Saturday, September 30, 2017

What I Learned From Shari Blaukopf

The Urban Sketchers community will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary this November 11, 2017.

The Urban Sketchers (USk) movement was started on Flickr in 2007 by journalist Gabriel ("Gabi") Campanario.

If you follow urban sketchers on social media you will know that there are quite a few sketchers that really stand out as exceptional and Montreal artist/urban sketcher Shari Blaukopf is one of them for sure!

So I made a request through USk Education Director Mário Linhares  to have Shari put on a workshop (the same workshop that she had previously given at the 2017 Urban Sketcher's Symposium in Chicago) called "Trees and the City"in Ottawa in September.

With thanks to Shari (who is incredibly busy teaching in Montreal) and Mario NOT ONE but TWO workshops were offered and sold-out within hours. The workshops were held on Saturday September 30, 2017 at Sappers Staircase on the Rideau Canal and the weather was amazing!

Sappers Staircase, Ottawa
As an added bonus, Winsor & Newton sponsored Shari's workshop (as they did at the 2017 Urban Sketcher's Symposium in Chicago) and gave each participant a beautiful bag with watercolours.

Shari greeting sketchers and handing out Winsor & Newton bags
Every sketcher received a Cotman Pocket Sketch Box and tubes of artist quality watercolours
What I Learned From Shari Blaukopf

You can read the FULL details (objectives, learning goals, schedule, evaluations, etc) about the workshop at this link  

What I want to do with this blog post is share a few photos from the day and some wonderful take-aways that I got from this great workshop.

Shari Blaukopf welcoming sketchers to her workshop
Our Classroom View

The view from our outdoor classroom
 My Notes: Part 1

Handout: Shari Blaukopf workshop "Trees and the City" (Tree Shapes p.2)
Using her own sketches for examples, Shari described her approaches to painting trees
  • "Leave holes in trees for the birds to go through"
  • All of the branches together = width of trunk
  • Start with drawing the trunk
  • Don't stop tree trunk at ground - extend into shadow
  • You can say a lot about trees without drawing every leaf
Shari's talked about her sketching equipment
We did the following exercises
  • Sketching to warm up - 5 tree shapes
  • Mixing Greens - mix warm/cool; light/dark greens using colours in your palette
  • Painting tree shapes: doing the whole shape of the tree in one go
  • Creating multiple thumbnail/value sketches
  • Completing a sketch of trees and buildings
Handout: Shari Blaukopf workshop "Trees and the City" (P.2)

 Part 2: Composition with trees

Shari mentioned water colour teaacher Edgar A. Whitney who spent less time teaching technique and emphasized the importance of good design. See Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting By Edgar A. Whitney

Source: Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting By Edgar A. Whitney (p.28)
Handout: Shari Blaukopf workshop "Trees and the City": (Composing With Trees p.4)
Source: Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting By Edgar A. Whitney (p29)

Warm-up sketches
While Sharii is colour mixing greens, everyone takes taking notes
Shari demonstrates painting simple tree shapes
Demo: Simple tree shapes

Exercise No. 2.: Workshop sketches - simple tree shapes
Shari talking about painting values
Shari's value painting
Shari talking about composition and thumbnail sketches
Shari's thumbnail sketch
There are five Urban Sketcher groups in Canada  
(Four of the five Canadian USk groups had participants at today's workshop)

Montreal Urban Sketchers
Ottawa Urban Sketchers
Toronto Urban Sketchers
Waterloo Urban Sketchers 
Vancouver Urban Sketchers 

My Work In Progress

My composition/thumbnail sketch

Decided on perpendicular and this is as far as I managed to get before the next session started.
Because I ran out of time, I plan to head back to Sappers Staircase at the same time (11:00 - 12:00 am) to finish this.

I really enjoyed Shari's workshop and learned so much. When you spend a lot of time sketching cities, trees really give life to the bricks, concrete and stone.

It's really amazing how much information Shari managed to impart upon us all in such a short time.
If you ever have a chance to be in one of her workshops, I highly recommend it!

Happy sketching!


  1. Thanks! I really appreciate your thorough critique and examples! So many courses to take, it's hard to decide between them.

    1. I would highly recommend any workshop being offered by Shari!