porto party

Symposium people
And so here are some sketches from the final evening of the Porto Symposium. On these final get-togethers we usually spend a lot of time chatting and sketching, often speaking to people we may have not had a chance to see yet (easily done in this 800-large event), before going to dinner very late and generally feeling exhausted. Some wine was also drunk. Above, I sketched Marina Grechanik, from Israel, who this year was one of the symposium correspondents and another old urban sketchers friend whose work I’ve admired for years. She has a very creative and playful style (she appeared in my last book, on people sketching) so we drew each other in a portrait duel. I do love portrait duels and wish I could do more of them, I didn’t do enough of them in Porto.  Also on this page are Paul Heaston (who of course I know and have followed for years, but didn’t meet until 2016) and Hugo Costa, from Porto, who I’d not met before but whose work is awesome.

Below are Arnaud De Meyer, from Luxembourg, who I met in Manchester 2016. I really like his sketching work (especially his two page spreads), and really hope to sketch with the Luxembourg group some day; two sketchers I do not know but were from Germany, Jonatan and Alexandra; and Joe Bean, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a London sketchcrawl in 2016 and whose work I also really admire (in particular his in-construction sketches of Headingley Stadium in Leeds).
Symposium People
Below are a couple of sketchers I also met in Manchester 2016, Peter Dutka (UK) and Tine Klein (Switzerland), and though they both had colourful outfits I had didn’t have time to add paint while I stood with them. They both had amazing sketchbooks though, I spent some time looking through them, very productive and creative.
Symposium people
And below, the only other sketch I did, of a very tried and hungry group of urban sketchers – Liz Steel (Australia), Elizabeth Alley (USA), Fernanda Vaz de Campo (Brazil), and once more Paul Heaston (USA). Behind us were several more who I did not sketch. We had tried in vain to get dinner but it was late – late night dinner is less of a thing in Porto, this isn’t Madrid – but we found one place willing to serve us cheese pizza. The waitresses were for some reason very interested in my sketchbook. It was a fun evening, and I can’t wait to see evertyone again in Amsterdam! (Though I did see both Liz and Genine (unseen, at the table behind) in Lisbon a couple of days later).
Dinner after the Symposium
Oh yes, Amsterdam – I didn’t mention, but that is the location of the next Urban Sketching Symposium. Far fewer hilly streets there than Porto! I really hope to go to that one. Next time, I will actually tell people I am going, make connections ahead of time, and I’d also like to spend a bit of time in Belgium first, catching up with old places, meeting sketching friends, before the craziness of the Symposium.
Super Bock
Oh, and one last thing – this is Super Bock. It’s one of two beers you see everywhere in Portugal (the other being Sagres). This is one of the most Portuguese things to sketch. I hope you have enjoyed this trip through Porto with me, I hope I have managed to show some of my enjoyment of this city, but I didn’t see it all and would love to come back some day. I know some friends in England who would love it there. Adeus, Porto!

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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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porto polyrhythmic

Praca Ribeira
“Polyrhythmic” – being made of two or more rhythms at the same time. I think that is a good describer for many great cities, but is certainly true of Porto. I am not quite at the end of posting my Porto sketches, but have divided them out so certain ones will post together. I think with these ones, they were ones that I didn’t necessarily categorize, but looking at them together they do have a certain joined-up difference. Above, the Praça Ribeira, down near the Douro. This was where the nightly Drink’n’Draw was held, and there are so many sketches of this colourful little spot.

Miragaia hillside, Porto
This scene here is of the hillside of Miragaia, as seen from the long riverside street of Alfandega. Another scene sketched by many, as it was right by the Symposium location. It was an overcast day, so the colours were more muted. I never explored this area, which appears more labyrinthine and a little ramshackle. And of course, there is a tiled church in there. That’s the Antiga Capela e Hospital Do Espirito Santo, Google Maps tells me. I would have liked to have drawn even more, along the whole riverfront. I walked along it a lot of times (or ran along it, rushing to get to a demo or workshop on time).

Porto view from Se

This is the view from the Terreiro da Sé, next to the cathedral, looking out over the rooftops. I was really attracted to this group of colourful houses, many of them tiled, but the one on the far right (not a great phrase that, these days) is called the ‘Varanda de Fado’. I think they play a lot of Fado there. I don’t know though, because I never went to find out, in the evenings. Funnily enough, I didn’t manage to seek out any Fado in Portugal. I know I should have, but I never had the opportunity. I felt a little strange asking where the Fado was, like I was too much of a tourist, afraid of getting rolled eyes and shaking heads, like if a tourist to London asked me how to find the bowler hat shops. So, I pretty much missed out on the Fado scene. Perhaps next time.

