Weekend Workshop

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a wonderful workshop through Urban Sketchers.  It’s been a while since I’ve been a student and I was so ready for this intensive two day session.  Artists need to keep learning, growing and pushing themselves.  There are many ways to do this, of course.  For me, spending time with two excellent teachers who have very different styles was exactly the inspiration I’ve been needing.

Our instructors were Melanie Riem from New York City and Ch’ng Kiah Kiean (KK) from Penang, Malaysia.  With two teachers, we spent half of each day with each one.  Since both offered terrific insights into two very different styles, I’ll focus on Melanie’s class today.   She is known for her strong and expressive figure drawings.  When she’s not teaching at Fashion Institute of Technology she travels the world sketching.  Her illustrations have been featured in numerous books and magazines.  Her work expertly captures the vibrancy of life;  the viewer feels what it’s like to be in the scene.  Take a look at her blog post about disco dancing in New York.  Here’s a drawing she did at Pike Place Market:


On Saturday we sketched people at the Seattle Center fountain, looking for descriptive form and line.  I found it very challenging.  I like to start tentatively with pencil and work up to ink.  No time for that here. I’d start drawing a group of people and then they’d leave. I ended up drawing the workshop students because they were sitting still.


I soon learned that drawing people sitting around the fountain was easy.  On Sunday we drew people moving through Pike Place Market.  Our job was to capture the essence of movement both individually and as a crowd.  Wow, that was tough! I’d see a group of people to draw and as soon as I’d put down one line, they’d be gone.  The trick was to see the repetitive movement of walking, then add accessories to create individuals..  Since you have to draw fast, I attempted several drawings.  I was grateful to see that it got a little easier the more drawings I did.

Musicians performing near the pig, (complete with a Melanie Riem original sketch in the top left) –


The crowd across the street –


And walking through the market


Melanie Riem is a fabulous teacher.  Learning to look quickly to capture the essence of a scene is such a valuable skill.   Using bolder pens than my extra fine microns was good for me – she likes fountain pens and brush pens.  Her enthusiasm for life spills into her drawing and is contagious and inspirational.  What a great weekend!

Next blog post I’ll tell you more about KK’s instruction.



  1. Great to be in the same workshop with you, Paula! And man, sketching people in the Market sure was challenging!

    – Tina

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