Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Monday, December 18, 2017

Draw Civita 2018

It's a fabulous five-day workshop in Italy. 
Registration is open, a few spots are left...interested?

(India travel posts to come soon too!)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Before I head to India...


This Saturday, October 28, I return to India with my friend Nancy for 3.5 weeks of travel and sketching! I can't wait, as our trip in 2011 is what sparked my return to sketching after 25 years!!

Here are a couple of ways to follow that adventure, I can promise lots of color to cheer you up:

Instagram  sketches: @stephanieabower  &  photos:  @stephanieabower.fotos

blog It's really hard to post to from my phone when traveling, but I will try!

And here are 50% discount links for my two online classes through Craftsy (nearly 10,000 participants, globally!):

     Perspective for Sketchers  50% discount  
     or here

     The Essentials of Sketching Architecture  50% discount  or 


     The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective

     The Urban Sketching Art Pack (available November 1 in stores and online!!!)

And if you are curious about the art supplies I use when I travel, look here

Thank you so much, and happy travels to all!

Friday, October 20, 2017

New Urban Sketching Art Pack!!

Surprise!  A new Urban Sketching Handbook, the the Urban Sketching Art Pack, is coming out in early November!! (And yes, that is my sketch of the Binnehof in Den Haag on the cover, sketched last year sitting next to Marleen Dambrink, Den Haag Urban Sketcher!)

The publisher has taken about 1/4 of each of the previous books in the series and put them into one volume, paired with a sketchbook filled with drawing prompts. Makes a great gift!

From Amazon:
"Now in a new format, and including all the core techniques from the best-selling Urban Sketching Handbook series, this portable package includes a 112-page informational book and a 112-page companion sketchpad full of challenges to get you started. 

This guide tackles specific challenges of making sketches on location. You’ll find out what to do rain or shine, quickly or slowly, and the most suitable techniques for every situation. Learn how to frame your scene, create a strong composition, and add detail and interest. Find out how to draw figures in motion, in proportion, and how to capture a person's features. Understand the anatomy of a good sketch by learning the secrets to how to draw in perspective. And best of all, learn how to maximize your location drawing opportunities by finding sketch-worthy events, choosing colorful subject matter, and immersing yourself in the sights of sounds of your fascinating city. Drawing the places where you live, work, and play is a great way to show appreciation and creativity. Show your world, one drawing at a time!" 

On another note, I'm headed to India shortly for 3+ weeks of sketching! I invite you to please follow my adventures:

               Instagram  @stephanieabower and @stephanieabower.fotos
and when I am able to post, this blog:

Thank you!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Streets of Holland

Each summer that I'm teaching in Europe, I visit my family in Holland. I love them and I love visiting them, as the streets are so walkable, such a beautiful scale, and the variety in the brick of the buildings is just remarkable.

I got a little bit of sketching in, despite cold and damp weather. This is continuation of the series sketches of 4 sketches I started doing in Italy, and I ended up doing these in every city I visited this summer as a way to save the paper in my sketchbook... here is the series from Den Haag. My favorite one is the Passage shown above, as the color is just a blush on my pencil drawing. It was tricky to catch both the glass dome and the floor in one view!

The sketchbook is the Pentalic Aqua Journal, fairly new in the 7" x 10" size. I love the size, love the paper as it's true 140lb. watercolor paper. Click on the image to see it larger!

And here is a quick sketch done while enjoying coffee in the Dam of Amsterdam with my aunt and cousin, listening to them talk (in Spanish) while I sketched. Heaven.

This sketch is all about the roof lines that punctuate the sky around the giant, busy plaza...thus the simple yellow sky that emphasizes the roofs.

In ten days I leave for a 3.5 week sketching trip to INDIA! If you are interested in following my adventures, please find me on Instagram @stephanieabower and my photos will be at @stephanieabower.fotos.  I will try to post here as well, just don't usually find it easy to do when traveling. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Draw Civita 2017 x 2

Fall is really here, and it has me reminiscing about the heat in Italy this past June. This summer, I taught two DRAW CIVITA workshops in the amazing town of Civita di Bagnoregio...the fifth summer in a row. I am really grateful to The Civita Institute for this opportunity, and in general, everyone seems to love the workshop set in this incredible town. Thanks also to Winsor & Newton for providing fresh tubes of juicy watercolor paints for us all.

Civita is only accessible by foot, and because there are no cars, it makes the town a wonderful medieval-feeling pedestrian-only zone...great for claiming a spot to sketch! 

