Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NYC Travel Sketches (No.1) - Morningside Heights

Squeezed between the Upper West Side and Harlem

My art journal Morningside Heights sketches (sketched from photographs)
We visited New York City from September 24-28, 2015 and stayed in the neighbourhood of Morningside Heights for the very first time. We usually stay in midtown and have never ventured farther north than the Upper West Side. Our Morningside Heights stay was delightful!

"New Yorkers have several nicknames for Morningside Heights: the "Academic Acropolis," "Bloomingdale Village," or as the late George Carlin (who grew up there) once cynically put it, "White Harlem."

Stretching from West 106th to 125th Streets, Morningside Heights is primarily known as the home of highly revered institutions such as Barnard College, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Manhattan School of Music, St. Luke's Hospital, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and Riverside Church." (Source:

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine was across the street from where our beautiful Morningside Heights airbnb was located and we were also near the Hungarian Pastry shop (that we visited every morning for our coffee)

The Hungarian Pastry shop

My "Hungarian Pastry Shop" art journal sketch
(sketched from a photograph)

Our airbnb hostesses Elisabeth and Jenn recommended the Hungarian Pastry shop and we are so grateful they did. The pastry selection is incredible and the staff are warm and friendly.

We later discovered that the pastry shop is listed as one of The 10 Best Restaurants in Morningside Heights and that Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley was hanging out there in late September too ("looking ever so somber")

NY mag writes: "Though not an official outpost of Columbia University, the Hungarian Pastry Shop has been a de facto lounge for hyperliterate students and uptown writers since JFK was in the White House. Now armed with laptops as well as textbooks (not to mention iPods), patrons fuel up on succulent old-world pastries like tart, flaky cherry strudel and Viennese sacher torte, chased with bottomless cups of American-style coffee. And while the lighting may be too dim to foster serious study, the cozy ambiance invites dawdling. The shop’s informal protocol hasn’t changed for decades: Place your order at the front counter, whether buying tiramisu to go or staying all day."

My "Coffee menu" art journal sketch
(sketched from a photograph)

This friendly, family-run shop is famous for its Hungarian coffee (which we did not have time to try and that we MUST have next time) and the shop is equally famous for its view of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine along Amsterdam

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

My Cathedral art journal sketch (sketched from a photograph)

I went into the cathedral early Saturday morning before picking up our coffee at the Hungarian Pastry shop because I had learned on facebook of the expected passing of a wonderful woman (family member) back in Canada - Linda (Landers) Turpin on Friday September 25, 2015.

I needed to visit a spiritual space to say some silent prayers and I didn't really care what denomination the cathedral was (Episcoplian).

As I wandered in, I was awestruck by the incredible size of this cathedral. It is apparently the largest gothic cathedral in the world (the fourth largest church building in the world) and could easily swallow the world-famous Notre Dame or Chartres cathedrals.

The Cathedral spans three centuries—founded in the 19th; built in the 20th; continually unfolding into the 21st. It was under significant construction when I was there.

Next time, I would like to spend some extra time on the 11.3 acre grounds of the cathedral which includes:
  • a pulpit lawn with its 40 foot-high gothic spire of carved Daytona stone. 
  • a biblical garden with  covered benches, shady trees, and bubbling fountain 
  • a peace fountain a 40 foot-high bronze sculpture sculpted by Cathedral Artist-in-Residence Greg Wyatt to mark the 200th anniversary of the Diocese of New York in 1985
  • birds and bees including peacocks, (who go by Jim, Harry, and Phil) and a hive of 15,000 Apis melliflera, a gentle and mild-tempered species of honeybee.
Peace fountain art journal sketch
(sketched from a photograph)

Places To Go in Morningside Heights  Next Time

We did NOT have enough time in four days to go everywhere we would have liked to, so we are building our "NYC bucket list" for next time.

Our Morningside Heights bucket list includes:

Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner 
(Earworm warning: Ditty hard to get out of your head)

Morningside Heights Neighborhood Links

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meeting the NYC Urban Sketchers and Mark Leibowitz

I had the joy and privilege of meeting up with the New York City urban sketching group in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday September 27, 2015.  I arrived later than the 10:00 start because I had underestimated the amount of time it would take to ride the subway from Morningside Heights to Brooklyn Heights (and subway repairs on Sundays).

Thankfully, Mark Leibowitz responded quickly to my frantic email and helped me locate where the sketching group was when I arrived late on the Brooklyn Heights promenade.

