Friday, July 6, 2018

Portugal Palette

New colors in my Portugal palette

In a few days I’ll be on my way to Portugal for the 9th international Urban Sketchers Symposium and general discovery of a country new to us. As I always do before traveling to an unfamiliar place, I’ve been Googling images of Lisbon, Porto (the symposium location) and Coimbra – the three cities we’ll be visiting – to a get a sense of Portugal’s color palette. The rich red tile rooftops and tightly packed, pastel-tinted buildings remind me of Italy, especially on the Amalfi Coast.

I pulled a few pencils out of my daily-carry palette – I don’t think I’ll be using much pine green or construction zone neon orange there – as well as the Prussian blue I’ve been carrying since Yosemite, where the deep blue came in handy for late-afternoon shadows on granite. I replaced that hue with a warmer raw umber (049) for shadows, and added russet (065) for tile rooftops and Cornelian (850) to warm up the palette further. I’m not sure if I’ll need cobalt green (182), but I bring it to Europe as a matter of course (it came in handy in both France and Italy for verdigris details on statues and buildings). I kept the periwinkle blue (131) that I’ve been using for lavender season and tossed in the middle purple-pink (125) because I’ve lately been wishing I had something brighter for summer flowers. (All colors are Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle except 125, which is Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer.) The full palette is shown below.

The full palette

Youll notice that most of the pencils look long and new-ish. Several from my everyday palette were getting so short that they were falling below the elastic bands that hold them in place in the Tran Portfolio, so I replaced them. I still keep the stubs for use at home, though, where I can pop them into a pencil extender.

The rest of my daily-carry materials
So that takes care of my travel prep – the rest of my kit (at left) is the same as my usual daily-carry. How easy it is these days compared to when I was prepping for my very first symposium in 2013. Back then, I even made a dry run with a new bag to see how everything would work. Ironically, most of the sketch materials turned out to be good choices, but the bag itself was a major fail! Live and learn.

And learned I have, at least about how to pack my sketch kit: The more my kit stays the same as it is during my ordinary daily life at home, the easier it is to prep, and the happier I am.

That said, I did have to make special preparations for the materials I’ll need for the two workshops I’m taking in Porto. (Since I was a correspondent in Manchester and opted for a sketchwalk-only pass in Chicago, I haven’t taken workshops at a symposium since 2014 in Paraty. I’m looking forward to having the workshop experience again.) In general, I scrutinize the supply lists that instructors provide and avoid bringing materials that I think aren’t essential. Unless a workshop is focused on a specific medium or tool, I always assume that items recommended are simply the instructor’s personal preferences that can be substituted with supplies I already use.

With that in mind, shown below are the additional items I’m bringing specifically for workshops. The pile on the left is for Lapin’s workshop, “Urban Archeology: A documentary approach of the city.” The workshop description made it clear that it was about an approach, not a technique or medium, and his supply list suggested that students bring their “normally used” materials, which made prepping easy. However, I happen to have “waterproof ink pens” in a variety of colors as he recommended, so I am tossing in a few of those because they sound fun. I’ve rarely used them, and it would be an opportunity to try something new. Watercolors, something else he recommended, haven’t been in my sketch kit for nearly two years. I’m not taking a paint palette, but I remembered that I got a compact booklet of Viviva colorsheets from a crowdfunding campaign a while back. I decided to toss that in, too. At the last packing moment when I start jettisoning nonessentials, these items might not make the cut, but for now, I’m planning to take them.

Supplies for two workshops

The pile on the right is for Eduardo Bajzek’s workshop, “Graphite is the Matter.” In this case, the workshop is focused on a specific medium, so I am packing everything he recommends, which includes several grades of graphite pencils, three types of erasers (Three? That seems excessive, but I’m curious about how he uses each) and a blending stump. He also recommends an A4 sketchbook with smooth paper. I learned from the graphite drawing class I took last fall how important paper surface is, so I can’t get away with using my usual Canson XL watercolor paper, which is very toothy. I still have some Strathmore 300 Bristol Smooth left over from the previous graphite class, so I simply stitched together a few sheets. A4 is larger than I comfortably carry, so I am fudging on that part by using my favorite 9-by-6-inch size instead (which opens to a 9-by-12 spread – close enough to A4).

My teeny Daiso folding stool!
Of note: I already have such a plentiful supply of everything that I didn’t have to buy a single item for the symposium or the rest of the trip! (It’s a dubious distinction, but still worth noting.)

One more item I’m sure I’ll be happy to have during workshops and possibly at other times, too, is my teeny-weeny folding stool. Finally, there’s one additional essential item that I bring when I travel: a landscape-format sketchbook (not shown) – Stillman & Birn softcover Beta.

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