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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DestinAsia Magazine Publishes "Hemingway's Cuba" Sketches

I am very happy  to see that DestinAsia, the "award-winning luxury travel and lifestyle magazine for those who love to travel in style in the Asia- Pacific region and beyond," published a feature on my "Hemingway's Cuba" travel and sketches in their most recent issue.  I had provided the materials by invitation a few months ago and wasn't sure of the publishing timetable, so I was happily surprised when it popped up on Patti's Google Alerts.

DestinAsia has published others from our Urban Sketchers family in the past for travel profiles, as well as for article illustrations.  It's great to see a high quality magazine with wide circulation show an interest in our work.

HERE'S THE LINK:  Sketchbook: On Hemingway's Trail in Cuba

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Welcome! Glad you're here!

Sketching on Chartres Street, New Orleans
Greetings all!  Thank you for taking the time to check out "James Richards Sketchbook 2.0!"  I'm really glad you're here.  This website is the still-evolving result of three months of questioning and reassessment of my direction as I embark on the "third third" of my career.

It started innocently enough.  After leaving corporate urban design practice and a tenured university faculty position to pursue a number of exciting, creative endeavors, I realized it was time to order new business cards.  Deciding what to put on those cards to describe what I do had me completely bamboozled.  Artist?  I've never been very comfortable with that.  Urban designer?  Not broad enough.  Educator? Speaker?  Traveler? (A look at my calendar page confirms that I spend more time traveling than in any other activity.)

There was some truth to each label.  And yet each was more true as part of the aggregate rather than as a solitary descriptor.  My "work" touched on all these areas.  So what's the essence of the work?  What do I do?

It was then that I realized I was describing a process rather than a label--an ongoing process of discovery.  Discovering creative design solutions.  Discovering my distinct artistic style and language.  Discovering my voice as a writer.  Discovering the essence of the world's great places. Discovering my own talents.  Helping others discover theirs.

Thinking of my career as process of discovery freed me to look beyond arbitrary divisions between art, design and professionalism, and to claim them all as aspects of a full, creative life.  This feels good.  I'm going to roll with it for now.

When seeking, it's helpful and comforting to find signposts along the way.  I particularly enjoyed this quote by Glenn Murcutt, the brilliant Australian architect who was awarded AIA's Gold Medal in 2009, when asked why he considered drawing so important:

"We are taught that creativity is the most important thing in architecture.  Well, I don't believe that.  I think that the creative process leads to discovery, and discovery is the most important thing.  I'm suggesting that any work of architecture--as opposed to merchandise--has the potential to be discovered, and drawing is the key."

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cool Interview + Full Workshop Handout

Many thanks to Urban Sketchers Communications Director Brenda Murray and writer Ann Schwartzwald for the very nice interview below, which appears in this month's Drawing Attention newsletter on the Urban Sketchers website.  A full color copy of my handout for the Manchester Symposium workshop "Capturing the Crowd" can be accessed through the link at the bottom.  Cheers!


James Richards, Capturing the Crowd

by Ann Schwartzwald

James Richards is an enormously creative artist, author, urban designer, traveler and teacher. He is also an energetic and generous contributor to our Urban Sketchers community.

James grew up in South Louisiana, and lived in and around Fort Worth Texas in the decades since graduating from college. James co-founded Urban Sketchers Texas in 2011, and recently facilitated morphing that chapter into 4 new ones: USk Houston, USk Austin, USk Lubbock, and USk Dallas/Fort Worth. He is now an administrator for USk Dallas/Fort Worth. James also lectures and teaches design, drawing and urban sketching workshops across the U.S. and abroad. The insights and expertise he so enthusiastically shares with others are based on years of experience. 

“I started sketching on location while studying landscape architecture and urban design in college. Travel sketching and my work developed my drawing skills. I joined Urban Sketchers in 2010.” 

James presented a very exciting workshop called “Capturing The Crowd” at the Urban Sketchers Manchester Symposium at the end of July. During this workshop, James taught basic premises and a methodology for drawing crowds of people in public spaces—plazas, streets and the like. 

“A great many sketchers are afraid of attempting to draw people at all,” James said. “I taught a highly accessible, step-by-step method that helps alleviate that anxiety. We learned to develop sketches of urban crowds with life, energy and a convincing sense of depth.” 

