Stephanie Bower

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Out of my Comfort Zone

As I look ahead to Manchester, I find I'm also looking back to Singapore.

The USk Symposium is great on so many levels--to meet other sketchers from around the world (who are also willing to get up before dawn to sketch the streets, to draw while walking, to draw while eating, to sit on the ground to get the right angle, to sketch until you are about to drop from heat--are we a little obsessive?  YES, and it's so great!!), to be inspired by new people and new places, and at its core, to get to learn from and sketch next to people whose work I so admire.

In Singapore, I gave a lecture on perspective (my thanks to all who attended) and got to take three workshops.  It was really hard to decide which ones, as so many looked great, but in the end I settled on what I felt I most needed to learn.  So I steeled myself for what was certainly to be an OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE experience, which is actually a huge benefit of these be gently pushed into unfamiliar sketching territory by a really good teacher.

1-- First Singapore workshop was Nina Johansson's "Light in the Spaces in Between:  A Watercolor Workshop". In addition to her beautiful linework, I love the glow that Nina gets in her sketches using really saturated and luminous colors.  

We started with a pencil stone study, then a color study--I had to work hard to leave a key portion white and build up contrasts in other parts of the sketch.  

And in the final sketch of our subject, I tried to let the yellow-green paint vary in color and sink to the bottom, as if pulled down by's harder than it looks!

2-- The next Singapore workshop was Shari Blaukopf's "Big Brush Colour: Capturing that First Impression".
There are no words for how much I admire Shari's sketching...her sense of 2-d composition is exquisite, and I love how she applies paint--the watercolor feels wet in the sketch--by tilting her paper, the colors pool and sink and feel like a real water media, mixing and blending in all kids of brilliant happy accidents (or are they???) And together, with great composition and beautiful painting, she can make the most mundane subject look like fine art.

We took a little sliver of a view of downtown framed by trees, and first did value studies. This is a step I usually skip out of impatience, so it was good to do. I liked trying two variations on composition to see which held the most promise.

Then color, doing my best to emulate Shari...

3-- And in my third and final workshop, I was REALLY out of my comfort zone...drawing people in Suhita Shirodkar's "Capturing Chaos: Drawing a Crowd".
Suhita is amazing...she doesn't stand back and draw people from afar, she gets right up in front of them and so quickly captures a sense of their body in motion, midst the chaos, which in this case is a flower market in front of a temple.  This was really hard for me, and I struggled with sketching can tell I cheated and relied heavily on the architectural backdrop to pull this sketch together!

Alas, I will never be able to sketch like Nina, Shari, or Suhita, but it was great fun to try for a few hours.  I figure, if you can get one good take-away out of a workshop, you're doing well. You likely won't produce a masterpiece (I can't quite believe I'm actually posting these sketches), but you'll get a great experience...and I did!


  1. Thank you for sharing. Would love to go.

    1. HI Pilgrim, thanks for your note...I hope you will get to go! It's a fun, sort of whirlwind experience!

  2. This looks lovely, great thoughtful idea. If anyone is looking for how to learn or improve drawing & sketching skills, then contact X Factor Nagpur. We are the best sketching class in Nagpur.

  3. I enjoyed reading about how you struggled a bit with the workshops. I think it is hard to do something so quickly and make something you are truly happy with. I would be as pleased as punch to have these results during a workshop. Each one is lovely!

    1. HI Joan, thanks for this message! You are right, part of why it's hard is the speed with which we have to work...and in my head, I'm always thinking not how I would paint something, for example, but how would SHARI do it! It's a little frustrating and exhilarating at the same just go with the flow and hope for the best, and try to enjoy the process!

  4. Your sketches are really well done considering you were out of your comfort zone and working at speed. They are different to your usual sketches in a good way. You have nailed the tonal variations and the sketches are vibrant as a result.
    I mentioned in your Craftsy class comments that I missed Singapore due to health reasons. I've already booked my tickets to Manchester (via Finland.) I'll be freaked out at having to work at speed in the workshops. But like you I'm sure I'll get something out of them.
    I've gotten heaps out of the Craftsy classes offered by you, Shari and James. I have noticed that my "style" is finally emerging with accurate perspective, Shari-like tones and courtesy of Jim my sketches are populated.

  5. Your sketches are lovely. Hope to see you in Manchester Symposium