Stephanie Bower

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

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017


My cousin is one of the most talented drawers I have ever seen. Born in Chile, she grew up in Curaçao and at the age of five could draw amazing running horses, tropical plants and houses in incredible detail. Today she is an award-winning designer for Philips in Amsterdam--we are all so proud of her.

Last summer we walked one day around Amsterdam, stopping at this cafe for something to drink along the canal. I sketched the building, looking up, as we were sitting quite close.

Afterwards, it was quite cold and dark already, I headed over to the department store, the Bijenkorf, that has a great cafe and terrace on the top floor. I sat outside with a wonderful piece of cake and did this sketch on the opposite page in my sketchbook of the nearby roofs and views beyond, before it started to rain.

Both, sketched and painted on location in my 5" x 7" Pentalic Aqua Journal. Then it was home to Den Haag and my aunt and uncle.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Year of Travel and Teaching Ahead...I can't wait!

Melbourne, March 24-27:  3 spots open
Sydney, March 31-April 2:  1 spot open
Sydney, Watercolor, April 3:  Full (waiting list will be started)
Oxford: July 7-9:  3 spots open
Civita di Bagnoregio ITALY, June 10-16: Full (waiting list will be started)
Civita di Bagnoregio ITALY, June 20-26: Full (waiting list will be started)

Please contact me at immediately if you are interested in any of these opportunities!! 
And someone pinch me, this is just too good be true...thanks to all!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sketching in the Heart of Holland

As I think ahead to the travel and workshops for 2017 (Australia in March, Italy in June, Oxford in July...!!), I realize I haven't posted all my sketches yet from last summer!  

While visiting my family in Holland, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful group of Urban Sketchers from Den Haag and Rotterdam. After a short demo (below), we all sat and sketched on what was a freezing cold day in July. Thank you so much, Marleen Dambrink for setting things up to meet everyone, for the lovely card and stroopwafels, and for sitting with me and sketching all was SUCH a pleasure, such great fun!!

The location sketch above was probably my favorite sketch of the entire summer--it is the Binnenhof and Ridderzaal (dates back to the 13th Century) in Den Haag, the heart of Dutch government. We sat on a bench chatting, it was so relaxed and wonderful that I got to take my time and get quite a bit of detail in. The Dutch brickwork was just amazing, I wish I could have gotten a better sense of it in the sketch. But it is a beautiful space and a great place to sketch my favorite wide angle views.

Demo for Den Haag Urban Sketchers, a view of the back of Mauritshuis, home of Vermeer's famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. It was FREEZING cold, we could see our July!

Posted again so you can see it bigger!

Thank you again, Den Haag and Rotterdam Urban Sketchers! I hope to see you again in early July 2017!!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Winsor & Newton Video Masterclasses

Last year, I attended a Winsor & Newton demo at Daniel Smith here in Seattle where I signed up for their email  list...and I'm glad I did.  The emails have really interesting information such as how they make their brushes, how Queen Victoria used these paints, and more.

Winsor & Newton is also running an excellent series of short videos called Masterclasses...they are really beautifully done, very short, and informative. I learn something new from each email that shows up in my inbox, even though they might apply to artists who use media other than the watercolor I use. I have seen several different videos and can recommend the series.

Here is the one I got today on Titanium White vs. Zinc White, plus links to others I've seen:

Titanium White vs. Zinc White

Opaque and Transparent Oils

The Art of Glazing

If you want to sign up to receive these as emails, go to:

Sign up for W&N Masterclass emails

And let me know what you learn or if you like these too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Barcelona 2, Gaudí!!!

Back in Barcelona...when I was in this amazing city for the symposium, I actually missed seeing the amazing architect Gaudí's this time, I made a point of visiting these. What is Barcelona without Gaudí?

The sketch above is one of my favorites from the entire summer. After making my way through the rooms of the Pedrera, or Casa Milà, I emerged into the bright sun and blazing midday heat on the roof...which is literally a hardscape, architectural garden. 

I must tell you, I am VERY afraid of heights (ear issues), so I gingerly made my way around the rooftop, mostly walking in the center away from the edges. The walls along the edges are very low, would never meet codes here! But I found a spot on a step, in the shade of one of the sculptural chimneys, and did this wide-angle sketch looking down a bit into one of the atria and beyond to the city and sky, punctuated by those amazing, sculptural chimneys. Major triumph for me to have confronted my fears and sketched this view, but it was worth it, as I LOVE this sketch!

I kept the sky and the background blue and cool, and painted the warm colors and the sense of sun on the rooftop, trying to reserve as much white as possible. It's in my 5" x 8" Pentalic sketchbook. And I saw Gabi's Urban Sketching Handbooks translated into Spanish in the bookstore!!

