Sidewalk Sketching in Milwaukee

28 June, 2017. I was in Milwaukee all of last week, in a professional development workshop at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD.) The workshop itself was well worth the long drive and I wound up really enjoying my stay in Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward. The opportunities for street sketching were literally everywhere – all I had to do was plunk myself down at a sidewalk café, order a glass of wine or beer, and then use my pen to observe life in progress, all around me.

I gravitate toward moments of thoughtfulness sometimes, and the gentleman at the top of this article caught my attention for that very reason. He seemed to me to be one of the world’s great listeners, focused entirely upon what his unpictured companion was saying.

Some people out on the street – passers by, that is – seem to avoid eye contact at all costs, while others flash you a quick smile. It’s just a quirky little facet of human nature that I’ve noticed. I would swear that I passed this same woman at least three times during the six days I was there, and each time she maintained a steadfast and unwavering gaze directly in front of her.

I chuckled to myself as I watched this young woman, clearly bored with the table conversation of the larger group around her, surreptitiously check and recheck her cell phone for something more interesting. Eventually she seemed to begin to read something lengthy – a book, I’m hoping!

Each morning around 5.30 I’d jump on my bike and ride the path that runs alongside the lake. It meanders through neighborhoods and parks and abuts various buildings. A few miles into my ride, I would pass the Northpoint, a burger and shake joint that looks like it’s been established at the current lakeshore location for a long time. One morning, well before the place was set to open, I noticed a large Yoga group using the site to exercise.

The lakeside path is quite wonderful and caters to a variety of early morning joggers, walkers, and cyclists. Some are commuting to work, others are getting in their exercise or morning constitutional. Many, like me, are simply enjoying the exhilaration of being outdoors for a grand morning.

The majority of my sketches were made after the workshop concluded each day. Around five, the streets would become active and sidewalk tables would begin to fill. Quick sketches of people were easy and models were ready to hand and in abundance.

I was impressed by the number of cyclists in evidence in my neighborhood. Riders were everywhere, bells were in use, and everyone was polite about the roads, sidewalks, and paths. It all seemed to fit together quite naturally.

(Everything was drawn with a Uni-Ball Micro Deluxe pen in a Canson 180 sketchbook. I don’t think I used a pencil to rough in anything all week long, and I’m overall pretty happy to have kept the observational drawings light and moderately fresh, without overworking things to death.)

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One comment

  1. 28pwilson · June 29

    Mark it is wonderful how you manage to blend your two passions, biking and art.

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