Thursday, 17 August 2017

USk symposium in Chicago and first time travel to the US

This year I was selected to be one of three correspondents to cover the Urban Sketchers symposium taking place in Chicago. It was an adventure in many ways, first because I had never had such an intensive sketching experience before, and second because it was my first time traveling to the United States. Saying that I was excited about this opportunity is an understatement.

I sketched so much over the last three weeks that I hardly know where to start with my posts, so I'll start with the beginning: my travel there and the first days before the symposium.

There are no direct flights from Luxembourg to Chicago, so I took a flight leaving from Bruxelles with a layover in Reykjavik. The day started with an uneventful train ride to the Belgian capital...

...where I waited around for a while. There were a girl sleeping next to me, a foreshadowing of what I would feel like in a few hours. She was irresistible to sketch.

A short flight later and wait at Reykjavik airport and I could finally relax on the plane to Chicago, where I squeezed the obligatory plane sketch before settling in front of a movie and chatting with my friendly neighbour, an older gentleman from Texas.

I spent my first day in Chicago in a very relaxed way, in the Art Institute of Chicago and sketching some of the sights. I suspected I wouldn't have much time to do it later (and it turns out I was right).

Tackling the city's skyline was quite a challenge for me, as I was not used to this kind of subject at all. Everything is so big and fitting it all on paper was a bit daunting.

In contrast, Cloudgate, or the Bean as it is more commonly known, was one of the most fun monuments to sketch ever! I loved the mirror surface with its distortions and watching people goofing around it and taking funny pictures. 

Not far from the Bean, Crown fountain, another fun place to be. The fountain's surface displays a video of faces from which water spurts out regularly before changing again. I was amused by the different expressions on the faces, from amused to cheeky to almost relieved. People were enjoying the water in the heat, particularly children. I didn't get to finish this sketch, but I had fun with it.

The day before the symposium started I was invited with the instructors and other volunteers to visit Robie House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous works. It was the occasion to meet old friends and make new ones, as usual my favourite part of any USk event.

After a short bus ride we were all sketching in front and inside the house. I admit I was not overly interested in the house, unlike some of my architect companions who were in awe of it, but it was a beautiful place to see and a very pleasant way to slowly enter the symposium spirit.

The serious stuff would start the following day for me and my companions. I think we were all glad to enjoy this calm before the storm.

Here is my account of that day in more detail on the Urban Sketchers international blog, with more sketches, all photographed on site.

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