NYC urban sketcher
The weather was beautiful, a low 20°C with a nice gentle breeze from the East river and some spectacular clouds that looked like they had been painted in watercolours over the Manhattan skyline.

There were quite a few sketchers seated all along the promenade and they were well into their sketches by the time that I arrived. I got busy photographing the sketchers in all in their various locations as I looked for Mark.

NYC urban sketchers on the Brooklyn Heights promenade
(Brooklyn bridge in the background)
One of the first sketchers that I came across (Joan Tavolott) had positioned herself on the promenade overlooking the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expy) with all the vehicles driving towards her!

I thought 'WOW! - That would be so incredibly hard to sketch' and I wished I could see her finished sketch at the show and tell later in the day (but I had to leave early).

NYC urban sketcher Joan Tavolott sketching the BQE
Lucky for me, on the USk NYC blog, all of Joan Tavolott's sketches from Sunday September 27 were posted! She did an amazing job capturing the BQE as you can see in the screenshot below.

Visit her NYC USk blog post to see all of her sketches from Sunday at this link:

NYC urban sketcher Joan Tavolott's blog post
"Fun in Brooklyn Heights"

I wish that I could have taken Rick (far right below) and Muriel from Vancouver (far left below) up on their welcoming offer to go for lunch but that will have to wait for my next NYC urban sketching meetup next year. I am so grateful for how welcoming everyone was.

More NYC urban sketchers on the Booklyn Heights promenade
The highlight of this meetup for me was meeting Mark Leibowitz. Mark is the regional administrator for the NYC USk (which meets usually twice weekly making it one of the most active groups in the world!)

At the 2015 Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore last July, Mark was a member of the faculty and delivered Lecture 3: How to Run a Successful Local Urban Sketchers Group.

For a FB photo of Mark delivering his lecture at USk Singapore 2015, visit

Mark and I discussed starting an official Ottawa Urban Sketchers group. I talked about the great group of Ottawa artists/sketchers who participated all summer in the "Ottawa Alley project" and how it had culminated in an art show in an alley called "Forgotten Spaces". Mark loved that!

And I spoke to Mark about the 48th Worldwide sketchcrawl that I organized in Ottawa on July 25th, 2015

I talked about how much I loved the sketch organizing model that the NYC USk had built:

  • anyone who sketches in New York City is welcome. Even visitors to NYC like me!
  • a reminder is posted: "There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome"
  • announcements of sketch meetups are posted in both the google group and on the group blog
  • the announcements of sketch meetups are in clear language with maps and photos and contact information (to see what I mean, check out the "SUNDAY: Sketch Brooklyn Heights" announcement here:
  • anyone can organize/post a sketch outing
  • anyone can contribute posts to the group blog
  • folks are encouraged to share their sketches to the blog, or flickr group

Mark is a member of the USk Membership Committee and he has kindly offered to help us establish an official Ottawa regional chapter and I am looking forward to working on this with him and the other artists here in Ottawa.

Me and Mark Leibowitz
When I finally settled down to sketch, I knew there was very little time left. I knew I wanted to sketch the iconic vista of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and all the way to the majestic Brooklyn Bridge and that was going to take a full two page spread in my art journal so I took a seat on the park bench and got busy sketching.

And here is my sketch of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights promenade. For the sky I saturated my art journal with water and then dropped in some pthalo blue (PB15) to get the beautiful wisps of clouds in the sky. I had so much fun sketching this and wish I could have continued sketching the "rows of historic 19th century brownstones, leafy streets, lush gardens and charming dead-end alleyways" all the way down Montague Street in the afternoon.

My sketch of  Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights promenade
This "Manhattan skyline" sketch above and a sketch of my daughter having coffee with me Whole Foods at 97/Columbus are the only sketches I did in accordance with the Urban Sketchers manifesto (see below). The other ten pages in my art journal were sketched from iPhone photos while I was there (and stopped for coffee or relaxing with morning coffee at our Morningside Heights airbnb)

I will post my other sketches in seperate blog posts later.

I really need a few weeks (not four days) in NYC to do everything I love to do in NYC! I can't wait for our next trip!

NYC USk Links:

Urban Sketchers Manifesto

Gratitude for Four Wonderful Days in NYC

I arrived home late last night from New York City (NYC). I managed to take 700 photos and I created twelve pages of sketches in my art journal in four short days (September 24-28, 2015).

It will take me a couple of days to sort through them all and organize them into blog posts but in the mean time, I want to express my most sincere gratitude to the following folks:

Firstly, I am thankful for my life partner Don (who never takes vacations) for giving my daughter and me this gift of a vacation trip to NYC. He set aside the money for us to do this trip back in June 2015 so that it would not be a question of "IF" we would be visiting NYCin 2015, but rather a question of "WHEN" we would vacation in NYC.

