Ten years of USK Symposium Breakthroughs

April 13, 2020 | Leave your thoughts

I’m so happy to be connecting with my sketching friends from around the world this week as part of a Virtual Event hosted by Urban Sketchers Hong Kong– #usksketchwithhongkong. This is in lieu of the 2020 USK Symposium which was scheduled for this weekend in Hong Kong.

I feel extremely privileged to have attended all ten Urban Sketchers Symposium (Orling Dominguez from Santo Domingo is the only other person who has been to them all too!) and so I thought it would be fun to revisit some highlights and breakthroughs from all ten! From Portland in 2010 to Amsterdam in 2019.

It’s impossible to summarise a symposium into a few bullet points as so many amazing things occur before, during and after an Urban Sketchers Symposium, but these are the first thoughts that came into my head.


1. Portland (OR, USA) 2010

  • Gaining confidence to sketch on location – and this serves me well for the rest of my 11 week trip
  • Encouragement to draw more in perspective (thanks Frank Ching and Gerard Michel) and how to include more context in my sketch.

See more Portland articles here

2. Lisbon (Portugal) 2011

  • The importance of story and context – thanks to Nina Johansson and Jose Louro‘s workshop
  • Establishing my ink and wash technique (and meeting so many USKers!)

See more Lisbon articles here

3. Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) 2012

  • Working in shapes with markers – thanks to Eduardo Bajzek
  • Alternating between line and colour and taking risks experimenting (Miguel Herranz and Swasky) – this was a huge breakthrough for me.

See more Santo Domingo articles here

4. Barcelona (Spain) 2013


See more Barcelona articles here

5. Paraty (Brazil) 2014

  •  Prioritising shape over line in order to achieve strong and looser sketches (thanks to Behzad Bagheri, Matthew Brehm and Marc Taro Holmes)
  • Architect over painter: returning to more architectural visual note taking to tell a more varied story – thanks to a wonderful activity by Richard Alomar.

See more Paraty articles here

6. Singapore (Singapore) 2015

  • Making my shape-based watercolour sketches more colourful (thanks to my Singapore friends – especially Paul Wang)
  • Exploring more control and calligraphic marks using a brush pen (Melanie Reim) and a folded pen (Ignatius Yeo)

See more Singapore articles here

7. Manchester (UK) 2016

See more Manchester articles here

8. Chicago (USA) 2017

  • Developing strategies for sketching skyscrapers (not a favourite subject of mine) by simplifying structure and edges
  • More shape exploration and working out how to incorporate traditional watercolour technique into the way I work – thanks to Renato Palmuti and his great workshop

See more Chicago articles here

9. Porto (Portugal) 2018

  • Teaching a sketching workshop with a super complicated baroque building was a dream come true! And as a result of my workshop, I realised how important details are… we need to study them initially, even though we draw the structure first.
  • Introduced to gouache for urban sketching and massively inspired by the work of Maru Godas. (Note: I just need some time to start painting in gouache!)

See more Porto articles here

10. Amsterdam (The Netherlands) 2019

  • Sketching in extreme heat and working out ways to simplify many rows of windows
  • Focusing on story and being inspired by some many different stories from the one place thanks to the participants in my workshops

See more Amsterdam articles here

Wow! what a collection of concepts! I hope you have enjoyed reading this list and that it has sparked some ideas that you can explore. This has been an amazing article to put together as it has given me an opportunity to revisit some many inspiring moments and remind myself of lots of ideas that I could develop further. 

I can’t do a post on the significance of the Urban Sketchers Symposiums without two final thoughts

It’s sad not to be able to hang out with you all this year, but we can still share online. Stay safe my dear friends!


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