Tag Archives: urban sketching symposium

rambling free

La Rambla, Barelona

Back to Barcelona… I was impressed with all the shop fronts in Barcelona. On a future trip, I will organize myself better, and spend a whole day sketching ONLY shop fronts. As it was I managed just a couple, on the big bustling thoroughfare you’ve all heard of, La Rambla. Also called Las Ramblas. La Rambla is bustling alright, full of tourists rambling up and down, lots if interesting sketchable buildings, and absolutely no other reason to stay there whatsoever. It’s not really my thing, all those people. Pickpocket paranoia on overdrive. Ok, I must confess, what actually bugged me were those guys walking about making the bird-whistle noises with those little plastic kazoo things. It sounded like Sweep (of Sooty fame) being beaten up. Annoying noises aside, the architecture and shop fronts were a sketcher’s delight. I loved the one at the top, Viena, which I sketched in the Beta book. A group of young Australian lads who were staying in the hotel next door chatted to me excitedly about this place while I sketched, saying they had amazing breakfasts. There were lots of groups of excited young lads from other countries in Barcelona. It a popular place for stag parties (bachelor parties). My friend Francesco came here for his one several years ago, went to an FCB game (I couldn’t come, I was in America). Definitely a good-time city.

Farmacia Nadal

Above is Farmacia Nadal, which I sketched on the last day when strolling back to my hotel. Below, a much quicker sketch, the warm evening sky with La Rambla going left to right, looking down Carrer del Carme, Catalan flags waving from balconies. I bumped into a few urban sketchers while sketching this one, on their way back from their USk workshops, including Matthew Brehm; it was his workshop in Lisbon back in 2011 that inspired me to try this sketch out.

La Rambla & Carrer del Carme

barcelona!

Parc Guell view, BCN
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 Parc Guell sign, BarcelonaBarcelona 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.

BCN bus to parc guell

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 Guell bridge, BCNperfect 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!

Parc Guell, Barcelona

a city full of urban sketchers

Wow, it has been three months since Lisbon! It’s quite incredible. The second Urban Sketching Symposium was an overwhelming experience, and it was so much fun to spend good sketching time with so many other urban sketchers from around the world, many of whose work I have followed and been influenced by for years.

During the Symposium, Portuguese journalist Patrícia Pedrosa filmed some of the workshops, and has produced a couple of great videos which bring me right back to Portugal. The first documents Day One, the second Days Two and Three. You’ll spot me I’m sure, the one holding his pen in a funny way and crouching distorted on the ground. Here they are: I hope you enjoy them!

Urban Sketchers 1 from Patrícia Pedrosa on Vimeo.

Urban Sketchers 2 from Patrícia Pedrosa on Vimeo.

See this post over on Urban Sketchers. Thanks Patrícia for producing these!

a little more lisboa

skyline of lisbon

Views like this just exist to make people feel jealous, I think.  Certainly more scenic than Davis! This was sketched on the second evening of the Symposium, from the square outside FBAUL, Lisbon, as the Sun started to set, pouring golden syrup over everything. There’s the 12th Century Sé Cathedral, and the red rooftops of contrasting the turquoise blue of the Tagus River. Below left, the road winds uphill, while the castle of Lisbon lords it over the city below.

lisbon view, early eveninglargo do carmo

Finally, a sketch made during lunch on the first day of the Symposium, an interesting monument in the middle of Largo do Carmo, Chiado.

And this, I think, may be it for Lisbon… I will post a more reflective entry about the symposium, a month on, but that has been a lot of scanning, cropping, posting… I forgot to submit my drawings for the Symposium book (oops!), and in the meantime I have actually been doing a lot of drawing, including some on a trip to Monterey. Keep on sketching…

lisbon symposium, day 3: worldwide sketchcrawl #32

rua augusta, lisbon

The final afternoon of the Lisbon Urban Sketching Symposium was the 32nd Worldwide Sketchcrawl. For those of you who know, the worldwide sketchcrawl (see sketchcrawl.com) was started about seven years ago in San Francisco by Enrico Casarosa and quickly established itself across the world, encouraging sketchers to just meet up with other sketchers, pick a spot, spend all day drawing, then share the results online for the world to see. As you can see, I’m sharing rather later than I usually would (had a bit of a backlog!). Most sketchcrawls I’ve been on in the past have usually been finished by 4:30, but we had barely begun!