Here are photos from the workshops...5+ days of small groups, long days of sketching, great meals, beautiful scenery, and a day trip to the Villa Lante Italian Renaissance garden. All in all, pretty great.

Sketching just inside the main gate, the Porta Santa Maria.

In the shade of the Piazza San Marco.
Piazza sketches...and that is my watercolor set up in the upper left-hand corner.

My watercolor thumbnail showing the steps in painting and the morning demo...

The first workshop group getting ready to paint...thank you, Winsor & Newton
for the sponsorship with new tubes of watercolor paint!

Lunch break where we soaked out feet to cool off at the Villa Lante.

Second workshop group enjoying a wonderful dinner at Alma Civita!! Thank you, Maurizio, Rochi! Love that orange/rosemary tiramisu!

Group at the Villa Lante, standing in front of a long stone table that is a fountain, and yes, it was used for meals! 

Wonderful dinner at Alma Civita...

Thanks so much to everyone for TWO fabulous workshops!! I enjoyed meeting each of you and seeing your beautiful work!!

I am now also planning ahead to next year, however, due to the extreme heat of the past few years, I'm bumping the workshop to some time during the last 2 weeks in May...contacting me now (email: if you are interested!
Ciao, tutti!!!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sketches from Orvieto

I arrived in Italy in June and made my way straight to the beautiful hilltown of Orvieto, north of Rome. Across from my hotel was the amazing duomo, famous for its facade and the horizontal banding inside and out. I went a bit nuts with this sketch, as I only had 1.5 hours till my taxi would arrive, so my pencil and watercolor flew!! (I've added this sketch again at the bottom of the post so that you can click on it and see the detail--same for all these sketches!)

I walked around town and did 5 sketches all in the same day...I was trying out a new sketchbook, the 7"x10" Pentalic AquaJournal--the paper I knew well but the format and size were totally new to me. It occurred to me that I might not have enough pages in the sketchbook to last for 6 weeks of travel, so I decided to do 2 images per the end, it became a format I would repeat everywhere I went, as I loved being able to see sketches side by side.

Below are my 5 sketches from Orvieto (makes me think I should always sketch with jet lag!)  

To the left is my favorite of the sequence sketches, done late in the day in the heat...

For me, Urban Sketching is about capturing my experiences on paper and learning about what I see through the act of drawing and all these are sketched and painted on location.

 This was the view from my hotel window!

The taxi arrived on time, and I headed off to Civita for the workshop! (Click on the duomo interior sketch to see the detail...)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Here come more last!

[by Stephanie Bower, Seattle]  I am finally back in my studio, after over two months of travel mostly for teaching and some for work. Alas, it was pretty much impossible for me to post ot the blog while traveling. Days were packed and often I had little to no internet! I did manage to post some to Instagram, as it loaded on my phone when the blog or Facebook or Flickr would please, I invite you to see my posts on Instagram

For the fifth summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a workshop in the amazing Italian hilltown of Civita di Bagnoregio. It is a speck of a town, you can walk it from end to end in about 5 minutes, and it is only accessible by a steep foot bridge and thus has no cars. You feel transported back to the Middle Ages, but for all the tourists. Civita is remarkably picturesque, Rick Steves says it is his favorite Italian hilltown.

This year, I taught two workshops back-to-back, and since it was roasting hot, we sketched inside the cool, dark chiesa and worked on really "Understanding Perspective"!  I love the simplicity and scale of this church, and it is filled with interesting relics from the past. There was likely an Etruscan temple on this spot nearly 3000 years ago.

Below is how I teach people to start perspective sketches--I start a sketch like this with what I call drawing the "Shape of the Space". Then I use the eye level line and VP to construct the bones of the sketch. You can see how I draw the entire ellipse to help me draw the arches.

I kept this drawing and colors very simple, letting the openings in the arches recede by painting them a cool blue...painting like an architect to make sure the spaces read.

More sketches will follow, including a dozen or so from Italy, then Holland, then England...and of course, there was Chicago...

Thanks to everyone who participated in the workshops and to The Civita Institute for their support of this opportunity!  Ciao, tutti!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

And suddenly...Italy!!!

Even though I've been preparing for this workshop for about a year, it somehow caught me by surprise when it was time to pack and jet off to Italy! This will be my 5th summer of teaching in Civita, and this year, there will be two, 5-day workshops almost back-to-back!