I am also extremely thankful for Elisabeth (and her sister Jenn) for accommodating my daughter and me in a most beautiful Morningside Heights airbnb apartment. I am also thankful for all of their wonderful restaurant/coffee shop/bagel shop suggestions and their kind accommodations to our special needs around arrival and departure times. Apartment 2B was a safe, beautiful and magical place to stay and for that I am sincerely grateful.

Grateful for Apt. 2B 
I am thankful for Mark Leibowitz and the NYC urban sketching group for their wonderful, warm welcome and the great time I had joining them (ever so briefly) at their Brooklyn Heights sketching outing on Sunday September 27, 2015.

And who knew, as a bonus, that I would be witness to President Obama arriving in NYC on the Marine One helicopter while sketching as well!?

Grateful for Mark Leibowitz and the NYC Urban Sketching group for the warm welcome.
And last, but in no ways least, I am grateful for my daughter Meagan who is the most amazing travel partner and who loves New York City as much as I do..... if not more (but she is much better at directions and knows all the best places to go).

I am grateful for Meagan's gifts of tickets to the ballet Swan Lake at Lincoln Center and a visit to the Top of the Rock on our last night to catch the sun setting over Manhattan.

And I am so happy for Meagan that we sat beside her ballet idol Misty Copeland at Ladurée SOHO on our last day in NYC!

Grateful for my daughter Meagan

I am so lucky and so blessed.

French proverb: " Gratitude is the memory of the heart"

Grateful for the beautiful sunset on our last night in NYC

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New York City - Here I Come!

I am excited to be going to New York City again. It has been over one year (March 2014) and, instead of travelling there in February or March, I will be there in September when there are leaves on the trees and flowers in the gardens. Imagine: Central Park with leaves! That's so exciting!

"DÈRIVE": a spontaneous journey where the traveller
leaves their life behind for a time
to let the spirit of the landscape and architecture
attract and move them

New York City Urban Sketchers

I have made contact with the amazing Mark Leibowitz - New York City Urban Sketcher  - and he has added me to their urban sketching email group. This group is incredibly welcoming towards out-of-town sketchers who are visiting the great city of New York - like janififi who was visiting and sketched Highbridge Park. And it is a busy group of sketchers!

On Saturday September 19, 2015 the group sketched the Gowanus Canal

Mark and other New York urban sketchers will be sketching in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday and I plan to join them for part of the day!

Here are some more links to NYC urban sketchers group:
In any case, I'll be carrying my sketchbook with me like I have in previous years' visits to NYC and I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my old sketches.

My old sketchbooks

My Old Sketchbook Memories of NYC

I started going to New York City (NYC) in 2009 as part of an NGO group (Canadian Labour Congress) to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). I went every year from 2009-2014 for two weeks (except 2014 when I only went for one week). In my off hours, I wandered NYC and took pictures and sketched.

In years past, I used my sketchbooks more as a travel journal to keep track of where I went every day while I was in New York City. I pasted in maps, receipts, pieces of brochures and tickets etc. and I would squeeze in a tiny sketch here and there (mostly on weekends). 

Because my daughter's birthday falls in March and The UNCSW fell in March, her birthday gift was an air ticket to spend her birthday in one of her favourite cities. The busy UNCSW schedule meant that I was time-pressured and busy with meetings on my previous visits but this year my trip is strictly for pleasure and I can't wait

Here are some old NYC travel sketches from previous years:


My UN Letter of Confirmation 2009

My daughter flew into NYC for the weekend to join me as a birthday present (2009)


Took my daughter to see
Daniel Radcliffe in
How To Succeed In Business
(and waited to get Daniel's

John Lennon's Dakota and then Strawberry Fields and
Hell's Kitchen Flea Market


Sunday March 14, 2012 - It was my
"You've Got Mail" tour of NYC


My daughter drew the sketch of me and her on top of Rockefeller Center
so I added it to a New Yorker cover in my journal

This page was mostly map but has so much meaning for me
Our day started at the Abraco Coffee Shop (had to sketch the cool coffee makers)
I sketched the piano player at Washington Square while he played "Au clair de la lune"
And we walked the High Line

Grateful to see Tom Hanks perform in a
Nora Ephron play and then grabbed rainbow cake at
the 2nd Avenue Deli

Thrilled to get a new picture n my UN identification


A birthday celeration for my daughter at  Ladurée
and witnessing a historic performance of "Waiting for Godot
with  Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart 

Visited the Tenement Museum and loved it

My last session of the
UN Commission on the Status of Women (2014)

I am excited about my upcoming visit to New York city and I wish I could count on going every year for a couple of weeks to sketch but NYC it is a pretty expensive place to visit. This year we are staying at an airbnb, flying on points and taking the train (Amtrak) back through the Adirondacks to Montreal. (It should be spectacularly beautiful!)

