’s sketching was done huddled under an umbrella as the rains fell, the sense of urgency apparent as I wasn’t sure when this building would soon fall as well.

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Urban Sketch

Here is Eli’s Restaurant, located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Eli’s is DC’s best kosher restaurant, where the food is meaty, the prices respectable, and the waitstaff friendly. Though the bottom floor of the building where the restaurant is located didn’t fit onto the page, my focus was the upper floors, which showcase the antique-style house architecture of Washington, DC – a beautiful style that clashes with the increasing number of sharp and gaudy glass and steel office buildings in the area. I did this sketch in about 45 minutes.

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Lunch Lines

This building, located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC, caught my eye as being both an excessively ugly eyesore and a wonderfully detailed opportunity for a ┬áchallenging urban sketch. Over the five days it took me to sketch this, I faced many challenges; having the view blocked by delivery trucks (one dropped and broke a keg of beer right in front of me), overly-curious onlookers, intermittent rain, and a noticeably annoyed smoker sitting right in my sketching spot, whom I politely asked to move. Then again, this isn’t landscape painting in the middle of a peaceful meadow; urban sketching is done in the thick of the concrete jungle, and when that jungle is the wilds of the Nation’s Capital, then you better be ready to wield your sketchbook like a warrior!

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Lunch Lines

One of the many things I like to sketch during my lunchtime strolls are food trucks, which are increasingly popular here in DC. Not only are their food offerings diverse, some are rather visually and graphically bold in order to attract attention. However, with limited time to sketch during my lunch breaks, I choose visually simple trucks, such as this red one, which offers up meatball-based dishes.

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Evening Sketch

Not only do I sketch during my lunch breaks (hence the “Lunch Line” postings), I also try to squeeze in some sketching after work as well. Such was the case here, where I focused on a particular section of this one building in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC. As you can see from the notes on the side, I did this sketch as a freak weather front blew through the city, dropping the mild spring temperatures and slashing the city apart with cold, gusty winds.

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Lunch Lines

Many buildings in Washington, DC are modular and patterned, which makes for great multi-day/multi-session sketching. Such was the case with this building, located in the West End neighborhood, which had both great composition and coloring. For this sketch, I stood across the street, sketching while leaning up against the entrance to the German Embassy, where I overheard diplomatic conversations in multiple languages on a daily basis, making this sketch all the more Washingtonian.

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Lunch Lines

Here’s a building in the West End neighborhood in Washington, DC. Like other buildings that I have been featuring lately, this was sketched and colored little by little over the course of several days during my lunch breaks. To do these kind of sketches, I would find a very specific spot to stand in (against the ledge, third cross bar on the handrail in, left foot on the sidewalk crack), and then I would sketch a little bit each day, usually no more than ten or twenty minutes at a time.

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Lunch Lines

Here’s a building that I sketched in 20 minute increments during the course of several lunch breaks. I figured out early that the whole building would not fit on page and that I screwed up the perspective, but sketching is not always about accuracy. I soon turned my focus to having fun obliterating the surface of the paper with lines and details. Sketches like this may not make for killer pieces, but they do make for great practice and great experimentation.

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Metro Sketch

Here’s a cavalcade of faces and half-faces sketched on the Washington, DC Metro. While I generally care to only sketch people and focus on unique features, sometimes somebody on the train utters something that is just so characteristically Washingtonian that I need to write it down to remind myself of where I live and work.

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