Aliados, Porto

The scene above is of Liberdade Square / Avenida dos Aliados, which is the big main thoroughfare of Porto. It’s fairly long, sloping uphill slightly towards the tall white tower of the town hall. This was sketched during daytime, but I came along here on a Friday night on the way home to the hotel. It was a bit bizarre, it seemed to be full of teenagers, huge gangs of them, mostly young ladies dressed as if going to nightclubs and lads barely on the right side of shaving, but not doing much more than hanging around in the street in large groups talking and drinking and smoking. Perhaps they all were going on to nightclubs, I have no idea the habits of young people of Porto, or perhaps this just is what the young people do these days. Been along time since I was that young. anyway I popped into McDonalds, which was packed (mostly with more of these well-dressed youths). They had chandeliers (McDonalds, not the youths). Ordering at McDonalds in Europe these days is done on big touchscreens now, they aren’t really a thing over here in California yet, not sure why. Probably because we are still mostly about Drive-Thru when it comes to McDonalds. My wife says that this touchscreen ordering system would not work at McDonalds in America, but most Americans I know are quite familiar with touchscreens by now so I think it would. Except at a Drive-Thru, unless you had really long arms, or maybe the screens could move closer to the window. McDonalds, get on that idea, you are welcome.

O Porto Statue
This statue was on that same square. I don’t know who it is, but the statue is called “O Porto”, which is probably like “Oh Canada”. The man with the spear has a dragon on his head. From behind, he looks like Loki. “I am Burdened with Glorious Purpose!”
Torre Medieval Reboleira, Porto

Above is a building which I believed to be called the Torre Medieval da Reboleira, but which Google Maps now tells me is something else. No I think this might be not one but two churches, the Igreja Monumento de Sao Francisco on the right and the Igreja dos Terceiros de Sao Francisco behind it. Well, at least this is a couple more churches for my church count (this might put them ahead of the hydrants now). I had two attempts at drawing this, both times I ran out of time and had to go elsewhere, so I left it. I’m going to need to cross out that incorrect name in the sketchbook now though, aren’t I.

Porto Tiles

And finally, well I had to draw some of the tiles didn’t I. Seriously, Porto is chock full of houses decorated with these colourful ceramic tiles, usually in blue and white. There are so many different patterns. I remember seeing a lot in Lisbon, but nothing like Porto. If Porto is known for anything, it is this.

About three more Porto posts to go! Then we move on to Lisbon.

porto perambulations

Rua Loureiro, Porto

Taking a break from the people sketches, here are a few more sketches of Porto’s streets and hills. Before going to Porto, I checked out the roads I might be walking through on Google Street View, and picked my hotel behind the train station thinking, yeah that’s not too bad. My legs felt otherwise. The streets are pretty steep! There were a few different ways back to the hotel, none of which were easy climbs and one of which (Rua da Cima) was a little bit dodgy feeling at night, some seedy looking establishments behind doorways with ladies leaning in the half-light and men lurking in shadows nearby. So, I explored a few different routes. The street above is not far from there, and I came across it while walking down toward the Se Cathedral area from my hotel, this is Rua do Loureiro. I really liked sketching how the street weaved downwards, with those colourful garlands crossing from window to window. They are left over from a recent city celebration, I was told. As I sat and sketched, on an overcast Wednesday morning, some children played in the street nearby. It felt very much like a neighbourhood. That’s a bit patronising; of course it’s a neighbourhood. Porto is struggling at the moment with a relatively recent upsurge in popularity, with many locals being priced out of the old Porto quarters by the influx of tourist apartments. If the graffiti I read around town is accurate, anyway. Porto is no longer the undiscovered secret it used to be.

Rua da Madeira

Above, another street that ran next to me hotel, this one was right outside my window. Rua da Madeira. Again, one that I didn’t mind going down in daylight, a bit less so at night (though there weren’t as many small seedy, ahem, ‘nightclubs’ along the way). It’s less a road and more an alley with a large staircase. However, it’s filled with graffiti, much of which looks commissioned by the city, large interesting murals mixed in with down to earth tagging. I had to draw it. This part is as far as you can drive down from Batalha, before the steps begin, running alongside the back of the Sao Bento train station. Streets behind train stations look like this all over the world. Even in Burnt Oak; it reminded me of those alleys behind the tube station on Watling Avenue, like the one I used to go down to go to Cubs when I was a kid. This is very far away from Davis, but I felt a little bit more at home here. There is a nice view over Porto, with the Clerigos tower in the distance.

