Sunday, August 5, 2018

Porto Symposium, Part 3: Everything Else

7/21/18 A park near Hall of Justice, Porto
7/21/18 A collection of building tops sketched during
the final sketchwalk

At the Barcelona and Paraty symposiums, I opted for full workshop passes, which enabled me to take as many as four workshops (sometimes two per day). Although I benefited from all that I learned, the experience was exhausting, and I sometimes felt overwhelmed by learning too many new ideas at once. After Manchester’s even more exhausting (though ultimately more fulfilling) experience of being a symposium correspondent, I decided to be completely unstructured the following year in Chicago with a simple sketcher’s pass, which included no workshops at all. It was fun and relaxing, though I sometimes envied other participants who spoke with excitement about the workshops they’d taken.

This year in Porto, I opted for the basic pass, which gave me two workshops and a demo – an ideal balance between structure and flexibility. In addition to the formal benefits that we registered for, we could choose from optional activities, including several sketchwalks, when we weren’t occupied with the formal benefits. I chose sketchwalks at Ponte Luis I Bridge, Sao Bento train station, the Virtudes area and, of course, the huge final sketchwalk in a large square surrounded by dozens of astounding buildings.
7/20/18 Buskers at the Ribeira

At every symposium I’ve attended, I’ve experienced a certain tension: the pull between wanting to sketch as much as possible and wanting to visit with as many people as possible – new people I’ve met and especially those I am reunited with only once a year. Porto was no different; in fact, with each successive symposium, I find the pull toward visiting with other participants to be stronger because each year I meet more people, adding to the number that I want to reunite with. The wide-open format of the sketchwalks gave me opportunities to run into or actively look for people I wanted to see while also being in superbly sketch-worthy locations.

Looking around at each sketchwalk venue, I marveled at how many people were sketching together – sometimes almost literally shoulder to shoulder. It’s thrilling to see how much Urban Sketchers has grown over the years, including symposium attendance (more than 800 participated in Porto; at previous symposiums, attendance average was about 500). But I’m also ambivalent about that growth. This year in particular, I found it more difficult to find people at the necessarily larger venues. In the evenings when I had time to catch up on social media, I kept seeing posts indicating that people I knew were somewhere in Porto, yet I never saw them in person.
7/18/18 Montage from the opening sketchwalk near Ponte Luis I Bridge
On the other hand, I was delighted by serendipitous encounters with blog readers and other followers whom I didn’t know at all until they spotted me and came to tell me that they appreciate my blog. It’s probably one of the most gratifying aspects of the symposium – meeting people in person that I have otherwise known only online, or meeting people who are quietly reading my blog, previously unknown to me.
7/20/18 Dom Pedro IV monument in Praca da Liberdade and
Sao Bento station behind it

To increase socializing opportunities, I attended drink/eat & draws in the Ribeira area as much as I could stay awake for! The partying and continual conversations are difficult for an introvert like me. Ultimately, though, after all the ink has dried and the sketchbook pages have been scanned, my fondest memories of the symposium are always about the people I saw and will look forward to seeing again at future symposiums.

I am always grateful for the many USk volunteers who work hard all year to make each symposium possible. This year, I also appreciate the local Porto hosts and the Portuguese people in general, who were so gracious, welcoming and enthusiastic.

7/18/18 drink & draw 

7/19/18 USk President Amber Sausen bursts into song to get
our attention for the morning meeting.
7/18/18 Porto buildings
7/19/18 drink & draw

7/19/18 Torre do Clerigos
7/21/18 Musicus Ensemble performing at the closing reception

Final sketchwalk in the town hall square

Sketchwalk at Sao Bento train station filled with tiled walls

Sketchwalk at Vertudes

Following very competitive bidding, I won this spectacular drawing by Eduardo Bajzek in the silent auction!

Joan Tavalott

Mike Daikubara and Kumi Matsukawa

Elizabeth Alley
Alvin Wong

Gabi Campanario

James Hobbs

Jane Wingfield and Sue Heston (among the 800!)

Javier De Blas and Greg

Joel Winstead


Lapin and Natalie Taylor (and me, photo-bombing my own photo as usual)

Paulo Mendes, one of our extraordinary symposium correspondents!

Peggy Wong

Shiho Nakaza and Liz Steel
More drinkin' and drawin'!

800 strong at the final sketchwalk and group photo

Can you find me?

I'm right there (in the red shirt)!

Next year: Amsterdam!


  1. You seem to have balanced the socializing and sketching well. I didn't attend the drink & draws because we were usually off to dinner. I was much happier doing the basic pass this year and planned my schedule so that I had both workshops on the same day. I think 4 workshops like in Chicago was too much. I really enjoyed meeting old friends and making new friends. I met quite a few people once the symposium was over and there weren't so many people around. Although 800 people is an impressive number I think it made it more difficult to find people. There are a few that I saw at the opening and never saw again. Amsterdam should be smaller from what I've heard.

    1. Glad to hear you worked out a good balance this year between formal workshops and just sketching for fun. I think next year I might switch back to the sketching pass I had in Chicago. Hope to see you in Amsterdam!

    2. Why switching back to yht sketching pass? Just curious about the difference in case I get to attend the symposium in the future.

    3. This year I had a fantastic, brain-exploding experience in a workshop, so it was definitely worth it to have a workshop pass. But I also feel like it's just more relaxing and enjoyable not to be committed to workshops and to be able to socialize more. I'll see how I'm feeling in a year! Sure would be fun to see you at a symposium sometime!


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