Most instructors will tell you it's important to arrive early to a new teaching location when get used to all the variables that change from one place to another: the dryness of the air and how that impacts painting (in Singapore, I remember Gail Wong having to rethink how she would teach her workshop, as the air was so humid that the paint would not dry!), to figure out the colors of a new place (I had a real ah-ha moment when I started using Raw Umber (W&N) in Italy...duh, Umber in UMBRIA!), and to generally warm up your sketching hand before you have to draw on demand for workshop participants (instructors notoriously do their worst work when teaching!)

I arrived in Italy yesterday and challenged myself today to do as much as I could here in the beautiful hill town of Orvieto. I have been here several times before, so I knew my way around...that helped! And it's close to where I'll teach the workshops, which is where I'll head tomorrow. It usually takes me about a week of sketching to get the right "feel" for a place, but as it turns out, today was a good day! 

Spectacular view from my hotel room, this was last
night's moon shining on the famous Duomo,
after all the crowds were gone.
This is the first time I've used this new size (7"x10") of my favorite sketchbook, the Pentalic Aquajournal (descriptions are on my blog). I love this paper, as I can draw in pencil easily on it, and since it is a true 140lb cold press paper, it takes watercolor really well. I was worried I hadn't brought enough paper for 5.5 weeks of sketching, so I had the idea this morning to do four across the spread.

This is the order in which they were done, reading left to right:  1 -- 4 -- 2 -- 3.  I'm super happy with how these turned out individually and collectively, maybe I should sketch with jet lag more often!

I'll be making lots of quick posts on Facebook and Instagram (@stephanieabower), as well as posting images and photos on Flickr...should you want to follow along! Ciao!!

The sketch on the far right was my favorite of the day...I love that yellow sky and
how the paints dried with some texture...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Good Bones and more in Melbourne

After Adelaide, I headed to Melbourne to teach a workshop...location was the University of Melbourne campus, close to the home in North Melbourne of my wonderful host, Angela Williams.  THANK YOU, Angela, for bringing me here and for taking such great care of me! It was such wonderful fun!! 

The weather looked iffy ( I hoped for late summer weather but instead got early fall climate change makes it impossible to predict!), so I spent a lot of time scoping out locations under cover should it rain. 

Practicing in the Old Quad on campus.
In the end, the Old Quad and the Old Arts Building were perfect locations for our 2 days of workshop and Sunday morning of what turned out to be a HUGE sketchcrawl! It was great to meet so many talented sketchers in Melbourne.

The workshop group was great fun, coming all the way from Perth, Brisbane, outside Melbourne, Canberra...I was so honored that folks traveled to get here!

Another highlight of my time in Melbourne was giving a talk about my work and sketching at the offices of world famous engineers, ARUP. Thanks again to Angela, who has worked here for 10 years and was kind enough to set up this opportunity. We had a large crowd after work, and they stayed until the bitter end!

Here are some of my Melbourne sketches, plus a few photos!

Another warm up sketch before the workshop, in the Old Quad. I used the front arch as a frame,
in my Pentalic sketchbook.

Lovely Meet & Greet the evening before the workshop started!

Our group at the Old Quad!

I love this view of the hardworking group sketching inside the Quad.
Me, doing a demo for the workshop...


Day 2, Watercolor at outdoor tables on campus...
Some examples of the many beautiful sketches done by this group! My goal is for them to not draw like me, but to draw in their style but BETTER for having a better understanding of perspective and color.

Very quick sketch while on my way to the ARUP offices to give a lecture. This is the Royal Exhibition Hall...
Great turnout for the Sunday morning open sketch crawl!!!

My sketchcrawl sketch of the Old Arts building Tower.

Thank you sketchers in Melbourne, thanks to the University of Melbourne for allowing us to draw on campus,
and thanks to Angela Williams for being so kind and generous and all her hard work!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I can hear "Waltzing Matilda" even Adelaide visiting my husband's relatives, we got to walk along a nearby billabong near Anne and Quentin's home. A billabong is a pool of water, a backwater connected to a stream. Really, this was the only bit of nature I saw during the entire 3 weeks in Oz!

We sat down at a picnic table in the shade, and I quickly (so as not to make the rellies wait too long in the midday sun) did this sketch of the view right in front of me. Giant gum tree, water in the distance...

Sketched in my 5"x8" Pentalic sketchbook, and painted in Winsor & Newton paints that dried too quickly in the heat!