I will post my sketches when I get back!

If only my yellow lab Lexington could fit in my suitcase

I absolutely love the opening title sequence of "You've Got Mail" It is only 3-4 minutes long but I believe it to be one of the BEST opening titles to a movie ever and it always gets me excited about NYC.

Please visit "Art of The Title" if you are interested in learning more about the genius of Nora Ephron and the making of "You've Got Mail" 

P.S. the Pope is in NYC on Thursday and Friday !

P.S.  60,000 folks would be on the great Lawn of Central Park on Saturday 
for the Global Citizen concert while we are there. Look for us in the crowds!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Life Drawing 19 - Sailor's Delight

On September 22, 2015 from 7-10 pm The Atomic Rooster hosted 
"Life Drawing 19 - Sailor's Delight"

The live "sailor models" for this week's sketching session included 
the artist who won "best sketch" at "Life Drawing 18: Portraits 2
(blogged about previously here: 
and her partner.

"The couple"

The three models posed together making it quite a challenge to finish in 20 minutes!

Great models and a great group of sketchers

Looking forward to Life Drawing # 19 in October!

Atomic Rooster - The Annual Cock Show

The Atomic Rooster hosts many interesting events including art events and the "Rooster" bar and restaurant is conveniently located on Bank St at Somerset St West in Ottawa.

September calendar
Most recently they hosted the "Cock Show" vernissage which I attended. It was a full house with over fifty creative versions and interpretations of the proud rooster (also known as a cockerel or cock, Gallus gallus).

You can look at the rooster art on the Atomic Rooster Facbook page (see below)

It was a full house for the "Cock Show" vernissage
at the Atomic Rooster in Ottawa on September 15, 2015

Sample of the 62 coque-y interpretations 
of the mighty rooster upon our walls
(Please note, the photos do not do justice to the real deal.)
The Cock Show runs from Sept 13 - Oct 18 and is a must-see exhibit. It is the Atomic Rooster's biggest and brightest show yet!

VOTE for your favorites by 'liking' the photo of the piece on the Atomic Rooster's facebook page The piece with the most online votes will be given a spot among the finalists from the Atomic Rooster's in-house voting.

 The overall winning artist will be given a cash prize of $200, plus the image will reproduced on a limited run of custom house coasters.

Congrats to all this artists this year, together you've assembled a spectacular flock!!!!!

My Previous Posts 

My Rooster Art 
(maybe next year?)

Art Journal July 26, 2015

Unfinished acrylic on canvas

Art Journal July 26

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Daily Sketch

My daily sketch of Mathieu Trudel (aka @MawtTrood) sketching "Forgotten Spaces"

My sketch of "Forgotten Spaces" (note rainbow on page)
Noodler's Raven Black ink and watercolour

What Mawt Trood was sketching 
(while I was sketching him)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Forgotten Spaces" at Chinatown Remixed!

The summer 2015 Ottawa Alley Project has ended and I miss it already. 

Artist/illustrator Colin White conceptualized the Ottawa "Alley Project" after leading an Ottawa Jane's Walk called "Illustrating Change on Bank St." with Liam Mooney.

Throughout the summer, a group of artists, illustrators and urban sketchers explored and sketched many of the alleyways in Ottawa. This has culminated in a show on Saturday September 19, 2015 as part of Chinatown Remixed on Somerset Street West entitled "Forgotten Spaces"

Here are some photographs from the show "Forgotten Spaces" that was held appropriately in Ottawa's Chinatown in a small alley between Monopolatte and the Spa building during the annual Chinatown Remixed. (#9 on the map)

Wheatpasting art for Chinatown Remixed "Forgotten Spaces" venue
"Forgotten Spaces"

Folks enjoying the sketches

Colin White - "Forgotten Spaces" creator

I have been blessed to meet the following amazing Ottawa artists (and many others) this past summer while working on this project:

The Artists
Special edition Chinatown Remixed Phoenix
by artist Kristina Corre of goodthingsottawa. 

Best Instagram (screencapture) from @colinwhite