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


  1. Great meeting you Cindi. Come again to Brooklyn and maybe we'll meet up in Ottawa sometime!

  2. That sound great Muriel! It was so great to meet you as well. Next time - we must definitely do lunch!