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

easy, tiger

tiger
This is Tiger, my son’s favourite. He’s been around for many years. Not as soft as he used to be, his fur has faded over the years, but he’s loveable all the same. Sketched in the Stillman & Birn “Alpha” book in which I’m documenting his things.

miss the train. take the cannoli.

2nd St Davis
A break from Barcelona posts; this is 2nd Street in Davis, sketched on Saturday morning after I’d missed my train. Whenever I go to San Francisco, rather than getting my tickets in advance or maybe getting to the station early, I always try to get there about two minutes before the train arrives and try to get my tickets then. I don’t know why I partake in this masochistic practice, perhaps I’ve seen Back to the Future so many times I feel like I have to do these mundane things by the skin of my teeth. I’m nearly always lucky. I always, somehow, make it. Not this time; I got to the station, and there was a large crowd of Chinese students huddled around the ticket machine (which can be notoriously slow) while the ticket office lady closed up her booth to assist someone onto the train as it pulled in (which I must say is something I’m very glad the station staff do). Not knowing how long the students would take with the machine I asked if I could get my ticket on the train, but it costs 50% more to do that. Ouch! So there I was, scrambling to use the machine, the train comes in, doors close, off it goes. “Well, we recommend getting here much earlier,” the ticket office lady said, which again is fair enough and completely true. I was annoyed with myself though – I’m usually lucky, but I really should have got my tickets the day before. Why was I so peeved with myself that I couldn’t get the 7:55 train though? After all, I was going to the ZineFest, which didn’t even open until 11:00. I’ll tell you why – Cannoli.

At the Ferry Building in San Francisco there is this place which does amazing cannoli. It really is outstandingly good. I had wanted to stop off there on the way to the ZineFest and pick some up, but taking the later train at 9:25 meant I probably wouldn’t have time to stop, not even for cannoli. I was looking forward to it. Then I remembered that Whole Foods in Davis also does pretty nice cannoli. Not as good, but not bad, so I went there instead and ate a relaxing cannoli breakfast. It was more relaxing taking the later train, not rushing about like a fool. I also noticed that the block of 2nd Street with all the brick shops was looking wonderfully free of large cars and SUVs parked outside, so I took this opportunity to sketch it at last while I waited for the Amtrak. I finished it off on the train, where I had a nice conversation about sketching with one of the guards who was also an artist. So actually, I am glad I missed the earlier train, it all worked out nicely!

els quatre gats

Quatre Gats, BarcelonaAfter eating some delicious paella up at a place next to Lesseps Metro station (see the sketch included below for reference) I decided I needed to see the Sagrada Família at last. It’s been a long wait for me, and I was astounded when I got there, as it truly is an epic undertaking, and not one that I will talk about in this post, because I didn’t sketch it that day. After squeezing through crowds and peering through trees in the park opposite for the best possible view, I found a spot I liked, sat down, got the Stillman & Birn ‘Beta’ sketchbook out and felt the first “plop” of warm summer rain. Now I’d heard somewhere that the rain in Spain fell mainly on the plain (which may be true but I don’t wish to be inaccurate) but either way it meant sketching this cathedral would be much more difficult, robust and hardy though the Beta paper is (and it really is; it’s an excellent book to travel with, and the pages fold very flat). So I decided to up sticks and do one. After spending a bit of time in the FC Barcelona shop next to the cathedral (mmm, football shirts) I metro’d it to the Barri Gotíc. About a hundred million people were out shopping; Barcelona is a shopping paradise, even I was getting sucked in (I saw some wicked adidas trainers), but this day was getting away from me and I had to sketch stuff. A couple of Gaudís, a bowl of paella and some flags wasn’t going to cut it for my first full day in Spain. It was still raining, so I stopped outside the famous restaurant Els Quatre Gats (“4 Cats”; I imagined the Two Ronnies in here giggling about headwear for cutlery). A professor back in my department in Davis had told me about this place, its connections to Picasso and the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, and I’d promised I’d sketch it. I popped my head inside, and one day would like to sketch the interior, but I stood outside and sketched the entrance. I had to squeeze tight against an opposite wall to stop rain from hitting my page, a small narrow balcony about me providing my only shelter. The streets and alleys here are narrow, I remember being told that when it’s hot these narrow streets are a great place to cool down, they are so shady. Not much rain cover though! But I managed it, and here it is, Els Quatre Gats.

I didn’t eat here though, sadly. I was still full from my paella from earlier on, and here it is. Looks tasty, doesn’t it! It was ‘Paella del Señorito’.

