It’s that time again, time to pause and reflect on my recent trip (to Chicago and Montreal). This is my third trip this year – you might like to read my reflections from my trip to Europe in May/June and New Zealand in January.
Let’s get straight into it:
1. More beautiful in real life
Chicago has always been in the top 5 American cities that I have wanted to visit – as an architect there were a lot of important buildings I wanted to see. But my interests have changed since I’ve started sketching and I am less interested in the hero buildings and more interested in streets and a sense of place. I just couldn’t get a feel of this from the photos of Chicago I saw beforehand. I mainly saw skyline pictures of the city and I couldn’t connect with them – just a fancy modern American city.
So it was great to arrive and discover my favourite bits in the city – in particular the beautiful river and the spaces it creates, and the gritty elevated train line. But there were so many other parts I loved as well and slightly ironically, I did become very attached to the skyline – the parts (the individual buildings) and the whole.
2. Conquering Skyscrapers
As I have mentioned before, architecture with lots of repetition is not my favourite building type to draw so I’m really happy that I now feel comfort sketching them in my own loose style. Refer to my workshop report for full details.
A USK symposium trip is not really a vacation for me – and each year it just gets bigger and more demanding. The teaching component (this year with an extra demo) takes a lot of prep and energy (these days me my friends and I try to conserve energy and get back to our hotel rooms before 9pm each night).
Even though I turned up in Chicago really early this year, I found that more symposium related activities were filling up my time… and I’m not even on a USK committee! For example, this year I had a TV appearance thrown into the mix (more about that separately, I promise) but there were a lot of other things that I was coordinating during the non-symposium days. I had to be switched on the whole time!
And then my 5 days in Montreal were jammed packed as well – in the best possible way! Sketching hard during the day and talking art in the evening!
I loved every minute of it, but it was tiring and I found it hard to find re-charge time.
4. A few good-old sketchcrawl days
But despite the craziness, I had a few wonderful highly productive (but relaxing at the same time) sketchcrawl days with my friends. My USK friends and I seem to have passed the ‘non-stop obsessive sketching stage’ and end up making the most of our time together catching up on life and work, and swapping notes about how to survive as a full time artist. These catch up sessions are very important and helpful but it was really special to have a few of these old-style fun sketching days during this trip.
5. Instagram stories are the best
The fact that I didn’t get a chance to do any blog posts and also struggled to post images to my Instagram feed was a sign of how ‘full-on’ this trip was. I just didn’t have any time in the evenings to do much social media. However, grabbing 15 seconds, a few times during the day, to record some video was so much fun! There were lots of special guest appearances.
Thanks to everyone who followed along!
For those that missed out, I hope to throw all the snippets together into a youtube video soon.
6. Connecting artists with their hometown
It’s hard to put into words how rich the experience was to visit the local neighbourhoods of Marc Taro Holmes and Shari Blaukopf. It was so amazing to walk (or drive) the streets and see their own local areas through the lens of their artwork. I had a realization of how different the Point Claire area is (where Shari is) from old town Montreal (where Marc sketches) and how in many ways their style relates to their neighbourhod..
It was a big lightbulb moment for me: I am best known for my teacups and Baroque (Italian Baroque) buildings – but how much does ‘Sydney’ relate to my sketching style? Right at the moment (when I’m not travelling) I am not really sketching Sydney. I need to work out how to schedule some ‘sketching Sydney’ time into my daily life. Sigh! I say that all the time but never do anything about it!
7. Art on the wall
The last takeaway is in direct response to visiting both Marc and Shari’s homes and loving how much art they have on their walls (their own and others). My walls are all blank at the moment and I need to do something about that.
This photo is of the artwork above the bed I slept on in the Holmes home.
Well, there you have it. These 7 points are the things that are most prominent in my head at the moment, and it’s interesting that they are not as ‘art-related’ as they normally are. Perhaps that is a good reflection of the trip: although I was sketching a lot, there was little time for personal reflection on my work.
And another aspect is that I have returned home and immediately jumped into ‘hustle mode’. Note: ‘hustle’ is being used in the modern sense of good intensive work to achieve a big goal, and not the traditional ‘hustle and bustle’ which is more negative.
I am flat out preparing to relaunch Buildings in a very limited time frame. Why? Because I have another trip (yes! another one!) coming up in under a month. No teaching in this trip (it’s a trip just for me!) but I am working with some local friends to organise a public sketchmeet day in San Francisco on Saturday 23 September. No more details are available at the moment so stay tuned for that. Please note: I will not be available for any other sketching events while in California.