Sunday, June 30, 2013

Barcelona Symposium Prep, Part 1: Watercolors

Current favorite palette.
In one week, I’ll be in Barcelona! Four days after I arrive, the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium begins!

Am I ready?

That’s a relative question. Compared to two months ago, I am: I have comfortable walking shoes, humid-weather clothes and a high-security hidden wallet that’s only one part of my pickpocket-risk-reduction program (which also includes a small, cross-body bag with a slash-proof strap to contain my passport, cash and credit cards not being stashed in my hidden wallet; a backpack with nothing of value in the outer, accessible pockets; and, most important, mental alertness to watch for potential theft!).

But now it’s time to get serious about the art supplies I’ll pack, and I’m not quite ready. Ever since I signed up for the workshops and looked through the recommended supply lists, I’ve been swinging back and forth on a pendulum of indecision. On one end, I think that the symposium will be my most significant sketching and learning opportunity of my life so far, and I would be a fool not to have as many materials as possible, certainly as many as are recommended, because I might miss out if I didn’t.
Less familiar palette.

For example, one instructor recommends a sketchbook at least 8 ½” x 11” in size, and preferably two so that we won’t waste time waiting for pages to dry. So even though I don’t normally use a sketchbook that large in the field, I pulled out two from my shelves to consider. Another instructor recommended a folding palette, which I’ve never used in the field (I’m very happy with the tiny palette I cribbed from my Sakura Koi set). Another suggested a small can of hairspray to use as a fixative for charcoal!

But then I started swinging in the other direction. I’ve been working so hard to reduce the weight of my bag. . . I’m in love with my “Stefano” sketchbook system, which I’m planning to bring, regardless, because it’s the size I’m most comfortable with. Two large sketchbooks – do I really want to lug those? And even if I brought them, would I want to carry them on my back all day during the workshops? We’re going to receive all kinds of great swag from symposium sponsors, including sketchbooks – perhaps we’ll receive what we need there, so I don’t have to bring them from home. Maybe I’ll borrow a stick of charcoal and hairspray from another participant. . . we all learned to share in kindergarten, right?

Back and forth. At this point, I have been holding steady on the minimalist end of the pendulum swing, so as long as I stay there until Friday when I finish packing, I’ll be fine. With that:

Today’s post focuses on watercolors. Choosing my palette had its own small pendulum swing. One of my workshop instructors, Marion Rivolier, recommends some colors that I’m unfamiliar with, so I’m eager to try them the way she uses them. But on the other hand, with my limited use of them so far, I don’t like some of them. I love the palette I’ve been working with ever since Gail and Frank’s workshop, and I worked hard to get it down to eight colors that will fit into my Trader Joe’s mint tin (I dallied for a short time with 12 colors in a larger tin, but it didn’t balance well when attached to my sketchbook, so I went back to my original small square one). But if I’m not willing to try new colors recommended by a watercolor instructor, what is the point of taking the workshop?

Back and forth. Back and forth.

On this one I’ve decided to take the maximum rather than the minimum because paints in half pans don’t weigh much or take up much space. I’m bringing two Trader Joe’s mint tins: One with my familiar, favorite palette, and one that includes the less familiar colors. By the end of the symposium, I’ll decide whether Marion was able to show me why I should use her favorites, and since the half pans are all temporarily adhered with museum putty, I can pull them out, rearrange (or not), and go back to carrying only one tin for the rest of our trip (a week in Germany). An easy, low-maintenance solution.


  1. Sounds like a good plan. I always take more rather than less...cause what if I need it? lol I just looked at Marion's plein air practice lesson for her workshop and the people that participated looked like they had great results. I can't wait to see what you do in Barcelona.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Joan! I'm really looking forward to the workshops!

  2. You are too funny! :)
    But a few thoughts:
    1) Your hotel will have a safe or safe deposit box. Leave everything you don't need for that day esp. your passport, extra credit cards, ATM card, extra cash, etc. locked up in the hotel. It's the most secure place for it.
    2) You can also tuck some emergency cash under the inner insoles of your walking shoes (provided the insoles are removable). I love this "trick" and use it everywhere I travel.
    3) Partial list of art supply stores in Barcelona from Yelp (just in case):
    :) :) :)

  3. Several of the things you mentioned, and heavy, like the larger sketchbook, will be available on location and several, in fact, may be give-a-ways by the sponsors.

    And palettes are so personal, I'd go with what you like, or love, and comfortable with.

    Have a great time & I hope you share your output.


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