Rua da Madeira, Porto

This is the bottom of that street. It is really steep! I stood next to Sao Bento, in the doorway of a hostel, on the Saturday afternoon to sketch this. Across the street some members of a youthful rock band were drinking the day away. I know they were a rock band because (1) they had long hair, and (2) I had seen them earlier in the day waiting outside a rock club across from here with all their instruments, while the singer (I presume he was the singer, he looked like the singer) was on the phone to someone complaining that they couldn’t get in to leave their instruments somewhere. Obviously a band on tour, with not enough roadies (or any). I knew they were a rock band then. They sounded Australian or south African, but they may just have been British and just Talking Like That. Anyway they were getting lubricated as you do when you are in a foreign country and you are young and in a rock band, minding their own business, and I heard another man swearing at them, a local by the sound of it, very drunk himself, swearing in English. Then a very large man, who must have been a roadie or their minder or dad or someone, escorted said swearing-man away from the cafe. That is it, that’s the whole story. I’m glad I wasn’t in a band in my early 20s. I was rock and roll enough, without growing my hair long.

Rua 31 de Janeiro

Now this street was very normal and wide and a great option for walking home at night, however it’s just too damned steep. Rua 31 de Janeiro, which slides down from Batalha and then slides up again to Clerigos, took me absolutely ages to walk up at night. By the time I reached the top I was exhausted. Thankfully there was an ice cream shop at the top that stayed open until almost midnight. The top of this street is at the junction of Batalha and Rua Santa Catarina, a much nicer part of town with more upmarket shops and – amazingly – no steep hill to climb. I never did sketch the Cafe Mjestic, nor did I find the Bolhao Market nearby, but I did sketch the outside of this lovely bookshop, below. In case you are wondering, no, this is not the famous bookshop of Porto, Livraria Lello. That is the one with the magnificent curving staircase. I never actually went there. Well, IO tried, but on a Saturday afternoon it was packed with a very long line out of the door. You have to buy tickets to get in. The Urban Sketchers instructors were all given a free couple of hours after closing to come in and sketch one evening, but I’m not an instructor so couldn’t do that. It was also further away from where I was staying than I realized. Ah well, I’ll save that place for next time. And maybe next time, I’ll stay at a hotel closer to the bottom of the hill.
Batalha Bookshop

Stay tuned for more Porto!

porto potty

Pedro Loureiro
Now we move on to the workshops I took in Porto. I registered for a ‘Basic Pass’, which meant I could take two workshops (the Workshop Pass was for four, while the Sketching Pass was for zero). I do like to just sketch, but at a symposium it’s fun to do at least some workshop stuff, to learn a few things, see sketching from a different angle, and also meet new people. For my schedule, I decided on workshops on Thursday and Saturday morning, leaving all of Friday for just free sketching. On Thursday morning I took a workshop taught by Pedro Loureiro, whom I had met in the Manchester Symposium. There he is above, giving his introduction.
Pedro's workshop
It was called “Public Realm Objects”, and was about focusing on those parts of a scene that are often overlooked – lamp-posts, bins, bollards, street signs; “fire hydrants” I chipped in, “yes thanks Pete, fire hydrants”; things that are typically there as part of the city’s functionality. For the first exercise we had to draw a street scene but leave out absolutely everything except those ‘public realm’ objects. There was an additional point – we had to add a verb to each public realm object, one that might describe its function. In this way, we are starting to think about its purpose.
USk Porto Pedro workshop exercise 1
For the next exercise we had to pick one of the objects we drew, and then study it in greater detail. What’s it made of? Are there finer details? Who made it, and when? Why is it there? How big is it? I selected the green metallic object that was slightly up the hill, the one that I had marked ‘inform’ because it had an advertisement on the side. It turns out that it was a toilet, and an out-of-order one at that. A ‘Porto Potty’ if you will (right, I have found a blog post title!). So I studied it, as best I could; see below. While drawing it, some people did come by and try to use it but quickly moved on. One fellow didn’t though. He stood outside patiently, then maybe a little less patiently, then he was banging on the door asking whoever was inside to hurry up. He wasn’t Portuguese, so maybe didn’t know what “Indisponivel” meant. It’s ok, I didn’t even know this was a toilet at first. Anyway after we did this exercise, we had a little show-and-tell gathering where we had to talk about our objects.
USk Porto Pedro workshop exercise 2
The final exercise was a longer one, where we had to show how the the object interacts with the world at large. People walking by, using it (glad it was indisponivel, I wouldn’t have drawn that!), that sort of thing. I stood on the other side of the street and sketched it, adding in people walking past or trying to use it. Nobody really banging on the door this time. I felt like a tabloid celebrity journalist, staked out in front of a pop star’s house, watching for a story, any story, anything will do. I tried to make a story about the fact that the sidewalk is very narrow there because the loo is in the way, and people have to be in much closer quarters as they pass, which can be awkward. One woman gave another purple-haired woman a glance as she passed; right there’s a story. It was a fun thing to explore the world around this broken-down bog.
USk Porto Pedro workshop exercise 3
Below, fellow workshop participant Mary talks about the object she sketched. I can’t remember what it was because I drew her page blank.
USk Porto Mary

