Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brazil, Part 4: Paraty and the Urban Sketching Symposium

8/27/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
(Pizzeria da Cidade, Paraty)
Paraty was a delight  and full of surprises. When I had first started seeing images of the coastal village in southern Brazil – one I had never heard of before the announcement that the 5th Annual International Urban Sketching Symposium would be held there – I was immediately taken with its small-town charm. Unlike Barcelona’s spectacular urban vibrancy (which inspired and invigorated me even as it intimidated me), Paraty seemed more my pace. Perhaps I could leisurely walk its streets without being watchful of pickpockets!

As it turned out, I had to be as watchful as ever in Paraty, though not of pickpockets. Instead of looking around for thieves, I had to look down with every step – or risk tripping on the rough stone streets and sidewalks everywhere! Or if my timing was off, I might be trapped on one side of the street or another when the high tide came in and the streets flooded with a sudden, temporary river.

As small as the proverbial “one-dog town” (in fact, there were at least three, including the black one that was always asleep next to Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ros├írio; if you look through the symposium Flickr group, you’ll see that the dog is a fixture in several sketches of the church), I could walk from end to end in a short time (though it always took me longer than I expected because I was trying not to trip). Despite its initial impression of being a sleepy town, Paraty is anything but quiet. I woke every morning to a cacophony of exotic birdsong and church bells. One day at 6 a.m., we were awakened by fireworks honoring a patron saint. Music was often playing, and the voices of local business owners and patrons filled the streets.

8/27/14 Super5 pen, Canson XL
(Our hardworking symposium staff at the opening reception)
Barcelona last year is the only other symposium I attended and can compare Paraty to, so I don’t have a broad range of reference, but to me Paraty was an ideal symposium location in several ways. Its small size made it easy to run (I mean walk – no running on those stony streets!) between the various symposium events, and it was so much fun to see other sketchers everywhere, anytime. The scale of the architecture was less imposing (can you say Sagrada Familia?), and I enjoyed the smaller workshops and activities more. In Barcelona, the culture was to dine late in the evening, so I missed most of the informal drink-and-draws because I was usually in bed by the time they took place. In Paraty, I could attend group dinners without losing beauty sleep. Stone streets notwithstanding, Paraty was more my pace.

8/26/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink,
Canson XL (Caramujo Restaurant, Paraty)
The symposium structure itself keeps maturing and improving. This year I could choose to attend a mix of workshops and activities (details in the next post), giving me a broader range of experiences. For example, by opting to forego the Thursday afternoon workshop and attend a portrait exchange instead, I met a number of people who had not registered for the workshop pass, so I probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to talk to them otherwise. Even better, I spent time with each one sketching their portrait.

Which brings me to the same conclusion I came to at the end of the Barcelona symposium last year: Regardless of the location or specific workshops (which were enormously useful), what I value and remember most about the Urban Sketching Symposium are the people I met or became reunited with there. I heard a number of attendees use the term “family reunion” to describe the atmosphere, and it’s exactly appropriate. I cherish the time I spent, both at the symposium and later in Rio, with people whose sketches I keep up with online all year round or just met and look forward to seeing again at a future symposium. Time and time again, I was moved by the communication that can transpire even without much of a common spoken language when we all share the common language of our love for sketching. I feel privileged to be part of this vast global network.

8/29/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Moleskine watercolor sketchbook
(Cafe Do Fogo, Paraty)
8/29/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Moleskine watercolor sketchbook
(Cafe Do Fogo, Paraty)

8/28/14 Cretacolor water-soluble colored pencils, bond paper (Sergio)
8/28/14 Cretacolor water-soluble colored pencils, bond paper (Marcia)

8/28/14 Cretacolor water-soluble colored pencils, bond paper (Fernanda)
8/30/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Zig markers (symposium closing sketchwalk, Matriz Square, Paraty)


  1. I would also think that the people you meet make the symposium what it is and it is exciting reuniting with people you met the first time, as well as making new friends. I think the small town would be a plus because you couldn't help but run into people when they were out and about. You did a lot of great portraits. Good for you! Nice!!

  2. So much for Urban Sketchers "is not a social group" (Meow!). :) I agree.... besides what I learn in USk workshops, it's the connections that really make it memorable. USk is very like other world-wide groups to which I belong: I can search for a group at nearly any destination and find some local people with whom I can connect.

  3. I missed this post before Tina. What a great summary of the Paraty experience. Love your sketches too.

    1. Thank you, Sue! I still think about Paraty and the symposium all the time!


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