Stephanie Bower

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

"The Essentials of Sketching Architecture" is LIVE!

Quick late-night post to get this link out, but it's here!  Clear explanations for basic perspective, columns, arches (yes!), sloped surfaces like roofs and stairs, and MUCH MORE! 

Please use this instructor's 50% discount link:
(Using this link instead of the Craftsy website really helps my numbers, so thank you, all!!)

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Yes, I've been "Doodlewashed"! Who knew there was such a thing?

Prolific blogger Charlie O'Shields writes about his own sketches on his blog "Doodlewash", and he also posts about many Guest Artists...

To learn a bit about how I got started and more, especially after a 25 year break from sketching, I invite you to his blog by clicking on the link below... thank you!!

Doodlewash, Guest Artist: Stephanie Bower, Urban Sketcher

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

An Extraordinary Gift

About two weeks ago, a box arrived on my porch from Florida. At first, I thought it was something I ordered from Amazon :), but it turned out to be something much, much better: an amazing gift.

Accompanying this beautiful, framed etching of Civita, was a lovely letter from a couple who happened to take my workshop at the Manchester Urban Sketchers Symposium.  It turns out that they, too, have been to Civita and were also inspired by that extraordinary place, and they thought I might like this etching...I don't like it, I LOVE IT! 

And I love it not only for the beautiful art that it is, but I am so deeply appreciative of this kind and thoughtful gift--my thanks to you both, Charlie Williams and Barbara Beynon. It will proudly hang in my office where I will see it every day.

Yesterday was my birthday, and this extraordinarily generous gift reminds of the many wonderful gifts in my life, particularly in the past few years. I am indeed living a dream of doing interesting work, amazing travel and sketching opportunities, and often sharing these adventures with amazing friends and artists I admire so much. As others my age are winding down, I am winding UP... I appreciate these gifts to my very core, as I am fully aware of how extraordinary all this is, and I am so grateful.  

So on in honor of my birthday and this beautiful gift from Charlie and Barbara, I send my gratitude and very best wishes to any and all who happen upon this post. I hope that your life is filled with wonderful adventures and amazing gifts. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Up the Bridge to Civita di Bagnoregio

Finally made it to Rome (oh, it is soooo hard to stay awake that first day!), then it was off  to Civita di Bagnoregio, a tiny speck of a town to the north, surrounded by a deep ravine on all sides.

I know this town well, having lived here for two months in 2014 with the Civita Institute's Astra Zarina fellowship. My project was to create an architectural walking guide to the town, so with lots of research and lots of drawing, I got to know every stone...

Upon arrival in the mid-day heat, hauling my suitcase up the crazy steep pedestrian-only bridge, I arrived through the front arch and emerged into the piazza where I discovered a few faces I knew. As I made my way to my apartment, I came across even more people I knew, all so welcoming in that oh-so-warm Italian way.  It was actually surprisingly emotional for me, it felt in many respects like I was arriving home to see family.

I didn't have too much time to get ready before the DRAW CIVITA 2016 workshop participants arrived, so I didn't get to do too much sketching. Instead, I was making sure everything worked --trying to fix the internet, buying and assembling a fan, getting groceries.  This was to be my fourth annual workshop here!

There is something really special about this place...I don't know what it is, but it is extraordinary. I think a lot of people feel it when they walk through that main gate...maybe it's that there are no cars, so you are plunged back into Etruscan streets, Medieval and Renaissance buildings...and things stop right about there...this place is timeless.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Travels Begin...

We are now back in mid-June, I am just back from Texas (wonderful to meet and sketch with the Texas Urban Sketchers in Fort Worth), my older son has just graduated from the University of Washington (yay!), my Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective has just come out...and my carry-on suitcase, backpack and I are stuck in the Chicago airport.

For the third year in a row, the flight that takes me to the symposium has been cancelled by American Airlines (yes, it happened on the way to Paraty, Brazil, and also last year to Singapore). I'm indeed starting to get a complex due to this hat trick, starting to think I need to travel to the symposium maybe two months in advance! Luckily, I had upgraded to business class and was able to wait comfortably in the Admiral's Lounge for about 6 hours until they found another plane. Better safe than sorry, to be sure.

So what does any respectable Urban Sketcher do to pass the time at an airport...well, of course, and here it is...

Warm colors inside, and cool colors outside as night was falling at Chicago O'Hare airport.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Going Backwards...

My apologies to all for such a long posting absence!  

It's been something of a travel marathon the past three months, proving to be too difficult to post to the blog or anywhere else.  Having a computer (can it already be full???) and phone (didn't like the heat) that didn't work well, didn't help!  

So now, after this post, I am going to go back to the beginning of the summer to show-and-tell you all about Fort Worth, Rome, Civita, Barcelona, The Hague, London, and yes, finally Manchester...oh and Denver too!!!!!!  Yes, you can still cling to a few more warm days.

Last week, I flew to Denver to film my second Craftsy class, called 
"The Essentials of Sketching Architecture".  Believe me, that name raises the bar--it's a lot to live up to!

Oh, what a good make-up artist can do!! Thank you, Danica!
 Here is the famous Craftsy studio where many other Urban Sketchers
have filmed as well.  It's VERY difficult to film one of these classes, as you have to teach to a camera
instead of interacting with a class.  I think maybe the bit of theater I did in high school and college helped!

