portland pals

portland with rita sabler
A few more from my recentish trip to Portland (early November, recent in geological terms). Above, I joined my friend Rita Sabler for her husband Jim’s birthday celebration at a cool little place in on Beach Street Portland I had never been to before, which involved some sketching and a lot of interesting conversation. Rita had invited me up to teach a workshop in Portland which was really fun, but it was really nice and relaxing to meet up with some of her friends. I last saw Rita in Porto in the summer at the symposium, she is actually a former UC Davis student (from before even I came to Davis). Check out Rita’s sketching work at www.portlandsketcher.com, she has done some great things lately (including a residency at the leper colony on Molokai!).
kalina at thirsty monk
On my second night there I met up another old sketching buddy and fellow pirate-sketcher, Kalina Wilson. I really wanted to go back to this Belgian place that we had sketched one rainy Sunday afternoon back in 2012, Bazi Bierbrasserie, so we arranged to meet there. Except it’s not called that any more, it’s now to my surprise The Thirsty Monk. Beer was still nice though, and the conversation fun, always good to catch up after quite a while, I think I last saw her either at Manchester symposium or when my wife and I visited Portland one November (I forget the year). Check out Kalina’s sketching.
pdx doubletree hotel bar

And above, a sketch I did at the hotel bar of the Doubletree in Portland. You have to go down to the bar to use their Wifi because it’s not included in the rooms (booo, join the 21st century Doubletree). I usually stay at this hotel because it is easy enough for the places I usually want to go, it’s right by the MAX line to the airport, but I don’t know, time to find somewhere else maybe.┬áThere was a heavy metal weekend going on at the hotel while I was staying there, so there were lots of long-haired metally people, dressed pretty much the same way (“metal”), which didn’t really fit in with the bland corporateness of the Doubletree. I always kinda laugh at the sameyness of metal outfits and rock dress, but of course when I was younger this was very much the scene in London that I enjoyed being around the most, the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street, the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street, the Marquee on a Thursday night, I loved those places. And I would dress, well actually I would wear a bright green football shirt and have short hair because I liked to be different to everyone else, but I could mosh with the best of them. Those were the days. I felt quite at home around all the rockers, even in the sanitized corporate setting (and Doubletree, don’t put the toilets so far from the bar, yeah?). Anyway I sketched the bar, in its bland corporate light wood and screen showing basketball. Not exactly Old Town Pizza (now that is an interesting bar to sketch!) but a good way to get sleepy before bed.

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porto practicum

Simo workshop, Porto
The second and final workshop I took was with Simonetta (Simo) Capecchi, from Naples. I met Simo at the 2010 Portland symposium, and took one of her workshops there (actually at that one I think I may have wandered off and lost track of time, if I recall), oops. I was super excited to take this one though, as I love Simo’s work and her ideas, and this workshop was called “One Page Says It All: A Reportage on Porto Wine”. Simo does a lot of reportage sketching for a travel magazine called “Dove” (it’s in Italian), so she has a lot of experience in commissions for travel reportages. The point of this workshop was to create a page about Porto wine – think of an angle, map out your page, and think up a catchy title. There wasn’t a lot of time to do a ton of research, so it was mostly looking through windows, mooching around the wineries (or their info stands and gift shops) at quick pace, browsing leaflets in the tourist office. Most of the time is spent sketching, but the text had to be important. I sketched Simo above, before we took the little ferryboat over the Douro to our location in Vila Nova de Gaia. I liked the phrase “drawing and writing together don’t make two, they make three.” It’s so true.
Simo workshop, Porto
Here, Simo shows us some of her own reportage work, offering advice on how we can construct our pages. Some of the results of the various sketchers were very good, some highly detailed and well thought out, others a little more carefree, I think I fell into the latter a little. My page is below. It’s drawn in the Clairefontaine sketchbook that came in our symposium goody bags. I focused on the old English names of all the Port wineries – many of them were founded by English vintners several hundred years ago (and Anglo-Portuguese relations do go back many centuries, to their alliance back in the middle ages, the longest standing alliance between nations). I rushed the title though, quickly adding it in just before the show and tell: “A Glass of Old England” (I then added “In Old Porto” and immediately regretted it). I didn’t like the title though. I should have called it “Going Out For An English” in reference to that classic Goodness Gracious Me sketch. I really enjoyed this workshop, Simo is a very interesting storyteller and has always been an inspiration to me, and going over the river and thinking about Porto wine was a very pleasant way to spend a morning.

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Below, sketched on the ferryboat back over the river, is my friend Rita Sabler, who was one of the official correspondents for the Porto symposium. She had been sketching and reporting on our workshop. You can read her daily reports, along with those of the other two correspondents Paulo Mendes and Marina Grechanik, on the Urban Sketchers website.
Rita Sabler

And finally, here is the sketch of Sandeman’s without all the writing and stuff around it. Those cable-cars above are part of the Teleferico de Gaia. I did not ride these but would have liked to, if I’d given myself the time.

Sandeman Porto

All this reportaging, you would have thought I’d have topped it off with a nice glass of tawny. Instead, I got myself something unusual: a gelato made from Port wine. It was actually delicious.

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The Art and Habit of Travel Sketching (with Rita Sabler)

Rita Sabler's Talk sm

There were many interesting and varied talks that you could attend at #uskmanchester2016. Yes, I just used a hashtag in a sentence. Now if were saying that out loud I wouldn’t say the word “hashtag” but then that is why the written medium is capable of things that the spoken medium just isn’t, and vice-versa, and then there is the drawn medium. One thing I like about sketching at talks and presentations is that you can use it not only to document the visual of the event, but also take notes on the text. There is the issue of course that you must be careful what you write down, as that then potentially defines the speaker’s points in possibly unintended ways – take a sentence out of context, written down in a hurry, and sure they did say that, but it may not be what their talk was about. So whenever I have drawn presenters, I have been aware of this and tried to write down the thoughts and phrases that seem most to encapsulate it, though it’s impossible to catch it all.

I only managed to attend one talk in Manchester, having been off sketching the streets all the other times, taking advantage of the non-rain, but I wasn’t going to miss this one, “The Art and Habit of Travel Sketching“, by my friend from Portland, Rita Sabler. I first met Rita at the first symposium in Portland, learning that she was a UC Davis alumna, and have followed her sketching work ever since. She has a really cool and vibrant style, with a lot of travelling under her belt as well. In this talk she showed us some of her amazing travel sketches and shared her experiences around the world, both the good and the sometimes scary. She offered tips and advice on travel sketching, and spoke in general about the act of keeping a sketchbook, and the unexpected interactions it can bring. I wrote down some of what she was saying – click on the image above to get a better view – and some of my favourite takeaways were:

  • Sketching your surroundings, you become “at once the observer and the participant”
  • If sketching people in bars, pick the people who have the fullest glass – they will stay there longest!
  • If people notice you sketching them, smile!

I really enjoyed the talk, and everybody else that was there enjoyed it as well – and it was a full house. I was surprised that more people were not sketching though! I did spot a few others with sketchbooks out. Here was Rita afterwards, holding my book:

Rita Sabler

You can see more of Rita’s work on her website www.portlandsketcher.com, or on her Flickr page. You can also see three awesome chapters written by Rita in my book, Creative Sketching Workshop!