Friday, August 10, 2018

Porto Symposium, Part 4: Sketch Kit Review, Swag, Shopping

Porto swag!

With all I’ve written about the Porto symposium, I know that what you really want to see is the swag 😉, so I won’t make you wait any longer.

New colors added to my usual daily-carry.
More on that in a bit, but first I want to do the all-important sketch kit review: How did my prep match what I needed in reality? You may recall that my kit prep didn’t amount to much. I added a few colors to my pencil palette that I thought would come in handy in Portugal, and they did. I used russet (065) nearly every day for all those tile rooftops, and cobalt green (182) came in hand several times for verdigris trim. Although I had thought my wide-ranging palette would cover the pastel-colored buildings I’d seen in photos, I regretted that I didn’t have peach or salmon, which I saw frequently in the residential hillscape. I made do with a mix of middle purple-pink and Cornelian. Overall, my usual daily-carry kit served me fine.
Materials I brought specifically for workshops.

What about the additional materials that were on the symposium workshop supply lists? In Eduardo Bajzek’s workshop, Graphite is the Matter, I used only one pencil, the kneaded eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser. I ended up using toilet paper instead of the blending stump, and I didn’t need the signature of paper I’d prepared, either (see below for more on that). Still, it was good to have other grades of graphite in case I wanted to explore them, and I did end up using some after the workshop.

The items I had brought specifically for Lapin’s workshop – a booklet of Viviva colorsheets and some waterproof colored pens – were clearly optional, and I almost left them behind. I could have, as I didn’t use them at all. However, I did learn how Lapin uses those colored inks: To separate and distinguish certain elements in a composition. In my workshop sketch, I had plenty of color, and I thought adding more in the form of inks would not have improved the composition. But I like the way he uses color in his work, and it gave me food for thought on how a variety of tools can be used to emphasize some elements.

Ultimately, my hunch was right: I could have omitted the materials I assumed were optional. In a workshop where a specific material and its application technique are being learned, however, it’s more important to bring what’s specified by the instructor.

OK, now back to the swag. Each year, the symposium sponsorship team seems to out-do itself from the previous year, filling our goodie bags with piles of samples, information, discount coupons and even full-size sketchbooks. Shown at the top of the page are the contents of the tote I received upon registration (Thank you, sponsors!). The next day as I was walking out of the restroom before heading for my workshop, a sponsor nearly knocked me over as he handed me a landscape-format Pen & Ink sketchbook! Umm, thanks?
Derwent supplied Eduardo's workshop participants with
a sketchpad, pencil and erasers.
Sometimes instructors secure sponsored materials specific to their workshop topic. When we arrived at Eduardo’s workshop, participants received a sketchpad, pencil and erasers from sponsor Derwent. Although I had already prepared a signature of paper that I was planning to use during the workshop, it was smaller than Eduardo had recommended. In retrospect, working over the gutter as I had planned would have been difficult with his technique, so I was relieved and happy to receive the A4-size spiralbound pad. I think the surface has more tooth than he likes, but I really enjoyed working on the moderately textured surface for my workshop sketch. In fact, I’m thinking about stitching up the remaining sheets into some signatures for my usual daily-carry to use with graphite.

When packing for a symposium, sometimes first-time participants ask me whether they need to bring anything at all, since they know they will receive a generously stuffed swag bag. I always say that while it’s probably possible to get away with that in a general approach- or concept-based workshop (in which using specific materials isn’t important), it’s unlikely that the bag will contain exactly what they need for a workshop in which the material is critical. I did see some participants using the sketchbooks they received, so if you aren’t fussy about paper or format, it’s entirely possible to leave heavy books at home and use whatever you are given. It’s a good way to explore a new product (as long as you are willing to embrace the unknown).

In all the symposium workshops I’ve attended, the Derwent sketchpad may be the first time I’ve ever used a swag item in a workshop. It probably made a difference that the sponsor was secured specifically for Eduardo. (Though the Derwent mechanical pencils and erasers we received were not the kinds he had recommended, so I used the ones I had brought from home.)

Of course, as always, the most important item in my goodie bag is the Cretacolor pencil tin with the Porto symposium logo on it! This brings my collection to five, and I cherish each one. At this time last year when I returned from the Chicago symposium, I was completely content, believing that I had acquired every symposium tin that existed. Sometime after that, I discovered that a tin had also been made for the Barcelona symposium – but only in a very limited quantity! Perhaps only symposium staff or instructors received them. . . ? I don’t know – I only know that I saw a photo of one, and despite my pleas on social media, no one has yet come forward with a Barcelona-logo Cretacolor tin that they are willing to give or sell to me. Believe me, if I see one, I will beg, buy or steal to get it. I’m not giving up! (I suppose it’s unlikely to show up on eBay, but this is what collecting rarities is about. If you have information, call now!)
My pride-and-joy collection of symposium pencil tins
Meanwhile, I didn’t have to beg or steal to get another pencil box and pencils – I only had to purchase them from a lovely shop in Lisbon called A Vida Portuguesa. Everything in the shop is made in Portugal, from tile replicas to hand soap and home décor. I found a beautiful wood pencil box with a sliding top and several products made by Viarco, Portugal’s only pencil manufacturer and one of Europe’s oldest. I already knew and loved Viarco’s ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil, so I stocked up on several of those and a few other pencils. I also got a cake of ArtGraf water-soluble graphite. (Virginia Hein mentioned it in her landscape book, and I’ve been wanting to try it.) Viarco and A Vida Portuguesa had collaborated on making a set of colored pencils that reproduces vintage Viarco packaging, so of course I needed that, too. A modest haul, wouldn’t you say?

A modest haul from A Vida Portuguesa


  1. Trying to fit all that swag loot into my suitcase and backpack wasn't easy. I never want to leave anything behind but worried about the extra space and weight. lol My thanks to the sponsors for some very useful materials.

    1. Yeah -- you should have seen how much my bag was bulging! I could barely get the overhead bin door closed!


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