Brazil Trip: Initial Reflections and two big concepts to develop!

September 14, 2014 | Leave your thoughts

Before I start the regular daily posts of my trip I thought I would start by sharing a few overall reflections from the trip.

The first image is from Day 1 sitting on the pavement in Centro Sao Paulo painting shapes before line and the second image from the last day of the trip, also from Sao Paulo but this time standing up scribbling with ink, watercolour pencil and waterbrush during a tour of Lina Bo Bardi’s Glass House.
Those of you who received my September newsletter will know about the tensions that exist in my art brain during a big sketching trip … and these two images are a summary of the main ones from my 3 weeks in Brazil.

It is all to do with the line vs colour (edges vs shapes) and the architect vs the painter tensions. There was a surprising new direction in my work this time…but more about this soon.


The third image that I want to share is from the 8am sketching gang on the Thursday morning of the Symposium. These early morning sessions were a real highlight for me. We were all sketching for ourselves before the craziness of the workshops (teaching or attending) and yet we were sketching together. Being constantly with some of my closest sketching buddies for the whole 3 weeks was amazing… and quite a different experience. Most of my big sketching trips have a significant amount of time sketching and chatting with other artists, but normally, I am travelling solo and have a lot of time for quiet moments. I often have solo sketching days when I get time to reflect and absorb what I have gleaned from others and also time to have my own responses to the place I am visiting. This trip I was with people all the time – with the exception of the few days in bed that I had in Rio (forced quiet time!) It was such an amazing experience to spend so much time with some of these great friends and artists. We had lots of incredible conversations about our work and how different we all are, bouncing around concepts and ideas and just generally spurring each other on!

Somehow I am hoping that the process of scanning and posting will give me the reflective time to absorb all of this ‘stuff’… because it was all ‘good stuff’.

A few other random comments
– I had a few challenges that I set myself for the this trip and well I have realized that it is no point trying to attempt something new when constantly travelling with others. You really have to have things sorted before you travel – a clear idea of what and how or else it won’t happen!
– However my goal of no (or minimal) homework was achieved. I only needed a few notes added and my whole 3 sketchbooks are ready to scan. Last year in BCN I left a lot of blank space for maps and collage and to finish off pages… I just don’t have the home time for this kind of finishing off.
– Surprisingly I did not use my sketching stool ONCE! Not once. These days I prefer to sit on the ground… and I have also started doing quicker sketches from a standing position.
– I sketched a LOT less in the evening and at meals. Partly trying not to so obsessive about sketching and wanting more quality time with people, partly because I had finished a just spread in my sketchbook and didn’t want to try to fill a whole new one (why do I need to start a new day the same way on the left side of a spread?)… and partly just because I was exhausted!
– Will talk about the symposium separately, but this year was definitely the best symposium experience I have had…the relaxed controllable character of the place and the quality time I had with many people were big parts of this
– The lack of trip prep this year meant I made a number of silly packing errors – taking extra stuff – but at least my art kit was all good.
– Sad not to have a new dress for this trip but my brown Brazil skirt was very very servicable!
– What would I do without my blue Prague Pashmina (light wool)
– I don’t think that I have ever had a trip where I didn’t buy anything other than food and medications (no art supplies, no souvenirs…)
– SO SO SO happy with my new camera. Totally blown away by the ability of my Sony RX100 Mk3 to take amazing photos by just pointing and shooting!
– Huge thank you to Marc Holmes wonderful wife Laurel for all that she did to look after us and also accepting my camera thrown at her everywhere we went to take a few photos so I could share each day – thank you Laurel!
– My red bag achieved a new state of grubbiness this trip!
– Seriously missing all the tropical flavoured suco!(juice)

SO… to go back to the two biggest concepts of the trip for me… something that I want to flesh out in the coming weeks as I share my sketches. In a way they are somewhat contradictory! (ah! I love tensions!)

1. Shape over line

There is no doubt that I am far more interested in seeing shapes first – playing with paint on the page before adding defining line. This is an approach I have been using a lot for the last 6 months but it became very evident that this is the way I want to work during an intensive 3 week sketching trip. Doing Behzad Bagheri’s wonderful workshop “The Joy of Movement” on Thursday of the Symposium was a great confirmation of this way of working and I want to develop some ideas I got from him further in the next few months.


And in the last few days in Sao Paulo I drew a few very strong architectural buildings by shape rather than line (drawing the negative shapes of the sky etc first)

2. Architect over Painter

Now this sounds quite opposite to the first concept – and in many ways it is!

For the last 18 months since I stopped working in a full time architectural practice I feel I have been becoming more of a painter. I have shed my addiction to ink lines and focusing more on paint and shape! (ah! ha! concept number one!) I have also been soaking myself in art concepts due to all the teaching I have been doing… and loving it very much.

BUT in the last month or so I have been hankering after architecture once more and in particular from a conceptual approach and how it is integrating with my art.
This has included activities such as these
– reaching for some of my architectural theory books rather than art books.
– giving myself some serious doses of Le Corbusier,
– reading Frank Ching’s Form Space and Order instead of packing the week before I left for Brazil
– taking an impractical heavy, glossy paperback book by Charles Moore as my long haul flight reading material – “Chambers for a Memory Palace” was the book if you must know.
– Revisiting some books by Paul Laseau… and well in Paraty, Paul’s name came up a number of times,
– Day 2 in Sao Paulo I had a architectural sketching light bulb moment when hanging out with Marc – approaching a short period to sketch as an architect rather than an artist.
– And finally it all coming together in Richard Alomar’s wonderful activity Unfolding a Sketching Story on the Friday evening of the symposium.

Ok, I realise that I am just rambling to myself a little (are you still following me?)

A few more thoughts…. posing a few questions….
– In my development as an artist and painter have I somehow lost the architectural visual note taking that is what started me on the whole journey in the first place?
– My desire to record the events and places that I experience has always been stronger than producing beautiful images.
– Some of my art friends have been pushing me towards producing artwork – single paintings to be exhibited and hung on a wall – this is good but why is there always a background resistance to do this exclusively?
– To a certain extent the whole Urban Sketchers and art journal movement is becoming more and more sophisticated, our sketches are becoming more polished works, elevating the sketchbook into an art form in its own right… and the note taking aspect of sketching – the loose rough sketches just for your own record is perhaps becoming lost along the way?
– I do want to record more about the places I visit but have felt that I have been missing out because I have been trying to make finished works of them.
– The larger sketchbook I use (so that my sketches are bigger and more serious) is stopping me from sketching on the run.

So this years trip there are a few rough scribbling note taking pages like this one – it wasn’t easy to do these at extreme rapid pace but the challenge was exhilarating … and having them amongst the more ‘single image pages’ makes me very happy and gives me some new ideas to develop! Huge thanks to Richard for some of this ideas!

I think the note taking aspect of sketching was a very interesting theme of the symposium this year in a number of different activities… and you will be certainly hearing more from me about this in the near future.

This has turned out to be a longer blog post that I expected …but ah! it is good to be back home and blogging again. I do really love the place I have on my blog  to write down the thoughts in my head and I hope that it made some sense and that you will be able to follow me as I start posting my Brazil sketches!


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