James focuses on the importance of connecting people and spaces. 

“Like most of us, I love people-watching. People in public spaces are like the actors on a stage, while the surrounding buildings, trees and other elements serve as the backdrop for all the human stories that are unfolding. At the end of the day, I’m less interested in sketching individuals than I am about capturing that drama, energy and exuberance I feel in great public plazas and streets. That’s impossible to do without including the people that bring the place alive. Over the years I’ve developed a method for doing this rather quickly, which adds to the energy of the sketch”. 

Meet James Richards HERE

Check out his workshop notes HERE

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On the Road: Iceland

Iceland has many moods and faces.  This is a quick sketch in my A4 Moleskine Watercolor Album of Siglufjordur, a scenic fishing village on one of the island's northernmost points.  This was our overnight stop after a five-hour drive from Reykjavik, traversing about half the island's circumference.  More to come...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

DRAW DAT! in New Orleans!

The American Society of Landscape Architects' (ASLA's) Annual Meeting afforded me the opportunity to reassemble my team of world class instructors (Richard Alomar, Chip Sullivan, Bob Chipman) and to lead 40 talented and road-worthy landscape architects on a sketching exploration through the Big Easy we dubbed DRAW DAT!  We were assisted by Cap Caplinger, a New Orleans native and venerable design practioner, who kept us on the discovery route and on the good side of the City's many storied spirits.  I did a number of quick, on-location sketches (top) that will later be developed into mixed media studio paintings (bottom).  We passed a good time, ya'll...
A quick field sketch in my accordion-style sketchbook of Chartres Street at Jackson Square, with Professor Longhair watching over the festivities.

Same view developed further in the studio, with ink, watercolor and colored pencils.  This one went to a silent auction.

Friday, October 28, 2016

ASLA President's Medal Received in New Orleans

 I was surprised, speechless (literally) and grateful to be awarded the President's Medal by the American Society of Landscape Architects and President Chad Danos at the Society's Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  The citation reads, in part:

"...presented to James Richards, FASLA in recognition of his dedicated service to the American Society of Landscape Architects.  As a dynamic volunteer, thought leader, and pioneer in re-introducing the importance of sketching to the profession, Jim has influenced Landscape Architecture in a profound way.  His roles...help engage and educate Landscape Architects in a way that provokes action and provides joy."

The point here, in my view, is that reestablishment of freehand sketching in the profession is being formally recognized as a vital way to see and value culture, to generate and refine ideas, and to envision a better world.  We have come a long way since my first presentations and articles in 2007.  But there are many more talks to be given, workshops to carry out, and lives to touch.  Long live the Freehand Renaissance!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Step by Step: My Manchester Workshop Demo

This is a step-by-step demonstration I prepared for my "Capturing the Crowd" workshop for the 7th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester, UK.  The idea was to include people in the near foreground, middle ground and background--all sharing a common eye--level line--to  to create a strong illusion of depth and to lend liveliness and energy to the scene.  For this technique, the City Hall building in the background is treated as a 2-dimensional stage set piece for the "actors" in the plaza.

Here's the scene on an overcast festival day.  My viewpoint was very similar, but from a little further back and left, which "flattened" the Albert Memorial (on the left) a little.
As usual, I begin with an eye-level line, and add foreground, middle ground and background figures for an immediate sense of depth.

Next, I start adding the "big shapes" without getting into detail--the Memorial, tree at right, more figures.

Here I 've added the City Hall building in the background, drawn in graphite (pencil) to allow it to recede into the background behind the Memorial (drawn in black ink).

Next come details, simplified as appropriate--more detail for foreground, less for middle ground, least for background.

Now adding darks for contrast and visual "punch."

Finally, color...sky first.

Next came a wash of Naples Yellow over the building and Memorial, flavored with Cad Red, French Ultramarine, and Alizaron Crimson.  Then, some bright colors were added on people and red banners for additional "sparkle."

Finished with darks, blacks in a few key spots.  I darkened the Memorial structure to pull it forward from the background building, and also darkened two of the foreground figures so they weren't so dominant in the picture.  Darks on the background building were left fairly light.

I hope you enjoyed this--it was part of a larger set of visuals and handouts that accompanied the workshop, and seemed to convey the key ideas effectively.  See you on the sidewalk--Jim.