urban sketchers as far as the eye can see

We met at FBAUL and moved en masse, snaking down the hill (see above) to Praco Comercio, where we would be meeting with many non-symposium sketchers. I got distracted and sketched a fire hydrant, but made it down to the group eventually. I decided to sketch off on my own a little though, and drew the big arch from Rua Augusta (see top). As I sketched, people gathered around (one smart young lad pointing out how long it had taken me to draw the picture, by looking at the clock in the drawing!). At one point, a group of people were all around me taking photos. I wandered up Rua Augusta, I wanted to have a look around Baixa district not having explored this part of town much. It was full of shoppers and tourists (and pickpockets, quite likely), as well as street musicians like the one I sketched below, looking like a snake charmer. It was very ‘world music’ and not very good to be honest, quite repetitive, but people still stopped to watch (or sketch). I also sketched a dress in a shop window (oh no!), to illustrate that this is a shopping district.  

baixa dressbaixa street musician

What I REALLY wanted to draw though was the building below. Inever got a chance to go up the Elevador Santa Justa, but I was not going to leave Lisbon without attempting to draw it. I found a nice little spot, looked up and sketched away. It’s an interesting neo-Gothic building, essentially just a nicely decorated lift, with an impressive view from the top (one of the workshops I never attended, ‘Panoramania’ with Simo Capecchi, was held there – that would have been so cool! But I hear it was windy). It was built at the end of the 19th Century to get people up from Baixa to Largo do Carmo.  

elevador santa justa, lisbon

I sketched another hydrant (see previous post on fire hydrants), and went back up to FBAUL to meet with the returning sketchers for the final get-together, and to look at eveyone’s sketchbooks…

sketching the urban sketchers (part 3)

isabel fiadeiroagnes bolley

Final batch of Urban Sketcher portraits…I wish I’d sketched more! Quite a lot of people who afterwards I was thinking, oh wish I’d sketched him, wish I drawn her; maybe next time! The two above though were done in the very early hours of sunday morning (see the time-stamp!) at Cafe A Brasileira, after the Symposium had ended. I was out late there sketching with Liz Steel, Paul Wang and Lee Peng Hui, when Isabel Fiadeiro and some others came in, sat down and straight away it was a sketch-off! A bit like gunslingers in the Old West in an old saloon, Urban Sketchers are quick on the draw. (How cheesy, I can’t believe I just said that…)

(Above Left): Isabel Fiadeiro, USk correspondent in Nouakchott, Mauritania (but originally from Portugal), one of the organisers of this year’s event, I met her last year in Portland. (Above Right): Agnes Bolley, an artist from France.

luis ruiznina johansson

(Above Left): Luis Ruiz, USk correspondent from Malaga, Spain. It was a highlight of the symposium for me to meet and sketch with Luis, his subtle but powerful work is among my favourites. (Above Right): Nina Johansson, USk correspondent from Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve followed Nina’s work for years, very influential. I took her workshop ‘Unfinished Business’, though I never got a chance to actually sketch with her.

inma serranoisaac

(Above Left): Inma Serrano, USk Spain correspondent from Sevilla. She had this tiny sketchbook made into an earring that sketchers contributed to (I drew a tiny fire hydrant, what else!). Sketched at lunchtime near Rua da Bica, she was sketching me at the time. (Above Right): Isaac, from Spain; I didn’t get to speak to him other than to ask his name but he had a great profile to sketch! 

ea ejersboliz steel

(Above Left): Ea Ejersbo, USk correspondent from Aarhus in Denmark, sketched while out at dinner with other urban sketchers and her husband Reza (a great guy!). I’ve followed Ea for years, I really enjoy her drawings and the fact she’s from Aarhus, as I visited that city a couple of times many years ago and loved it.  (Above Right): Liz Steel, USk correspondent from Sydney (alongside Borromini Bear, not seen in this picture). Liz is one of the most well-known Urban Sketchers and it was great to sketch and hang out with her in Lisbon, having first met her in Portland last year.

daniella rodriguesmarina grechanik

(Above Left): Daniela Rodrigues, USk Portugal sketcher from Lisbon who I spoke to during the Light of Lisboa workshop. Finally, (Above Right): Marina Grechanik, USk correspondent from Tel Aviv, Israel, sketched at the same dinner as the pistures of Ea and Liz. Marina even tried to draw holding the pen the way I do!

And that’s it! Well, I have more sketches from Lisbon to be posted, but these are all the people I drew. Some I drew in my watercolour Moleskine, but most were drawn in the London/Lisbon ‘Volant’ Moleskine, the small red one that looks like a passport.