Cerveceria Lesseps Paella, Barcelona

Incidentally…you can buy a print of this Quatre Gats sketch at my Society6 site… http://society6.com/PeteScully/Quatre-Gats-Barcelona_Print

homage to catalonia

BCN 1st morningMore Barcelona. My hotel was on the Ronda Sant Antoni, an excellent location, and on the first morning I got up early and had an incredible pastry. The morning food in Barcelona, the pastries I like to start my day with, are unbelievable. I got a delicious looking pastry which looked like it may have some sort of nutella filling. It did; it had about four jars of nutella stuffed inside. It was incredibly chocolatey. I was bouncing around all morning. Chocolate in fact began its European adventure here in Barcelona, and we’ve been bouncing around ever since. Good thing too!

I sat down in the street to start my sketching adventure, and sketched this official looking building. You could tell it was official, because it had the Spanish flag outside. That isn’t a flag you see much of in Barcelona, capital of Catalonia. I wasn’t massively surprised, given the very independent nature and the long and proud history of the Catalan people, but it many ways it hardly felt as though I were in ‘Spain’ at all. I have read about the long, proud and often troubled history, and local calls for secession have been growing in recent times. The Catalan flag (or ‘Senyera‘), from the classic straight yellow and red bars to the variants used by the nationalists (with the blue triangle and white star added; see the sketch below, from up in the Lesseps area) or the socialists (with the red star), flew from windows and balconies all over the city. Even the doughnuts were decorated with yellow and red stripes (though some were decorated as Cookie Monster too, so I wouldn’t read too much into it). The Barcelona FC blaugrana shirt was everywhere, all over the shops, market stalls, bars, cafes, but NEVER the Spanish national shirt. Now that did surprise me; Spain are the World and double-European football champions but the only time I saw a Spain shirt was on some Chinese tourists. Very interesting. The Catalan language was highly prominent everywhere (as it should be, since it is the region’s first and main language), with Spanish often down below alongside English. I speak neither Spanish nor Catalan, something I really need to remedy.

Further up the street was an amazing toy store which sold mainly two things – racecars and Playmobil. My son would have loved it. Around the entire shop was constructed a huge Scalextric racetrack of several lanes and many chicanes, with cars and Scalextric of all sorts of varieties everywhere. the other wall was devoted to Playmobil, which as you may recall I love. It’s much cheaper here too; if I could have, I’d have gone mad. In the end I just bought a few figures, two of them being little football players. One of them being a Spain footballer. I felt oddly guilty. Perhaps I should paint the Barcelona stripes onto it.

Lesseps, Barcelona

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

enjoying the zinery

SF ZineFest 2013

(click on the image to see a bigger version)

Yesterday, I took the train down to San Francisco to go to the Zine Fest. I last went to Zine Fest in 2010, and couldn’t wait to come to this year’s one. It’s held at the San Francisco County Fair Building. I came largely for inspiration, to see what other zinemakers are up to (mostly the ones who draw) and pick some interesting reads. Last time, I spent all my zine money pretty early on and didn’t have any left by the time I saw stuff I really wanted, so this time I looked around the whole place first, and then went around again picking stuff up at random. I love looking through zines. Microcosm were there with all the Portland zines, Mission Comics were there, and lots of individuals who were all very eager to talk about their work (and I eager to listen). One I picked up was by Jeff Walker, “Space Rangers”, I like the look of that one.  I sketched the hall, tried to capture the scope of it, though it was bigger this year than three years ago. I didn’t make any of the workshops or talks this year, but it was great fun nonetheless. I have been putting together my own short zine of my Davis bar sketches (“Davis Bar By Bar”, coming soon folks, stay tuned…) so it was definitely inspirational.

To learn more about Zine Fest visit their website: http://www.sfzinefest.org/

the armchair view

watching spurs beat swansea

This was sketched last week, while watching Spurs beating Swansea City. I am SO GLAD the football is back. Now, we lost today against the south London nomads Arsenal (grrrrr), fair result, at least we didn’t lose 5-2 like the past couple of seasons. Spurs then formally announced the sale of Gareth Bale for a hundred million Euro, a ridiculous world record (someone hasn’t told Real Madrid Spain are in recession). Good luck Gareth, six years at the Lane and a Spurs legend. This is our living room sketched on a Sunday morning in the Seawhite sketchbook, with a dark blue uni-ball signo um-151 pen. We then watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Boys club morning.