Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Most Memorable Sketches of Germany

7/14/13 Burg Stahleck. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor
After the high humidity and intensity of Barcelona, Germany’s romantic Rhine region felt easy and relaxed (though not much cooler) – and it shows in my sketches. I was hard-pressed to select favorites from this group because I had many more to choose from, and they were all memorable in different ways.

Our week in Germany began in sleepy Bacharach (sleepy, that is, until you are trying to sleep, and then the trains that roar by every few minutes will wake you unless you wear good earplugs, which we fortunately had). Burg Stahleck, the town castle (every town in Germany seems to have one) perched high on a hill, was my first sketch.

7/16/13 A page of sketches made on a river cruise.
7/16/13 Kaiser Wilhelm monument. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.
We cruised down the Rhine River to Koblenz at a pace that matched our relaxed mood, and I discovered an amazing fact: As long as I don’t care about petty things like perspective, I can sketch stationary distant objects from a moving vehicle! Knowing from experience that sketching from a moving car or train is nearly impossible because things go by the window too fast, I hadn’t tried sketching from a boat. I discovered that it moves just slowly enough that if I choose, say, a castle in the distance, I can sketch it as the boat gets closer and continue sketching as it rounds a bend, revealing the other side of the castle or a tower previously obscured by trees. (It’s like drawing a flat map of the world – inaccurate only if you insist that the earth is round, even though you can’t see its roundness from where you stand.) Filling many sketchbook pages with small drawings, I never had so much fun on a boat.

Sketching Kaiser Wilhelm
At Deutsches Eck in Koblenz, two sketches stand out: One of the enormous monument of Kaiser Wilhelm on his steed, and the other of organ grinder “Onkel” Tom Willi. The latter spoke no English, but when he caught me sketching him, he came over to see what I was doing, and when I asked his name with my less-than-rudimentary German, he handed me a calling card. (If you look closely at the sketch of Wilhelm, you’ll see Greg wearing a hat. I sketched only the upper part of the monument; Greg had to climb quite a way up to get to that spot, from which he took the photo of me at right.)

7/16/13 Organ grinder at Deutsches Eck. Diamine Eclipse ink.

A couple of days later we traveled to Köln. When we first started talking about adding Köln to our itinerary, we weren’t sure we’d have enough to do there. Sure, there’s that cathedral, but what else? It turned out to be my favorite type of city: Urbane and sophisticated, but not too large or bustling to give me anxiety. And like the Sagrada Familia, I could have filled an entire sketchbook with nothing but “that cathedral.”

7/18/13 First sketch of Koln Cathedral. Platinum Carbon ink, Zig markers.

I only managed 10 sketches of it, but I could have sketched it a hundred times and still found new views to capture. Here are three of my favorites. The first one I did was also my most intense effort: Two hours in the early morning before the day got too hot. Shortly afterwards, I sketched the man playing steel drums in front of the cathedral, and it reminded me of all the buskers and other performers I enjoy sketching at farmers markets. Later that day, we climbed the cathedral’s 533 spiraling steps to the point marked on the first sketch (above).

Sketching Koln Cathedral.
7/18/13 Diamine Eclipse ink

That evening we walked along the Rhine, and I chose a distant view of the cathedral behind one of the arched bridges that cross the river. The next day I went back to the cathedral’s main plaza where I had sketched the first sketch and was surprised to find a line of people waiting for food from a soup kitchen. I liked the contrast of the enormous structure behind them.

7/18/13 Cathedral behind a Rhine River bridge. Kuretake brush pen.
My last sketch is of an historic tower on the property of friends in Mainz right next to their house. Romantic Turm Fort Stahlberg is available for rent by the day, and Greg and I were lucky enough to spend two nights in it. I woke early the first morning to sketch a 360-degree skyline view of Mainz from its very top. Then the next day I woke early again to sketch the tower, my very last sketch before we left for home. It felt like an appropriate closure to my sketchbook of a memorable trip.

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

7/19/13 Cathedral and soup kitchen line.
Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.
7/22/13 Turm Fort Stahlberg. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.


  1. Welcome home!!! I have enjoyed seeing your sketches whenever you posted them. I kept wanting to see more. These are great from Germany!!! I am so in awe of the cathedral sketches, becuase that building was so intimidating when I was there. Bravo to you! I love that you sketched from a slow sounds much easier than from a speeding car or train.

  2. The 7/18 sketch of the Koln Cathedral just steals the show. I am impressed at how much detail you captured and I can tell you were very connected to the subject. :) The perspective also looks good to me.

  3. Thank you, Joan and Janine! Germany, especially Koln, inspired me immensely!


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