Stephanie Bower

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

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

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...