Stephanie Bower

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

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, thank you!

You can view a preview video of the classes and read reviews on Craftsy too--almost 5000 participants world wide in "Perspective for Sketchers" and almost 1500 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!!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


It's filling up fast, so please contact me ASAP for more information. Only 7 participants for each session, so lots of one-on-one instruction in this magical place...and the food and wine are great too!!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Five Years Ago, Today...

This week, I've been posting photos on Facebook of a trip I took with my friend Nancy to India exactly five years ago. I spent November 14, my son's birthday, getting up early to see the sunrise over the utterly exquisite Taj was these days, this trip, only five years ago, that changed my life in so many ways.

Being an architect, I admit I was expecting the Taj to be just another famous building, but boy, was I wrong. It's really a complex of buildings, and you enter the main part of the complex through a small, dark gate house through a big arch that suddenly frames the view of the Taj itself. It is literally breath-taking, and both Nancy and I had tears in our eyes. Something about that building is other-worldly...the proportions, the white marble that refracts/reflects and lets light pass through it, the many factors make this truly a wonder of the world.

Sketching is not allowed in the Taj complex, and our bags were checked for pencils or pens. So I had to do these sketches from outside the building area...the  sketch above was done in the HOT HOT HOT midday heat from a terrace at the Agra Fort, up the river.  It had to be really quick before I melted!!

And this sketch was done at the end of the day, from across the Yamuna River, looking at the backside. Those tiny marks atop the base platform are people...the building is HUGE. 

I talk about making this drawing in my Craftsy class, as it was my lesson on how important it is to measure proportions.  About 5-10 minutes into this sketch, I literally started to panic as it dawned on my I was finally sketching THE Taj Mahal!!!!!!  I had to stop, take a deep breath, and make sure I carefully measured the proportions...can you imagine the Taj with the proportions off??

This trip was a life-changing event for me.  I was able to use a generous gift from a dear friend to pay for the trip, and I went with the intent of getting back to sketching, something I hadn't done for 25 years. I filled two large Moleskine sketchbooks.  

Once I got home, another sketcher mentioned the KRob competition--I had never heard of it somehow, but it is an architectural delineation competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Dallas chapter--and it is the longest running global competition of its kind. I took a leap of faith and entered this sketch, done November 15, near Agra at the Fatehpur Sikri complex...and it WON for Best Professional Travel Sketch!!!!  Shocked and amazed, it was that win that has launched so many wonderful sketching adventures and opportunities.  

Looking back at these sketches, I realized how much I've improved since this trip!! At a time in life when others are thinking about retiring, I have been picking up speed and finally pursuing what I love, sketching and teaching. I am humbled and so very grateful. What an AMAZING five years it's been!!!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Big News: NEW Pentalic watercolor sketchbooks!!!!!

Three new sizes of Pentalic Aqua Journals, real 140lb. cold press watercolor paper

In my world, this is really BIG NEWS!!!

Pentalic is just now shipping 3 NEW sizes in sketchbooks, and I cannot wait to try them! These have been my favorite sketchbooks for several years, and I recommend them to people all the time.


Because they are the ONLY sketchbooks that have true 140lb. paper!!! 
And this makes a huge difference if you want to use watercolor.  Not Moleskine, not Handbook, not Stillman & Birn...this is the only one with high quality watercolor paper. 

I find that the texture has a good balance of smooth texture for my pencil work, and enough texture to take my watercolor work.

Slightly different proportions when compared with the Moleskine.

They are already in stock at Daniel Smith store in Seattle.
They are coming soon to Amazon.

Thanks to Carol Evenchick, Vancouver sketcher, for letting me know about this.

Thanks also to Pentalic for sending me samples to try!! 

This is super exciting!!!  
If you try these new books, let me know what you think...