Preparing my workshop for the USK Symposium in Chicago

July 5, 2017 | 3 Comments

I just thought I would share a few sneak peeks into my workshop preparation for the upcoming Urban Sketchers Symposium in Chicago.

My workshop is called Lost and Found Structure and it’s all about finding ways of simplifying the complex patterns of Chicago’s high rise buildings. The early skyscrapers are perhaps the hardest type of architecture to sketch loosely, and to be honest I find them very challenging. I prefer Italian Baroque buildings – they are so much easier to sketch!

For those of you who have done my online courses I will be combining ideas from Edges Lesson 4 (Lost and Found Edges) and Buildings Lesson 3 (Working Structurally). It’s new material that I have never taught before, so that makes it super exciting for me.

I have been testing the exercises from a photo taken near my workshop location, and this view contains mainly modern buildings, so is a little easier to pick out patterns and simplify. I know that we will have a bigger range of buildings to sketch during the workshop but this has been a good view to work from now. I have been especially enjoying the shape based exercises with paint.

I have also been doing a number of versions of the Auditorium Building by Louis Sullivan. We will not be sketching it during my workshop but I thought it would be a good example to test out my approach to sketching this type of building. Here was my first attempt done during my first week back (from my Europe trip) when I was struggling with jetlag. Seriously, it is very hard to sketch these highly complex buildings in a loose way with ink and wash and still record a lot of the detail.

Versions 2 was much better but I still wanted to have another attempt.

So here is version 3 as well. Drawing slowly!

I think that I will do a fourth attempt, since I have now firmed up a strategy which I think will work (you can see this in the notes in Version 3). So next I want to implement it using ink and wash.

Note: There are some buildings that are by their very nature extremely challenging to draw. It’s not always a matter of (mindless) practice ie. doing it over and over again hoping for improvement. Instead sometimes you need to set aside some time for serious thinking through and then testing a few strategies in order to develop a methodology that will work for the way you like to sketch. That is exactly what I have been doing in the last few weeks. For those who have done my Buildings course, I am using a modified version of my Seven Step System and looking for ways to fade the structure and details.

Finally, just a quick reminder that as well as preparing for the Chicago Symposium, I am also preparing for the re-opening of my Buildings course. I will be sharing some free mini lessons via email to everyone on the Buildings waiting list – sign up now so you don’t miss out on the fun!


  • Debbe Rigney-Hays says:

    I’m a three hour train ride from Chicago. I go often. I love reading of Chicago with you! These are places I’m familiar with, one way or another.

  • Joan Tavolott says:

    I like how you simplified those very modern skyscrapers in the first sketch. I have difficulty doing that…and trying to resist putting in every pane of glass. lol Hopefully your class in Chicago will help me over that hurdle.

  • Don venson says:

    Hey Liz, seeing as you are going to be in the relative “neighborhood,” you should spend a day or two in Detroit! Make some sketches of the city as it is being rebuilt. It’s a great city!! If you do decide to come to Detroit, please let me know, it would be amazing to meet you!???? Have fun in the states!

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