Another one checked off the life-long wish-list! This is the famous and magnificent Sagrada Família, the ongoing masterpiece of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. I love to sketch a cathedral. Of course this isn’t technically a cathedral, it is a “Basilica and Expiatory Church” – there’s no bishop, you see. It’s also only really half a church, because as you probably know it is not quite finished yet, stunning and unbelievably detailed though it is. It is over a century and a quarter in the making, entirely funded by donations, and naturally is a huge draw for tourists. It is expected to be finished by 2026, with a massive central spire still to be added. I quite prefer it like this. It is quite something to think that this will look really different the next time I go to sketch it. Finally however I have sketched it, this building I have always wanted to see and draw.
This was done on my last day in Barcelona, when my wife and I took the metro out on a bright Sunday morning. We found that lovely spot across from the pond looking up at the Sagrada Família, and as I sketched there were other urban sketchers from southern Spain also there capturing the view. Always nice to meet the Spanish sketchers, I’m a big follower of the various groups around the country, and learn from them a lot. Once they were gone, I was joined by a group of elderly Catalans; the old woman sat next to me chatted away to me in Catalan, tried to teahc me a few words, and they kept me in good company while my wife went off to take photos. This is the Nativity Façade, which pre-dates the Spanish Civil War, sketched in the Stillman & Birn ‘beta’ sketchbook.
I didn’t go inside this time. The queues are fairly enormous, and our time was limited. I’d love to in the future. There will always be another trip to Barcelona.
This is Barcelona Cathedral. Not the Gaudí one you’ve all heard of (and not the Camp Nou, which is also a kind of cathedral, of sorts), but the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, built between the 13th and 15th centuries in the old town. The neo-Gothic façade wasn’t built until the 19th Century, so all in all this makes the Sagrada Familia seem like a rush job. These sort of epic buildings take time. It’s all quite stunning. This was on a warm Saturday afternoon, and I was on my way to the final sketchcrawl meeting at the end of the Urban Sketching Symposium. This took me less than an hour of quite rapid sketching, which for all the details I was quite impressed with. I added the colour later on, as I had to get a move on. I do wish I’d had time to go inside, I understand the interior is quite lovely. I sat in the shade to sketch this. I love sketching a cathedral. Cathedrals, pubs and fire hydrants, that’s me.
Continuing the theme of Roman and Saxon England, here is the impressive Cathedral at St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, just outside London. St. Albans is a lovely little city (and despite its size it is a city, not a mere town – it has a cathedral, so it’s a city), which despite being pretty close by to where I grew up in Burnt Oak, north London, I have only been to twice, this being the second time. I came to see the amazing cathedral once again. Now once upon a time St.Albans was a Roman city called Verulamum, and it was in this city that a man called Alban was executed in the late third or early 4th century by those Romans who at the time were persecuting Christians. Alban’s head was cut off, and he subsequently became Britain’s first Christian martyr. “A what?” they all said at the time. Apparently when Alban’s head was chopped off the executioner’s eyes fell out, which seems a little far-fetched to me. I’m very cynical as you know. It is believed that the cathedral (formerly abbey) stands on the spot where St. Alban was beheaded, being established as a monastery by the Mercian King Offa (he of the Dyke) in the 8th century. He’s one of my favourite Anglo-Saxon kings, a contemporary of Charlemagne, and a very persuasive man; as they said at the time he was “an Offa you can’t refuse”.
After exploring inside, we sat out in the sunshine, and my family patiently waited while I sketched. It’s not every day I get to sketch cathedrals, especially ones like this.
Last year I illustrated the cover of the program for the 2011 Christmas Concert at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco’s Nob Hill. This year I had the honour to be asked once again, for the 2012 shows. This time I was asked to provide an illustration of the magnificent building from a different angle, that of the impressive choir on the western side. Last weekend, my wife and I went to see the Christmas Concert, a beautiful show, and I will show you the panoramic sketch I made in the next post. For now though I thought you might like to see a step-by-step of how I drew the cathedral, along with some detailed and highly useful lecture notes. Cathedrals are fantastic to draw. If I could spend my life just drawing cathedrals I would be one happy little (well, medium-sized) Scully.
Step One: draw some of the cathedral.
Step two: draw the rest of the cathedral
Here it is before adding the colour. It’s a good idea to scan it before you add the colour, because you might want to use it for a colouring-in-book, and you may get the colour completely wrong and accidentally paint it green or something.
Step Three: add some colour. Colour a little bit at a time. Then colour some other bits. Always paint the sky last, for no reason whatsoever. Scan it halfway through so you can say, I like it like that.