lisbon symposium, day 3: contrastes

contrastes rua bica

The third and final day of the Urban Sketching Symposium was a gloriously sunny morning (weren’t they all?), and after meeting at FBAUL to talk about our experiences so far, we set out on our final workshops. I was with Asnee Tasna’s group, going over to the long sloping Rua da Bica for the workshop on Contrast (“Contrastes”). Asnee Tasna is the USk correspondent from Bangkok, and I really enjoy his colourful and expressive style. His co-instructor was Joao Catarino, USk correspondent from Lisbon. Rua da Bica is an interesting location because of the famous yellow cable-car (‘elevador’) that pulls up and down the gritty narrow street. People squeezed by us on their day to day routines, laundry hung from balconies, ‘super bock’ and ‘sagres’ bottles and empty cracked glasses littered the path telling tales of the night before, with the accompanying smells, the stinking streets of summer. I’m sure it was quite the party. This was another good group of sketchers – Liz, Luis, Inma, Swasky to name but a few – and another enjoyable morning, learning from one another. I used a few different pens – a Pitt brush pen above, a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (oh yeah) below left (I enjoyed that sketch, influenced by the quick sketches done in the Lght of Lisboa workshop), and my regular micron 01.

contrastes rua bica contrastes rua da bica

Above right, well the workshop is about contrasts, right? Here are the beer bottles. I think I like this sketch most of all, it tells an interesting story about urban life. It’s good to focus on the small ephemeral details alongside the sweeping vistas. But I love a sweeping vista too, so it was highly enjoyable to sketch the scene below, looking down the rua and towards the turquoise blue Tagus.

contrastes rua bica

And here is the Moleskine! Just so you can see how it all looks on the page. The beer bottles are on the other side. After this we all went for lunch at a tiny Portuguese place at the top of the street. I ate sardines, and drank a super bock.

contrastes, rua da bica

keeping an eye on the world outside my window

shiado hostel window view

In Lisbon I stayed at the Shiado Hostel on Rua Anchietta, a stone’s throw away from the symposium location at FBAUL. It was a nice hostel, modern and inexpensive with free wireless internet access and breakfast included. It had been years since I stayed at hostel; I stayed at mnay both good and bad all over Europe in the 90s, and this was definitely up there in the good. The staff were very friendly too. I did get woken up a few times by people coming into the room in the wee hours; on my second night it seemed I had the room all to myself, but then at 2:00 am three people checked in, moving all their rucksacks and stuff in with them. They tried to be quiet, of course, but coming in and out for the next hour wasn’t easy to sleep through. Still it makes little difference to me – I couldn’t sleep well in a room by myself last year, so it wasn’t a huge issue. One of the best things were the views from the windows. the view at the top was from the lounge area, sketched one afternoon when I just needed to go back for some quiet time. Below, views from the hostel dorm room window. The location was pretty unbeatable, and quite a few other symposium participants (such as Jason, Paul, Rolf, Oona) were staying there.

hostel window viewhostel window view

the lisbon streets at night

rua anchietta at night

Night-time sketching is fun, as the light is all different and in summertime in Lisbon, people are out on the streets enjoying life, or sketching the world. Right below the Shiado hostel on Rua Anchietta where I stayed was a cafe called Kaffeehaus (it was Austrian). I went there on a few occasions for dinner or a drink with some of the other urban sketchers who were staying at the hostel, such as Paul Wang (Urban Sketchers correspondent in Hong Kong, originally from Singapore), who I sketched above. I was pleased to have met Paul (who also spent some days in London prior to Lisbon, though I didn’t sketch with him) as I love his colourful sketching style, it’s so nice to look at. We were at dinner with Liz Steel and Omar Jaramillo; you couldn’t get a more multi-continental group of sketchers!. Our hostel was just around the block from a square where nightly open-air concerts filled the air with classical music, right up until bed-time. I’m no classical buff, so couldn’t really tell you your Schubert from your Chopin, but it was nice to hear. It was still going on when I got back to my room, and so I looked out of the window and sketched the scene below me.

Below: from the night before, sat in the same place, but this time sketching Florian Afflerbach and Rolf Schroeter, two of our USk correspondents from Germany. I appear to have sketched Florian and Rolf in slightly different sizes, kinda! The couple sat behind Rolf were enjoying themselves. We were there with Jason Das that night, having all just been at the USk correspondents dinner. One thing I remember most is the damn street-lamp flickering away…

florian and rolf at kaffeehaus

come out, come out, wherever you are…

The Fire Hydrants of Lisbon. You can just imagine how excited I was when I saw that they had them there, and that they didn’t all look the same. Some of them are rather Grecian-urn, others are more Venus-de-Milo, but with a suggestion of a dismembered C-3P0 in there too. Feel free to draw speech bubbles and make them talk.

hydrant on rua ivenslisbon hydrant
lisbon hydrant, chiadohydrant rua serpa pinto

Most of the hydrnats were red, but the occasional one was yellow, such as this one near Rua da Bica, splotched with purple. Beside it, a shapely one sketched over at Rua Santa Justa in Baixa.
yellow lisbon hydranthydrant rua santa justa

Finally, an unusual hydrant – it has a plastic cover! I sketched this on the long sloping street that winds down from FBAUL, as scores of sketchers walked by on their way to the sketchcrawl meet-up on Praca Comerco. 
covered hydrant in lisbon