Going on a sketching trip which includes an Urban Sketchers symposium is such a big adventure and at times overwhelming. Overwhelming in a good way, in terms of all the people to meet, to sketch with and be inspired by (seeing their work IRL and seeing them in action is 100x more meaningful than following blogs – hmm, that is saying something) but it is also overwhelming in terms of the amount of sketches to scan and post and all the ideas to process and absorb when you get home. I am feeling that sense of being overwhelmed this morning. Ok… I am still not back to 100% well after my terrible cold I caught in Rio and the sheer volume of stuff I want to scan and share has hit me …not to mention all the other work that is on my plate (I am going away this coming weekend to teach a workshop on travel sketching). But I know that if I just plug away it will get done. In fact I am trying to hit it hard this year and post as quickly as possible so I can get on with other projects…so I know that it will be overwhelming for some of you to keep up with my posts in the next fortnight. Ok… enough of a preamble lets get to Paraty!
(warning this is a long post!)
This year’s symposium was in the small historic colonial town of Paraty that is located half way between Rio and Sao Paulo… and the only way to get there was via a long bus ride. So on Monday I joined a hired bus with 8 other USKers headed for Paraty. The bus ride took all day, no one in the bus sketched – instead we either napped or chatted (no guess which I did)It was a lot of fun but tiring. On arrival in Paraty Esther, Emma, Suhita and I were told our rooms were not ready. Not ready in the sense of still of being still under construction!
We were then taken to another Pousada and got our first experience of Paraty’s rough cobblestone streets (river bed boulders would be a more accurate description) – pulling your trolley suitcase along these streets was not an option!
And then it was the start of the running into USKers everywhere on the streets and trying to work out which group to have dinner with… but Suhita, Esther and I just had to do our first sketch before we ate
Suhita was out sketching boats – check out her boat sketches here.
Sadly I never got a chance to sketch boats or the front of our lovely Pousada. Funny how some important subjects in a town that you are staying in for a full week just don’t get captured! You have to be really focused and make the most of any opportunity to sketch to be able to record everyone you want. I was going to write that this is particularly the case when a symposium is coming up – but in fact it is the golden rule for travel sketching – seize the opportunity you have NOW for a quick sketch as you might never get another chance.
Suhita and I had wanted to do each others workshop but couldn’t due to ur teaching schedules so we decided to do a condensed dry run of each (rather than just do a quick personal check out of our workshop location) and Esther joined us for both.
The most significant was that you do not need to finish the outline of people that are moving fast through the space. The incomplete figures in the sketch create a sense of movement.
A lot of good reminders of drawing people first
– drawing more people than you would see if you just took a photo (ie. spaces feel more active and filled with people over time than they are in a single moment)
– Don’t get distracted drawing the context till you have enough people populating the space
– Try to include someone in the foreground
The time went very quickly so here are two quick sketches of the square and the road opposite that I did towards the end of the dry run. Omar Jarramillo and Richard Alomar walked past and then joined us.
but as everyone else was sketching towards the end of the meal I did a quick vertical slice of the cafe.
We wandered back to check out what the sun was doing with Santa Rita (an important part of my workshop prep is to check relationship between the sun and the building facade during the day and as I would be teaching both morning and afternoon )
We had just missed the highest part of the high tide flooding the streets… Marc had set up his portable easel and was sketching the view down one of the streets. Suhita and Esther wanted to sketch the church… and I wandered off to do a little solo sketching.
Paraty has been designed to let the high tide waters flood into the streets (we believe it was a special kind of sewer – the water was to clean out the streets) I understand that it only floods to this extent during a king tide and this is what we had for the 5 days we were there. Holes in the sea wall let the water in. There are only a few planks put up to cross the flooded streets – most of the time you could walk around the block or use the huge cobblestones as stepping stones. I never had to get my feet wet. The high tide normally last for a few hours in early afternoon…and certainly added a lot to the charm of the place.
One of the things that is so great about a symposium and the lead up to it, is being inspired by the work of fellow sketchers. So, I had just seen Marc painting the reflections and I had Matt Brehm street scenes in my mind (after seeing his sketchbook on Saturday evening) so I went in search of a good spot to capture both.
One of the tensions in my mind, when I sketch, is between wanting to focus on describing a single building and wanting to describing space – it is hard (impossible?) to do justice to both in a single sketch.
Describing the building: Sitting front on and exploring its elements and proportions – working at a scale that I can really get my teeth into the details and having fun with paint.
Desire to describe space and street scenes: I don’t really like drawing rows of windows as slots and lines as it feels too much of an abstraction of the building… but at the same time I do want to record the sense of light and the sense of space and depth looking down the street.
Evening: once again I was a little tired and lacking in energy to sketch. We had a huge group from dinner and then went to the opening of an exhibition of local Urban Sketchers in a very nice bookstore. There were a number of books in the store that I would have liked to buy… but sadly I didn’t make it back to make my purchases.