Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Most Memorable Sketches of Barcelona

7/8/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Zig marker, water-soluble colored pencil
When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of an urban sketching symposium in Barcelona were true, I was thrilled. Although I didn’t know much about this city except what I’d seen on Rick Steves’ show, I had an image of an exciting, vibrant city filled with old and new. My image was correct, except a hundredfold. I expected a large, bustling city, but its intensity nearly overwhelmed me. From the sheer extreme immensity and bodaciousness of the Sagrada Familia (probably the single most impressive manmade thing I’ve ever experienced) to the sea of humanity cruising down La Rambla at any given moment, everything about Barcelona felt intense, over-caffeinated and fully saturated. I loved it, and at the same time, it exhausted me.

Sketching Mirador de Colom.
Maybe that’s why, despite all the hours I spent sketching during the symposium, I made relatively few sketches of Barcelona on my own time. I became so full with the sights, sounds, tastes, sensations and smells of the city that I didn’t leave much room for sketching.

Most memorable is the very first sketch I made on our first day in Barcelona at the immense Mirador de Colom. As I sketched one of the many lions surrounding the monument at ground level, it suddenly struck me: “Hey, I’m sketching in Barcelona!”

7/10/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor
Another significant sketch in my memory is the one and only sketch I did at the Sagrada Familia. The type of place you could sketch every day of your life for a year and still find new things to capture, the Sagrada Familia took my breath away every time I turned. We spent all day there, yet I felt we had barely brushed the surface. By mid-afternoon, I realized I still hadn’t sketched it, so I braved the blazing sun, found an empty bench (empty only because it wasn’t shady) and took half an hour to sketch it (all the time I could stand that heat). It was the manmade equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and I sketched the equivalent of one rock.

Sketching Sagrada Familia.
My third most memorable sketch is one of the Arc de Triomf, for a couple of reasons. The Arc was the designated location of the group photo for all symposium participants preceded by a general sketchcrawl on the last symposium day. When I got there, the Arc itself was stunning to behold, but what caught my eye was all the sketchers. I think it was the only sketch opportunity that all symposium participants as well as ad hoc sketchers were available for, so literally hundreds of sketchers were scattered all over the grass, benches, everywhere I looked. As excited as I was to be part of the symposium, I hadn’t expected to feel so moved to see so many sketchers in one place – and to know that I was fortunate enough to be one of them. The collective energy of all those people engaged in their most passionate pastime must have been palpable even to casual passers-by.

7/13/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Zig markers
The second reason my sketch of the Arc is special to me is that it was my first after Inma Serrano’s workshop, “Rhythm in the City.” Before her workshop, I would have stood at the foot of the Arc in such awe and dismay that I probably would have chosen a small detail to sketch – not the Arc itself. But her approach toward sketching and her way of seeing architecture as living creatures gave me both the permission and the attitude to take on the whole Arc – or the part that engaged me most, and nothing more.

To view more sketches and photos from my travels, please see this Flickr set.  


  1. Yeah!!!! These are fantastic and your commentary really adds to my appreciation of them. The one of the arc is so great!!! Whatever you learned in that workshop paid off big time! I can just imagine how moving it was to see all those sketchers from all over the world in one place. I'm so glad you were able to be there.

  2. Great post Tina! It's so hard to condense it down into a few paragraphs, because there was so much packed into those few days, both literally and, as you say, emotionally. You really got it across. Love the photo of you sketching by the lion - the intensity of your concentration is caught wonderfully :-)


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