Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Sunday, April 23, 2017

TRAVEL SKETCHING ESSENTIALS, my favorite supplies for globe-trotting

Thanks to everyone at Daniel Smith's Seattle store for the opportunity yesterday to share my best supplies and tips for travel sketching! In travel sketching, the name of the game is LIGHT and SMALL! It has to be BOTH to work.

I've bought and tried pretty much is the list of supplies I use, developed over years of trial and error. I now only take carry-on luggage (small suitcase and a backpack), no matter where I am going or for how long.

Thanks also to Joe Bosch, store manager extraordinaire, for all his hard work and everyone at Daniel Smith's mother ship here in Seattle. Thanks also to the 50 (!!) people or so who turned up, it was great to meet you all.

General Sketching Supplies
-- Sketchbook: Pentalic Aqua Journal (my favorite sketchbook because it has true 140lb. CP watercolor paper), Handbook (8" x 8"), 
         Fluid watercolor blocks (I use 8" x 16").
-- Mechanical pencil: .5mm size lead, with extra B or 2B lead
-- Eraser: Kneaded eraser & white plastic eraser
-- Pen: Felt Tip -- Faber Castell, PITT artist pen
            Fountain Pen -- Lamy Safari with Platinum Carbon permanent ink, or Sailor Bent nib pen
-- Straight Edge: 6” clear plastic architect’s triangle (30/60 degrees is easiest to use) or small plastic ruler
-- Binder Clips: 3-4 binder clips to hold down your paper
-- Bag: Backpack or bag for carrying your supplies when sketching outdoors, that can be secured
-- Small portable stool: “Tribe Provisions Compact Field 3-leg Stool, Coleman Event Stool, or Walkstool (different heights.)
-- Portable travel painting easel: I use the “En Plein Air Pro” surface that is carefully cut down to fit in my
       backpack, mounted onto a small AND light tripod I purchased on Amazon, the “Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight Compact Tripod”
-- Bags: small plastic zip bags for holding your supplies, one for wet and one for dry supplies
-- Also: sun screen, hat, bug repellant, snacks, water

Watercolor Supplies
-- Palette: “Winsor & Newton Sketcher’s Pocket Box”, (Refill with higher grade artists paints, just use the box.)
                   “Heritage Artist Palette”, 18 color wells, (doesn’t leak)
                    Lukas metal half pan box, take out the holders and replace with your own half pans, taped into place

-- Paints: Watercolor paints, half pans (pre-made cubes of paint) or tubes (squirt fresh paint onto palette)
              Brands: Winsor & Newton Artists/Professional (not Cotman, poor student grade paints) or Daniel Smith (DS)
              Colors:  Blues: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue or Cerulean Blue
                            Reds: Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna
                            Yellows: New Gamboge, Yellow Ochre, Winsor & Newton Raw Umber
                            Also: Pyrrole Orange, Sap Green, Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange
                            Recommended: Aureolin (yellow), DS Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, DS Quinacridone Gold
-- Brushes:
             1) Round: Escoda Reserva Sable travel brush, size 10; Escoda Perla Synthetic travel brush, size 12;
                Richeson travel brush set; Winsor & Newton University Series 223; Cotman synthetic brushes
2) Angled or flat brush, sizes ¾” or 1” in synthetic or sable mix

Other Supplies
1)    Paper towels, a few sheets
2)    Small scraps of watercolor paper for testing colors
3)    Water holder while painting, such as the “Faber-Castell Clic & Go” collapsible water pot, around $5.
4)    You can also make the small holder I use, cut from corrugated plastic. It uses medicine bottles for water and clips to hold the
           Pocket Box palette and scrap paper in place. It works great!  Do-it-yourself template is on the following page.
5)    Water bottle with water

Other Resources

Online Classes:        “Perspective for Sketchers”
50% Discount on Craftsy:

“The Essentials of Sketching Architecture”
50% Discount on Craftsy:
The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Travel Sketching Essentials", this Saturday at Daniel Smith Store, Seattle

Been to Australia and back, and will start posting the sketches and stories this weekend!
But if you are in the neighborhood, please join me for a free talk and demo at Daniel Smith's Seattle store (the Mother Ship) when I'll share my favorite tools and supplies for sketching on the go.  Who doesn't love a good travel watercolor brush? Or how about my favorite stool that weighs nothing? And I'll do a demo about how I start a perspective sketch, paint and all...