The class will cover things like building materials, sloping surfaces, and even arches (which are not shaped like horseshoes!)  
I will encourage you to think and draw like an architect.

I also make lots of connections between the abstract world of perspective in books and the how-to's of how you can make a sketch on location.  

The class dovetails well with both the first class, 

"Perspective for Sketchers"

and also my book:
The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective.

And here is the crew!  Marshall, Amana the producer, Nick, and Bob who did sound and took the photo.
Also thanks to the Craftsy folks--Anna, Danica, Tommy, Molly, Greg...

Launch date for "The Essentials of Sketching Architecture" is late September.  
Check back here for an instructor's discount link!

OK, up next, 7 weeks of travel sketching.  Buckle your seat belts!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It's finally here...never fear perspective again!!

Today is the day!! The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective is finally on the shelves and online! I was signing copies this morning at Seattle's Daniel Smith store (thank you, Joe, Janice and Patrice!) 

Thank you, Gabi Campanario and Editor Mary Ann Hall for this amazing opportunity--I am so very grateful.

I am also so very grateful to the many talented artists and architects from around the globe who contributed their beautiful work to tell the story of perspective sketching. This book is the size of a sketchbook, small and packed with info...take it with you, and never fear perspective again!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Kimbell Art Museum, thanks y'all!

A few weeks ago, I contacted Texas sketcher Jim Richards to say I planned to be in his neck of the woods in early June. Although he would be out of the country, he was kind enough to let other North Texas sketchers know, and we set up a date and time to meet last Saturday.

To my utter delight, a large group actually showed up!  It was so very wonderful to make new friends and to have company while I sketched--it brightened what would otherwise be a difficult week.  Even got to do a short demo! Plus the setting, the incredibly beautiful Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth designed by one of the most famous architects of the last century, Louis Kahn, was so inspiring.  It was difficult to do justice to this exquisite building, one we studied a great deal in architecture school. The shape of those elegant barrel vaults was very tough to get right--I actually erased a lot! I would so love to teach a perspective workshop here one day...

My thanks to all the Texas Urban Sketchers--it was wonderful to meet you all.  So amazing about this USk community, instant friends around the globe...

I leave for Italy one week from today to start my summer adventures in Civita, Barcelona, Den Haag, then London and up to Manchester...I'll post as I go and plan to sketch a lot of "Soaring Spaces" on the way.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Book Preview--Ellipses!

This is another one of my favorite pages...on drawing ellipses!  Liz Steel, famous for sketching her beautiful tea and coffee cups, creates a  lovely sketch of her is full of circles that we see as ellipses...and after ellipses, the book covers arches, arcades, vaults and domes!!
Just about one week to go!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Travel Sketching Essentials--the easel and travel stool I use

I have searched high and low for tools that will work...small and light, that fit in my carry on back and backpack.  With some tweaks, this is what I use for the big equipment.

Easel in action, with Beliza, Anne, and Susanna in last summer's
workshop in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy.  I'm leaving soon for this year's
workshop!!   This shows the larger surface and tripod #3.
En Plein Air Pro Easel surface ($79) (I cut mine down to fit into a backpack) with Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight    Compact Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head (about $40 from Amazon)

Story: I bought the entire watercolor travel set at En Plein Air Pro, but most of the stuff is too big and heavy.
So I ditched the tripod, carrying case, etc. that comes in the set and now only use the angled plastic surface with a ledge for holding my sketchbook/pad while I paint. You can buy this ledge individually from En Plein Air Pro for about $80.

Last summer while sketching in Venice with Marc Taro Holmes (someone pinch me, did I really just write that?--YES!) I noticed that his was easel made by the same company was smaller than mine, he said it was an older version.  So I got an idea. When I got home from Europe before heading to Asia (did I really just write that too?), I cut about an inch from the top and one side, very carefully using an x-acto knife to score a line, then using pliers to bend the plastic back and forth until it snapped, followed by a mild sanding of the sharp edges.  And voilá, it now works GREAT and fits in my backpack with ease.

In my search for a lighter tripod, I bought and returned four others until I found this Sony.  It doesn't have the quick release mount which is unfortunate, so I end up just screwing the easel table onto the top of the tripod. Not a big works great...the lightest, smallest tripod I could find. Bought it on Amazon. Has a nice light carrying case too.

This stool is great, although I sometimes feel like an elephant sitting on a is just so light and tiny!  

Story: The day before leaving for Asia, I found this on Amazon, and with same day delivery, it arrived that same evening!! By 9pm I was repacking everything into a smaller suitcase and left for Asia the next morning!
It comes with a small carrying case. Amazon and Tribe are sold out at the moment, but I contacted Tribe and they are producing more of these.

Another option is a new 3-leg stool available through REI. I don't own it, but it is light, a little bulkier and heavier than the Tribe, but probably better if you don't want to sit so low to the ground or need a heftier stool. Only costs $25.

The tiny Tribe Provisions stool I use,
this photo from their website.
Using my stool as an easel in a pinch, with the talented Don Low who stood guard and entertained the onlookers.
Another thank you Laurel Holmes for this photo, this is in Singapore before the symposium last summer.
The best part of finding this easel, tripod, and stool, is that I can now travel only with a carry-on Travel Pro Max-Lite 3 spinner...this has made a huge difference when flights have been cancelled-- and no lost luggage.  Even with all my supplies, I now only travel with a carry-on and a backpack and a small purse!!!