Today, I’m excited to feature one of my favorites artists, Shari Blaukopf (follow her WordPress blog here), who was born and is still living in Montreal, Canada. Shari’s Craftsy class was the first class I took last summer and it inspired me to try painting daily, and ultimately start this blog! (Check out the links below for special discounts on her Craftsy classes for readers of Doodlewash. She’s an amazing teacher and I highly recommend taking her classes if you haven’t yet!). Many of you are already fans of Shari’s work , so it’s a pleasure to feature her story here on Doodlewash!
My painting story is all starts and stops. I began painting in watercolour when I was about twelve years old, studied with some of the best teachers at the time (Edgar A. Whitney, Frank Webb, Skip Laurence, Milford Zornes) and exhibited for years — that is, until my two sons were born. Then I took a long break. Not from art, really, because I studied graphic design in university and that was always how I made a living. But with children and a freelance design business taking up most of my time, there was never any time to fit in drawing or painting.
About four years ago, I wanted to bring drawing back into my life and, as a way to commit to drawing a few minutes every day, I started a daily sketch blog. For the first month or so, I posted a drawing every day. One evening during this time, I was searching on the Internet for other sketch blogs and urbansketchers.org came up. That was a turning point. I found and eventually connected with other sketchers in my own city and around the world, and soon began writing texts to accompany my drawings — a few lines or paragraphs about things that happened to me while I was sketching, about my painting process, and about successes and failures in my work. That blog has grown quite a bit since its inception in 2011. I now have close to 5000 followers who receive my (almost) daily posts in their inbox.
Urban sketching has helped me discover not just the places where I travel to, but also my own city. I grew up in Montreal, so I knew my city pretty well. But, like most people, I never stopped to really look at things, as if for the first time. Urban sketching enables you to take the time to really observe the details of a place, to listen to the sounds around you and to meet the people in the neighbourhoods you’re sketching. In the winter I paint quite a bit in my car (sketchbook propped up on my steering wheel, water bottle in the cup holder, palette on the passenger seat), but in the spring and summer I work outside whenever I can.
A few years ago Marc Taro Holmes and I started a Montreal chapter of Urban Sketchers. At our first sketch outing we counted seven people, including us. Now the group just keeps getting bigger and we regularly have thirty or forty people come out to our events. Urban Sketchers is very much about sketching together and sharing work, so it’s a great feeling to see this group grow.
Several years ago I gave up my freelance design work and now I spend my winters teaching graphic design to college students. I feel very lucky to teach at a place where they support and encourage my painting and sketching, and to have a schedule that allows me to give workshops in the summers. I give classes both on my own, when time permits, and through the Urban Sketchers Workshops Program. I’ve taught all over the United States and Canada, as well as in Europe. Last summer I taught in Singapore, and in the summer of 2016 I’ll be teaching in Galway, Ireland, as well as at the USk Symposium in Manchester, England.
In 2015, it was a great thrill to be invited to create some video courses for Craftsy.com. That was quite exciting because I was able to put together teaching materials based on the processes and techniques I use in my daily sketches and workshops. I love the Craftsy platform because the two-and-a-half hour classes are broken down into seven lessons, and you can watch them as often as you like. It’s a very interactive process where people get to ask me questions and post their work, too.
For readers of Doodlewash, here are discount links to my online courses:
I share my work both through my blog and website. The blog is still a chronicle of my daily sketching experiments, whereas the website has galleries of finished work as well as a little shop for paintings. I change my sketching materials quite often, but most of what I use is listed on my blog under the “Sketching Materials” tab.
If I could offer one piece of advice to people just starting out in sketching, it would be to make drawing a daily priority. Carry a little sketchbook with you wherever you go, and even if you only have a few minutes to draw while waiting at the dentist’s office or in a café, your drawings will improve over time. And check out urbansketchers.org to see if there is a chapter in your city or town. It’s so much more fun to draw with other people than on your own.