Workshop rewind: Small sketchbook, big scene at Hing Hay Park

Hing Hay Park is just a small square. It only takes a half-a-block in the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown/International District. But the colorful place lives up to what its name means: Park of pleasurable gatherings.

I recently spent a pleasant Saturday morning there teaching my pocket urban sketching class, a 3.5 hour crash course in location drawing with a minimal set of tools: a small notebook, a simple pen and a portable watercolor kit.

The park’s main feature, a 20-foot-tall red arch made of multiple angular panels, was a perfect subject to learn the basics of sight measuring and practice scale, proportion and composition.

Those were some of the key lessons I covered during the workshop. Using just a pocket sketchbook and a pen, I demonstrated how to capture close-up urban objects —a street lamp or a kiosk— and big scenes —a wide panoramic of the square. I also gave an overview of my urban sketching tools and a quick demo about effective ways of using watercolor.

I first taught this class last year at the Amazon campus and will teach it again this summer at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto. My goal is to inspire both novice and seasoned artists to never leave home without a pocket notebook. It’s easy to carry and easy to whip out at any given moment to create sketches that can be done fairly fast. Drawing on a small notebook is not as intimidating as creating larger works of art. A pocket notebook is a great tool to take visual notes that can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like depending on the situation.

This workshop was part of the Urban Sketchers 10×10 Educational Program, which offers teaching and learning opportunities across the world for people interested in urban sketching. I’m grateful to USk Education Director Mario Linhares for creating the program and to fellow urban sketchers Tina Koyama and Jane Wingfield, the dedicated volunteers who organized the classes locally, for putting Seattle in the USk 10×10 map.

Here are a few sketches and testimonials from participants:

“The workshop was very well organized, with a sequence of activities that built on each other. I was surprised how much we could fit in such a small space, and I discovered the versatility of the humble ballpoint pen. I still carry both the pocket sketchbook and the pen with me at all time as a very minimal sketching set. I particularly enjoyed from the composition tips: how to decide what the sketch is about, how to compose the elements in the sketch, and how to measure so that everything fits on the page. This is something that I can apply regardless of the size of the sketchbook I’m using.” —Antonella

“A fun, exciting learning experience with a great teacher!” —Victoria S.

“Thanks for the informative and vibrant class last Saturday. A wonderful day and a real fun site to sketch.” —Charles

Workshop photos by Tina Koyama