Stephanie Bower

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I can hear "Waltzing Matilda" even Adelaide visiting my husband's relatives, we got to walk along a nearby billabong near Anne and Quentin's home. A billabong is a pool of water, a backwater connected to a stream. Really, this was the only bit of nature I saw during the entire 3 weeks in Oz!

We sat down at a picnic table in the shade, and I quickly (so as not to make the rellies wait too long in the midday sun) did this sketch of the view right in front of me. Giant gum tree, water in the distance...

Sketched in my 5"x8" Pentalic sketchbook, and painted in Winsor & Newton paints that dried too quickly in the heat!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester, A Beautiful City

Albert Memorial in front of Manchester Town Hall.

Yesterday, I was literally scanning and cropping these sketches when the news from Manchester came through. In going through sketches over the weekend, I had come across these that I had not yet posted.

After hearing the shocking and tragic news, I decided not to do the post. But this morning, I thought maybe I should, as these are sketches from the heart of Manchester, the Town Hall and near Manchester Cathedral. They are my love letter to the city in a time of sadness.

I spent about a week in Manchester last summer before, during and after the Symposium. 

Simone and the team were so proud of their city as they bused a large group of instructors to see the sights. It's a beautiful city in a real word kind of way. Some gorgeous architecture, but what really resonated was the heritage of strong, hard working people (manufacturing buildings throughout), further evidenced by their TWO amazing football/soccer teams. I saw a city that wasn't pretty, it was beautiful...and it breaks my heart that this beautiful city has just seen this kind of senseless tragedy.

So today, I remember and honor the spirit of Manchester with love in the way I know how... with a few words and sketches.
Old half-timber building across from Manchester Cathedral.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Traveling again--looking back, looking forward...

Two weeks from today, I arrive in Rome...this will be a busy summer, teaching two workshops in June in the amazing hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio, then a trip to see family in Holland, then to Oxford, England to teach a Good Bones Workshop!  Then back to Seattle for a week of work and hosting the amazing sketcher and friend, "KK" Ch'ng Kiah Kiean from Malaysia, before heading to Chicago to teach at the USk symposium at the end of July. 
But honestly, I am so utterly grateful to be living the dream!! I have wanted to do this my entire life, and today when I am saddened about the passing of a friend much too soon, I am feeling particularly grateful.

Which takes me back to Australia...

Back in March, I arrived in Australia and first headed to Adelaide to visit with family for a few days, then it was off to Melbourne to teach, one night in Canberra, then Sydney to teach two workshops...then Home. The time just flew by.

Aussies are incredibly friendly and warm people, and these groups had some amazingly talented sketchers!

But first, here is Adelaide.

Church in Adelaide, Australia where my in-laws were married! A bit wonky, a blame the jet lag...

I arrived and had five minutes to change before I was whisked off by our family friend, Max, to a memorial service. It was for a distant relative on my husband's side--he lived a good, long life. Particularly amazing, this was held in the church where my in-laws were married long ago! Battling a 17 hour time difference and trying desperately to stay awake, I did this sketch from the back row during the service.

Two days later, we were back...and while Max attended the Sunday service, I sketched the sunlit side of the building. As the choir sang inside, the birds sang outside! I loved this view, loved capturing the sense of spaces between the buildings. It is a true 180 degree view, ear-to-ear.

Unusual for me, a one-point perspective that turns into a North Adelaide Baptist Church, Australia.

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???