I also made the pilgrimage to Gaudí's Casa Batlló, another amazing building in the center of Barcelona. Before going inside, I sat outside to sketch the exterior while the opposite side of the street was still in shade. Only problem was, my view was constantly blocked by huge buses, and I was sitting only about 18" from the curb...a little too up close and personal with those enormous tires!!!

I did this sketch the first day, then really regretted painting in the trees as they block too much (honestly, I need to learn what NOT to paint a little better...), so I went back a second day and tried again from a slightly different angle (less of a bus issue too!)

Which do you think works better???

Sketch day one...

Sketch day two...

Detail of day one sketch.

Next, more Barcelona!! Then Holland, then England...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

REAL Discount Codes for Craftsy Classes online!

At long last, we have discount codes for my two online classes on Craftsy!!! Woo hoo!
I invite you to use these codes for a 50% discount good through March 2, 2017.
When you use these codes, it really helps support the instructors, like me!  So, please use these links instead of going directly through the Craftsy website--thank you!

The discount should come up automatically when you use these links.

You can view a preview video of the classes and read reviews on Craftsy too--over 5000 participants world wide in "Perspective for Sketchers" and almost 2000 in the new "The Essentials of Sketching Architecture" class.  Please join us!

Discount code for "The Essentials of Sketching Architecture" is

Discount code for "Perspective for Sketchers" is

Recent reviews of the classes:
5 out of 5 stars.

the BEST!!

i discoverd stephanie bower through buying her book on perspective which was excellent. i then took her class on Craftsy. she is an amazing teacher, one of the very best that i've had. i've had several teachers, and being a teacher myself, i am very particular about teachers. she is very clear, breaks down the steps to learning perspective and techniques of sketching. Her feedback is very generous, i do believe she really enjoys teaching. She offers helpful suggestions but is also encouraging.

5 out of 5 stars

One of the Best Classes I have taken

This is an amazing class. I have looked at perspective by others but Stephanie makes the whole thing very simple and straight forward and easy to remember. I love her teaching style and have had a real epiphany when it comes to architectural sketching. She clearly explains why she is doing things

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Barcelona 1

And after Rome, it was off to Barcelona to stay in our friend Peter's apartment in the wonderful neighborhood of Poblenou.  Less than one block from the neighborhood's charming small rambla, or pedestrian walkway, and also only a few blocks from the beach. It was so bloody hot in Barcelona, the first thing I did even before buying groceries was to purchase to FANS!!  Even the beach was so hot, I didn't go until 5 or 6pm.  Small complaints, of course, as my gosh but what a fantastic city this is! My first time here was for the USk Barcelona Symposium back in 2013.

High on my to-see list was an iconic building we studied in architecture school, the famed Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe.  It was wonderful to meet a fellow sketcher, whose work I just LOVE, Norberto Dorantes, a Mexican architect who lives in Argentina and often teaches at the Urban Sketchers symposiums. We met here one afternoon and sketched.

Here is my only decent sketch of the favorite part of the drawing is the flag!

I also got to meet someone whose work I have admired, the amazing sketcher who goes by the pen name, Lapin. I dedicate an entire spread in the back of my book to his sketches in which he stretches perspective and adds so much humor. 

We met in Poblenou and sat on the rambla enjoying an horchata drink from the famous horchateria nearby, and I got to look through his gosh, but what an amazing talent!!!

And then, he bestowed a HUGE honor on me -- he pulls out his pen and looks at me very seriously, and... 

Looks entirely too realistic... but what an honor to occupy one of the pages in one of his incredible sketchbooks. Gracias, Lapin!!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Back to Travel...Rome!

It's gray and rainy in Seattle, so, it's back to summer sketches! 
After leaving Civita, I headed to Rome for a day to see my dear friend, Francesca Caruso. Francesca LOVES her city...Rome...and leads tours for groups like National Geographic, Rick Steves (she is on his Rome show), and many others.  I was so happy to see her even briefly, and also to happily run into her again in the Roman Forum the next day. I am so inspired by her, as her goal is to present information that really change the way visitors see Rome, history, and how they see the world--much like what I believe sketching does too.

I also got to see my friend and fellow Urban Sketcher, Kelly Medford. Kelly is an American who lives in Rome and does amazing, on location oil paintings and in the past few years, watercolors too. I met her at the Barcelona Symposium, and the following year, she took my workshop in Civita, which jumpstarted her use of watercolors.  She also leads sketch tours in Rome that looks wonderful!

Here are a few images and sketches! 
It was noon, SO HOT, in the middle of the forum surrounded by tourists. This is a very quick wide angle view from the center of the Roman Forum.

This was in a cafe where I was to get the key for my B& I  collapsed into a comfy sofa, drank tons of water, and sketched while I waited.

This Sketch below
was done during breakfast one morning at the same cafe.

I use this sketch in my recent CRAFTSY class to show how the guide lines for drawing windows will hit a corner and turn in perspective...these are guidelines that make drawing rows of windows on buildings so much easier.

Next, Barcelona!!!