And so finally to posting my Barcelona sketches! Sorry for the wait. I hope it is worth it. We will start off at Parc Güell, the famous Gaudí designed park north of the city center, but first a bit of backstory.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to go to Barcelona. I grew up looking at pictures of Gaudí buildings in books in the local library, and following the famed football team FC Barcelona with all its illustrious players of the time, the Linekers, the Archibalds, the Koemans, the Guardiolas, the Laudrups, the Romários, the Stoichkovs. Ok, so football and Gaudí were the main reasons Barcelona was always top of my wish-list of cities to visit but they are pretty good reasons. I never got around to going; “it’s not going anywhere,” I always figured. Then I moved to America, and suddenly Barcelona was much further away.
Then Urban Sketchers announced that the fourth international Urban Sketching Symposium would be held in Barcelona. It’s a sketching mecca, with an incredible sketching community (as does Spain in general, I’m a huge fan of the Spanish urban sketching community. I couldn’t miss out on this one. I did apply to lead a workshop, but wasn’t selected (there were a lot of applicants). Then on the day it came to register as a participant, the symposium was so enormously popular that all the places sold out before I was even out of bed. I had missed out! But this was Barcelona, I had the new football shirt, there was no way I was not going. So, I got on the waitlist. Then I realized, ah, erm, I actually can’t afford this trip. I had the equivalent of two little figures sitting on my shoulders, one telling me to be sensible and go some other time, the other (wearing a Barça shirt and waving a Catalan flag) yelling “DO IT! DO IT!”. I couldn’t really commit so I decided to tentatively plan to go, but not to attend the symposium and not take up a place from the waitlist, just in case. Lots of other people were in my situation, and so the symposium organizers were encouraging us to come anyway and there would be social drink-and-draws in the evenings to meet up with all my urban sketching friends, and public sketchcrawls for those not going to workshops. This way I’d – theoretically – not be rushing about so much, as I had done to my exhaustion in Portland and Lisbon. I had to fit this in during a busy family trip to London, so this plan made a bit more sense this time around.
And in the end I made it! I’m going to skip past a lot of other stuff and get straight to the first of those sketchcrawls which was held in Parc Güell, in the Gràcia district. I missed the start of the sketchcrawl itself, having taken a bus from the city center which took a fair bit longer than expected. I did meet a couple from Umeå in Sweden who were visiting the city, and I was excited to finally be here. By the way, I brought with me to Barcelona the Stillman & Birn “Beta” series sketchbook, thick pages perfect for watercolouring, and I must say that it was a joy to use, though I hadn’t used the paper for much location sketching beforehand, and it was a slightly bigger format than I am used to. I would certainly recommend it.
My plan was to fill the whole sketchbook over the course of the next few days, and while I didn’t manage to do so I gave it a good shot. Barcelona of course was characteristically overwhelming, and my tourist side jostled with my sketcher side. On this day in the Parc, crowds of people from all over the world strolled about taking photos and grinning, and sketchers were dotted here and there nodding over at each other in respectful recognition. I found where most of them were congregated, on the large open terrace, bordered by a twisting colourful Gaudí serpent, overlooking the hazy Barcelona skyline. It was a sunny day and the rays were beating down but sketching had to happen. I had a big hat, and a white shirt. Every corner of the serpent was occupied by sketchers or tourists. Eventually it got a bit too hot so I continued in the shade below, where I met some other sketchers from around the world, before heading off on my own again to see more of the city. It was getting quite massively crowded by that point, but wow, Parc Güell – what an incredible place. Worth the lifelong wait? Yeah!