Oh, and later on that day, I was passing by this area and of course, predictably, I needed to use the toilet. And couldn’t, because this was indisponivel. I had to find a restaurant, who charged me a whopping 50c to use their for-customers-only bathroom. Now there’s a story.

porto people

Porto Dinner

The Symposium always offers a chance to feel ok about drawing people. Everyone is doing it, nobody judges you about how unrealistic it looks, and nobody feels self-conscious about someone sketching them. Well, usually. I mixed up sketching the public with sketching the participants, and tried to keep it fast (far less than the ‘five minutes’ per person!) and tended to stick to pencil, with a bit of watercolour for effect. I used a Palomino pencil that a pal of mine sent me from Japan (cheers Tel), it does wear down fast though, I had to keep sharpening. Pencil moves fast though, so is good for those really quick people sketches. Above, dinner on the Thursday evening with several of my old sketching buddies. You can see Kumi Matsukawa (from Japan), Shiho Nakaza (from Santa Monica) and Rita Sabler (from Portland), all of whom wrote chapters in my 2015 book ‘Creative Sketching Workshop’ and all of whome I met in the 2010 symposium, which is also where I met Mike Daikabura (from Boston), at the end of the table. There’s also Tina Koyama (from Seattle) who of course I have met at other symposia, great to see her again with her partner Greg, and Corinna from Germany, who I did meet briefly in Manchester. Others at the table are Jane (from LA who was in Portland, but I’d never met), and Elaine and Alex, who I didn’t speak to. It was a nice gathering for the “Drink’n’Draw”. The Drink’n’Draw events were generally done at the Ribeira square next to the river, and were generally hundreds of sketchers messed all over the place, so the fact I actually found several sketchers that I already knew was nice. It was a nice evening.

Porto people
Porto people

Above, sketching the locals. And the tourists. I stood in a couple of spots and tried to capture people as they passed by. I liked the lads in the Porto kits kicking the ball about up the Alfandega, I kinda wanted to join in. The bizarre looking Chef with the big eyes is actually not a person, nor a Frank Sidebottom mask, but a large figure in the window of a restaurant. Below, some people I sketched while waiting for my Francesinha.

Porto people at lunch

Below, some other locals or maybe tourists, eating dinner at Ribeira. The woman on the right, I might have drawn her head slightly too small. The giveaway is that the person behind her has a larger head. As does the person sitting opposite, who is further away from my POV than she is. Now unless they are wearing Frank Sidebottom heads, I’ve got that wrong. Ah well.

People at dinner porto

And below, two fellow sketchers I enjoyed a beer with on Friday evening, Aglaia and Joel, both from the US. Joel I had met in the Manchester symposium, he was busy during this one with accounting and money stuff for Urban Sketchers. He’s wearing his red Chicago symposium shirt, from last year’s event (that I missed). Aglaia teaches history at a university, so we had a long discussion about history and what not. At one point they mentioned they had seen the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night again recently, and asked about the Wilfred Bramble character and why they kept saying he looks ‘very clean’, which is a reference to steptoe and Son that many Americans these days would probably not get, so I got to do an Harry H Corbett impression and say “you dirty old man!” Also I think I may have done a Simon Schama impression or two. A fun evening.