Travel Sketching Essentials
Saturday, April 22
Daniel Smith, Seattle
4150 1st Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134

You can also preview the Aussie sketches on the Urban Sketchers blog,

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bound for OZ

In a few hours, I board a plane bound for the land of OZ...yep, I'll be in Australia for three weeks to teach workshops in Melbourne and Sydney!  My heartfelt thanks to all who are participating, and to RooiPing Lim and Angela Williams for setting this up. I met them at the Singapore Urban Sketchers Symposium when the warm group of talented Aussie sketchers sort of adopted me as we wandered the streets. I love them!!!

Above is a tiny and quick sketch from 2005, painted on the beach, just as I was starting to do a very small amount of travel sketching (you can probably tell it's an early sketch!) We traveled to Australia to visit relatives in Adelaide, hometown of my dear mother-in-law and Melbourne, and we also went to the Great Barrier Reef with our kids. I will be so happy to get back to this wonderful country with such wonderful people!

So stay tuned here and on Facebook and Instagram for sketches and photos during the next three weeks! It's another sketching adventure!! Off to finish packing!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Craftsy Classes, New Discount Links!!

Craftsy has issued NEW 50% discount links, and I'd like to share these with my fellow sketchers and those who follow this blog as a way to say THANK YOU! 

There are between 7,000-8,000 participants world-wide in these classes, both have 5 star***** reviews...thank you for that too!

Using these codes to sign up for these classes REALLY benefits the instructors (like me ;) so thank you again! If you want to take a class from one of the other instructors, send them an email and ask them for their code--I'm sure they'd be happy to share it with you!

This class covers one and two point perspective, sloped roofs, how to draw building materials like stone and brick, arches/columns and much more!
NEW 50% Discount Link for "The Essentials of Sketching Architecture" is here.

This class introduces you to easy perspective basics--it bridges the gap between conceptual perspective theory (think boxes on a table--so boring!) with what the heck do you do when you want to start a sketch of a real space!
NEW 50% Discount Link for "Perspective for Sketchers" is here.

Some have asked which they should do first...I recommend the first class, "Perspective for Sketchers" first, followed by "The Essentials of Sketching Architecture".

You can view these classes whenever you want, as many times as you want, stop and start and repeat, and the cost is only about $20 per class with the discount!

Thanks so much, all!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

11 Sketches from London

Yep, I'm still wading through my sketches from Europe. Here are 10 from London, with a short note about each. I better get all my sketches posted, as I leave in two weeks for Australia and lot more sketching!!!!

1. The sketch above was done on a steamy afternoon along the Thames. Together with my friends Beliza Mendes and Anne Percival (that's Anne's right hand), we had a fabulous time wandering London. This sketch became the inspiration for my workshop at the Chicago symposium, "Lay It On The Line" to use your eye level to draw wide riverfront views and a demo on painting watery reflections.

2. The first morning, Anne, Beliza and I walked out of our hotel only a few steps when we stumbled upon the early light hitting this amazing building (OK, there were amazing buildings everywhere!) We stopped on the spot and had to sketch it.

3. Also near our hotel was Trafalgar Square. I stood way off to the side and attempted to catch a sweeping view of this amazing gathering place.  A little overworked...

4. After a day or two in London, we were off to meet the sketchers from Asia who had just arrived in town...Tia, KK, Pramote, Patrick, and more., and Gail Wong was just incredibly fun to have this instant community, to see old friends and meet new friends. It's incredible to see how everyone sketches differently, and sketches beautifully in their own way. So much to learn!

I headed to the interior to sketch this view of Covent Garden...again, a little overworked. What can I say, I get carried away. A serious one point perspective while I got to listen to amazing musicians entertaining the crowds.

5. The sketch below was super quick, as I also wanted to catch the exterior.

6. One day Anne and Beliza and I took a lovely boat trip to nearby Greenwich--the place where time begins, as in Greenwich Mean Time.  We walked among the elegant Sir Christopher Wren buildings, had the best Fish & Chips I think I've ever eaten, then walked up the hill to the observatory.

7 & 8. One straight on view of the columns in Greenwich, followed by a quick sketch of St. Pancras Station back in London. I was starting to feel sick, so I worked fast then ran off to buy some vitamin C. The sketches here appear full size.

9. By this time, lots of sketchers had arrived in London. We were a big group sketching around Big Ben and the square in front of Westminster Abbey. I rather like how this sketch came out, as by leaving big areas of the paper white, it stayed fresh.