And…voilà! You have your cathedral. I am very pleased with it, and I think they were too. I was asked to make it evening time so you can see some of the colourful stained glass. I gave the evening sky a purple tint, to reflect the colours worn by the both the priests and the Men and Boys Choir. I must say, they are a really nice bunch of people at Grace, it’s one of my favourite spots in the city. Please visit them at http://www.gracecathedral.org/. In the next post, I’ll show you what I sketched there at the weekend…
Yesterday afternoon I took the bus over to Sacramento. I’ve not been there in a good long while, and I wanted to sketch stuff we don’t have in Davis, in this case a big tall cathedral. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, just off K St, was completed in 1889 and sits about a block or so from the State Capitol. It’s a Roman Catholic church, and on this day there was a big wedding while I sketched. The horse and carriage that wait at the bottom of the steps in this drawing were soon joined by the large wedding party and what sounded like a mariachi band playing Mexican music. I think there were other weddings that day because there seemed to be a decent contingent of brides and bridesmaids dotted about Sacramento; good weekend to get married I suppose. The weather, which was hitting the century last week, was in the mid seventies, much more reasonable for October. It’s always interesting to sketch on K Street, Sacramento. Interesting if you like people shuffling up and asking for a dollar, or like people cycling up and down the sidewalk on those scruffy little bikes people seem to have (not that I judge the scruffiness of a bike, my own being pretty scrufftastic, but at least it’s the right size for an adult). Yesterday was a little less so, as there was also quite a lot of police, many on horseback, likely keeping an eye out for the demonstration that was gathered before the Capitol (no idea what it was about, but it’s all politics these days). I sketched this for about an hour and a half and then had to say enough was enough. I was using an Itoya finepoint, only its second outing, but already the nib was wasting away before me. Those Itoyas have nice enough ink but buckle at the first sight of paper, especially watercolour Moleskine paper. It was only a buck.
After strolling down K and through the rather sad downtown mall (no longer a Westfield), I passed into Old Sacramento, where many people were gathering for some music festival by the river that evening. I was peckish however and popped into the River City Saloon for some garlic fries (and one of those nice shark beers). I did a quick brown pen sketch of part of the bar area, but I really must plan to go back and do a proper drawing of the whole thing, it really does merit a 180 degree curvilinear bar sketch, more than any other.
San Francisco: after climbing the excruciatingly steep Nob Hill, leaving the shuffling Tenderloiners behind, I sketched Grace Cathedral. Regular listeners will recall that I drew the cover for their Christmas brochure last year, and was fortunate enough to go and sketch at their Christmas show itself. It is an amazing cathedral, and with my current desire to draw cathedrals (I have been trying to practice by drawing from books) I was eager to return. It was windy up on that hill. I stood behind a newspaper stand and drew the choir end. I drew in my Moleskine and coloured with watercolour, except for the sky which was done in a new blue Pitt marker I just bought – I was trying it out for colour. Darker than expected! It’s a magnificent building from the outside, but epic inside. I don’t get many opportunities to sketch cathedral interiors from life, and believe me it is a completely different animal from drawing from a photo. It’s all about trying to show the magnificence which is all around you. I drew on larger paper than usual, my Canson Urban Sketchers 7″x10″ sketchbook. After the craziness of Market Street, it was so peaceful sketching inside Grace Cathedral. There was a piano playing, and after a while a powerful baritone tested his tonsils, while to my right silent folk strolled around in circles following the lines of Grace’s famous labyrinth, as I stood sketching by a large stone pillar. I’m not a spiritual or religious person, but I’ve always loved cathedrals, the immense old stone and bright stained glass and beautiful acoustics.
Oooh, you don’t get scenes like this in Davis.
This is the Cathedrale de Notre Dame, on the banks of the Seine in Paris. As if this magnificent building needed an introduction! At the end of a warm day full of sightseeing and playgrounds and puppets, we went to see Notre Dame in the late afternoon sunshine. Ever since I was a kid it was one of my favourite buildings; I visited there when I was about 12 or 13 with school and loved all the ancient cold stone and gargoyles and colourful rose windows. The grey pollution has all been scrubbed off now, and it glows in the golden early evening light. After some time playing in the sandpit next to the cathedral, my son went home for a pre-dinner nap with my wife while I stayed on to draw by the Seine. I stood next to those guys who draw all the portraits for the tourists (they seem to speak so many languages fluently) and drew this remarkable view. I think I have wanted to draw this for so many years now, so I savoured every moment.
At the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco sits Grace Cathedral. Nob Hill is an interesting neighbourhood – full of big grand hotels and spectacular views, many years ago this windswept hill was too steep for regular San Franciscans to bother reaching, a place for hermits and rich mansion builders to live away from the rabble of the Barbary Coast. The cable car made it more easily accessible and it was by cable car that I made it up hill to sketch Grace Cathedral. I like this big cathedral. It has a labyrinth inside (it’s just drawn on the floor though, not with hedges or minotaurs, and the answers are at the back). That’s right – a Maze in Grace…
I then sat in Huntington Park, in front of the cathedral, and noticed other people out drawing in sketchbooks. The weather was amazing, warm, golden sunlight everywhere, and people were out taking advantage. I sketched a smallish house which I found quite interesting looking.