Aglaia and Joel

Stay tuned for more Porto sketches!!!

porto performative

Amber Sausen, USk President
The reason we were all there in Porto was for the 9th Urban Sketching Symposium. “USk Porto 2018” as it is known (see the hashtag #USkPorto2018 on the various platforms) was the largest one yet – 800 registrants, with a similar number descending on Porto just for the ride. Urban Sketchers is quite big now. The first Symposium back in Portland in 2010 (check out my Flickr album, or look at my Portland 2010 blog posts) had less than 80 people, many of whom had only ever met each other online and never in person, and yet we all seemed to get to know each other. The ‘Woodstock of Sketching’ Matthew Brehm called it. With 800 people it was hard enough to find the people you knew! Yet I still managed to meet new people, though for sure, it was a really big crowd. Above, the current Urban Sketchers President, Amber Sausen, sings to the gathered Thursday morning crowd before they set off for their workshops. Below, Amber introduces the Symposium at the Wednesday evening reception. There was a show of hands; over 50% were first-time symposium participants!
USk Porto opening ceremony
One aspect of the symposium this year were the demos. There have been demos before, but this year we had to sign up upon registration and choose whose demo we wanted to attend. Most were held outside on the streets, in the urban setting, our little groups shepherded by friendly volunteers. I went to the demo of Gabi Campanario, Seattle-based journalist and the founder of Urban Sketchers. I’ve not seen Gabi in person since Lisbon 2011 so it was nice to see him again. He was the one who invited me to be a correspondent on the new blog ‘Urban Sketchers’ when it was first launched, back when it was tiny, so it is great to see a decade later just how big and popular it has become. Gabi’s style of sketching is very particular, he works fast but gets in a lot of information; he sketches for a newspaper after all. I’ve always been in particular impressed with his approach to perspective, and it was this that he helped to demonstrate first. He usually draws fairly small, but sketched on a large pad for the demo so that everyone could see. I drew the group watching and learning.
Gabi demo
We were on the Alfandega, which has a lot of very interesting vistas to sketch, so Gabi continued his demo by showing us a bit about how to go about composing such a sketch. I like the poses he gives. The demo is very much a performance, a piece of street theatre that is both instructive and interactive.
Gabi demo
Finally, here is another sketcher, called Paula. I will post more pictures of the other sketchers I drew, though to be honest I don’t feel like I drew enough of the other sketchers this time. There were 800 other participants after all, plus about that many who just joined in the crowds in Porto. I don’t think she minded me sketching her; it’s expected at the symposium, you will be sketched. I’m including this though because she was very much in the act of sketching (actually by this point I think she was checking her phone). I have always wondered about the line between sketching and performance.
USk Porto Paula

On one hand we are working in our private journals, they are our business and not really anybody else’s. You aren’t under any obligation to show anybody anything you have drawn. On the other hand, there is an unwitting performative element to the urban sketcher. I think it’s one that fascinates the public. This is something that I would love to explore further; years ago I used to do interactive theatre, and so many of the workshops and skills and ideas I picked up in those days have informed my attitude to urban sketching. I really want to explore this somehow. When we as sketchers are out in public, creating art, we are in fact engaging in two kinds of performance art. There is the result, the sketch that we share online (and we usually do, as part of Urban Sketchers). Then there is the act of sketching itself. Once I stopped finding a place to hide when I sketch, I started to lose my fear of being watched while I sketch. Why do people watch? They are fascinated that you are creating something. So many times people will come up and say, oh wow that is beautiful, and I have literally drawn five pencil lines and spent ten minutes squinting up at a building. Is that really the thing that is beautiful, or is it the act of going out and actually trying to draw something that is beautiful? I think it’s more often than not the latter. “Wow, did you draw that?” I know artists who get very upset with that statement; in the early days, I would often imagine sarcastic responses too, and mumble them under my breath, but that’s not what the person is asking. They aren’t asking if you drew that. They are making an exclamation of wonder, often not even of the drawing but of the act of drawing, of the bravery that it takes to attempt the drawing in public, the performance. Honestly I could write a long article on this, and go back to my old drama degree theory stuff, Eric Bentley (A plays B watched by C). It is worth thinking about though, when you are next out sketching, how much of it is personal and how much is public performance, albeit of a quiet kind. If that is the case, USk Porto 2018 was one of the largest pieces of public theatre I’ve been to in ages.