Chicago Symposium: on-site workshop prep

One of my favourite parts of going to an Urban Sketchers symposium is arriving a few days early, both to prepare for my workshops and also to watch to excitement build as sketchers arrive. This year in Chicago was my fifth time attending the event, so it’s become a bit like a college reunion, as one by one I find friends sketching on every corner of the city.

When I visited the city a few years ago, I didn’t have much time to draw, but this time I built in a full day to sketch in the location of my workshop (The Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park). If time permits, I like to do this so I can check out the light at different hours of the day, the views, the noise, and the people traffic. Thanks to great organizers at USk, my location was ideal for a workshop called “Trees and the City”. We were surrounded by a variety of greenery and had just the right amount of architecture to complete the picture. As for the people, it was a fairly quiet green space every day I was there, except for the initial prep day when I was surrounded by dozens and dozens of people staring at their phones. It didn’t take much research to find out that it was a Pokémon Go live event!

My first prep sketch was of the view north from the park, with the Prudential Buildings in the centre, the Trump tower on the left and the Aon Center on the right. As a resident of a smaller city, it was pretty difficult to wrap my head around the height of the Chicago skyscrapers, but I was a distance away so that made it a little easier.


My second sketch was a view of the pedestrian traffic along Michigan Avenue as seen from the park. I like painting from a shaded spot, so I often end up using trees as a framing device when I look at building facades.


Neither of these sketches came home with me, so the only photos I have of them are the quick shots I took on location. The first sketch went to the very generous couple who gave me a ticket to see the hit play “Hamilton” and the second one ended up in the silent auction on the last night of the symposium.

34 Comments on “Chicago Symposium: on-site workshop prep”

  1. Bernadette Russ says:

    Oh my, I so admire the way you can take a complicated scene and turn it into such a simple, uncomplicated beautiful art work. It is exquisite! You are greatly blessed in many ways.

    Thank you for sharing. Bernadette

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Geri Dunne says:

    Lucky people!!


  3. Bernadette says:

    I forgot to ask in my first comment….what size are the paintings?


  4. Barbra Joan says:

    Shari, you are still one of the best. I have yoir class but would love to be there in person one day. Your sketches here are amazing.


  5. nkvorka says:

    Ah Sweet Home Chicago, wonderful job portraying the city. I no longer live there, I did grow up there however. Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathleen says:

    I felt so lucky to grab a seat in your quickly sold out class in Chicago! As a native, you have truly captured our city in a most beautiful way ~ showing scale of trees and people and the exciting architecture. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on simplifying shapes, color mixing and your many examples to inspire us! We would love for you to come back and stay a little longer! 3-day workshop???

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Kathleen. It was really a pleasure meeting you too. I thought of you today while I was out sketching boats! I loved Chicago and would love to come back for a longer workshop!


  7. Ayesha says:

    Wonderful sketch and loved reading your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wow, really so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. anne farmer says:

    I particularly like the first one, it has a bit of a collagey, postery look.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have no clue in the world how you do what you do, but I’m so grateful that you share it with people like me! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Judy Sopher says:

    Would love to have been there and watch you paint. These are lovely as always. Do you often sell your work at a workshop?

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Judy. I do sell my work at workshops, especially if it is done on loose paper. It’s a little harder to sell when I paint in sketchbooks because I’m reluctant to cut sheets out of a book. But I am trying to work more on paper and less in books for this reason.


  12. Monique says:

    Always in admiration:)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. April says:

    They are REALLY lovely. I am sure the owners are v happy. I LOVED getting to watch part of your workshop that MikeD broadcast. You explain things so well. Are you going to share your handout from Chicago….she says with a hopeful look and fingers crossed :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi April, Thanks so much! The handout will be shared through the Urban Sketchers website. Maybe in the Symposium section. The live feed with Mike D was supposed to be only 2 minutes but it lasted much longer. Glad to see that too.


  14. in says:

    Incredible detail!


  15. Tracye says:

    I really enjoy your beautiful work. As a native of Chicago (now in Texas) I can really appreciate this view. I remember you from the Santo Domingo workshop, I do hope you will be at the Porto symposium next year!


  16. rosjenke says:

    I’m just catching up on all I missed in the weeks I’ve been absent. This is superb.


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