10. And last, this is a sketch from the London Urban Sketchers meet up at St. Paul's cathedral. I sketched and painted this inside during the Sunday morning service. Talk about sketching the shape of the space! And the hardest color to paint is actually the lack of color...white.

Finally, a real treat when one of my favorite students from my teaching days in New York City at Parsons, Illugi Eysteinsson, surprised me by showing up!!! Incredible!!! Originally from Iceland, his boundless energy now goes to teaching drawing and sketching in London and other parts of the world...look him up online and on Facebook and follow his work!

11. ARGH, overworked and too fast...sometimes it doesn't pay to work quickly, but better to capture this than nothing at all!! I found a spot in the shade...this is the Admiralty Arch.

After this, it was off to the train station and the Symposium in Manchester!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lake Flato Architects on Friday!

This week, I'm heading to San Antonio, Texas...a city I love for its beauty, character, color, food, and people. In many respects, San Antonio is home to me.

My first job in Architecture was in this town, at the amazing firm of Ford, Powell & Carson. I was only there for one summer (the last summer that renowned architect O'Neil Ford was alive) before heading to Pratt in NYC for graduate school, but I've remained friends with some of the talented and warm people I met.

I'm so thrilled and honored to get to see some of those talented folks this week when I give a lunchtime talk at Lake Flato Architects.  I'm thinking to show them some of my early sketches, as my career started here, as well as original sketches from more recent travels...and of course, the teacher in me can't resist showing them a little something about sketching how-to as well, as always in the back of my mind is the desire to encourage architects to keep's such an amazing and powerful ability to have, it helps with observing, thinking, imagining...I honestly think with a pencil in my hand!

What do you think it's important for architects to know about sketching? Any specific things you'd think might be important to show or talk about???

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tips for Symposium Registration

2015 Symposium in Singapore, photo by Azzam Bre Mahaputra, on Urban Sketchers blog.

This year's Urban Sketchers international symposium will be held relatively close to home, in Chicago July 26-29. It is a huge, energetic event with attendees and instructors from around the world. The energy and opportunity to learn and meet other sketchers is nothing short of amazing.

Symposium early-bird registration opens up this Saturday morning, February 11, at 8am Chicago time (that is 6am Seattle time!) In my experience, if you are thinking about going to Chicago, sign up as an early bird. It's hard to say if the symposium will fill immediately as it has in some years past (some times, even in mere minutes), so get a few things ready NOW and sign up at 6am Saturday morning if you can.

To read more about the costs and the different passes that are available, go here.

Regular registration opens up on February 18.

This will be my fifth symposium, so I have a few recommendations to share, as you will want to register very quickly on Saturday morning:

1--Sign up NOW at Eventbrite to save time when registration officially opens up on Saturday morning. To set up your account now, click here.

2--The list of a whopping 36 instructors and workshops is on the Urban Sketchers blog under "Symposium" and then "programming". It is here. You will get to select four workshops and one demo, plus lectures.

3--To be on the safe side, since sometimes the symposiums sell out immediately, set your alarm clock for for 15 minutes before registration opens up in your time zone and start your registration precisely at 8am Chicago time.  
You will have already set up your account via Eventbrite :) so it should go quickly if everything is working ok with the website. Eventrbrite times out after a few minutes and you'll have to start all over, so know ahead of time what you want to sign up for (see #4 below). Keep in mind that people from around the world are trying to register at the same time, so don't patient!

4--Do your homework before you register. Review all the workshops, study the work of the instructors NOW. Have a list of the workshops you want to do the most ready by Saturday morning and have alternates ready in case they are already full when you register. You will get to sign up for four workshops plus other demos, events, etc.

5--If you sign up now and then cancel, you may lose a bit of your registration fee. The symposium blog states:
What is the refund policy?
Urban Sketchers reserves the right to apply a $85 (USD) cancellation fee for all refunds. Due the need to finalize facilities, supplies, and programming, no refunds will be offered after May 11, 2017. 
6-- Go online to and look at the general info about the symposium under the "symposium" tab. You can also look at programming for past symposiums to get a feel for the event! 
7--This huge event is organized every year by incredible volunteers who already start planning more than a year in advance...they do an unbelievable amount of work to make this symposium a really (and I mean REALLY) impressive, well-organized experience. Please thank them for all they do!

8--Also, book your hotel now too. The symposium headquarters is right downtown near the Bean sculpture. Here are recommendations from the organizers: here

If anyone has anything to add, please do so in the comments below.
I hope this helps! See you in Chicago! #USkChicago2017