Brazil Trip: My workshop: Feeling the Edges of Santa Rita

September 23, 2014 | 3 Comments

Being an instructor at an Urban Sketchers symposium is such an honour and a truly incredible experience – quite different from my normal workshops. It is not just the exotic location but teaching people from all over the world and having many experienced sketchers in the group makes it very rich.
Sharing the same material three times in a short period (in fact it was 4 times for me as I did a dry run the day before) gives you a chance to refine it. Every time you teach the same content, the different group means that it there is always a slightly varied emphasis… and add to that the changes in time of the day and weather… and well, each workshop was a brand new adventure!

Warning this is a long post – the longest of all my recent one – and there are a lot of sketches of Santa Rita – Igreja Santa Rita de Cássia – but I do think it best to read all three workshops together. Lots of tips to pick up along the way.

The photo above is the final sketch I did for an auction piece on the last afternoon. Not sure who ended up with it.

My workshop was all about seeing and feeling the edges and thicknesses of buildings in order to make their sketches look more substantial and less like cardboard boxes. The more tactile the experience of your seeing the more convincing your work.

The other aspect that I felt came out strongly as I taught each time was the importance of the structured ordered way in which I work – from overall to detail. This helps in accuracy but also when I work fast and when I work in a crazy wonky loose way. I nearly always work the same way.

The full description can be found here

I had a folder going through all the different aspects – handling the volumes – feeling the rhythm of the structure – feeling the edges and thicknesses. I knew that I would have participants with little English so I wanted very visual ways of explaining my content. A big thank you to those that helped with ad hoc translation!

I also did two demos each workshop:
One at the beginning as an overall introduction to the way I normally sketch-  to give people an idea of how fast and loose I normally work but how there is a structured methodology behind it.
I finished with a second demo – a crazy spontaneous version –  following the same method. I have included all of my sketches in this post.

We had three exercises.
1. First was a quick black and white warmup sketch of the church from an angled position. Drawing the volumes as shapes and trying to fit in all the details. This exercise highlighted a number of issues including: windows too big – trouble fitting everything in – and wonky perspective (I didn’t deal with perspective in my workshop!)
2. Sitting straight on to the front of the building and working slowly and careful to get proportions correct and all the details right! This was hard and a little tedious but I gave a lot of tips for making this easier.
3. Final sketch was free choice – sketching a personal response and hoping that the careful analysis exercise had helped to do this sketch with more confidence.

As is my usual practice, I gave a lot of tips and instruction specifically relating to the building we had in front of us – most of which cannot be translated into a blog post but I am hoping that these pages I did during the workshops will explain a lot for those that were not there. I found a colour coded system was great to cross language barriers.

A few comments on the specific workshops as each one was a unique adventure!

Workshop 1 – Thursday afternoon:

I was very worried about rain as my workshop was specifically focused on Santa Rita and there was no shelter anywhere near.  I was SO incredibly thankful that all we got was a little sprinkling. The tide was its highest but once we worked out how to get to the location were not bothered by water further. However we had freezing cold gale force winds. It was just impossible to conduct the workshop on the grassed area in front of the church (even if I had provided blankets!) Ah! the joys of urban sketching workshops.

So – thinking on the spot… we sheltered from the wind behind a building and I did my first demo of the side of the church.

Not quite what I wanted but I was still able to explain my general principles.

For the second careful measured drawing I needed a suitable subject matter… and spied a 2 storey 9-bayed building with blue doors and a wall opposite behind which we could hide. (notice the water level of the highest of the high tides!)

This proved to be slightly boring and painful to draw accurately(not all buildings are fun to draw!) but effective in proving that you have to work slowly and careful to fit everything in! (I am so nasty getting them to draw that! ha ha!)
The wind had dropped a little (and everyone was so bored with the blue building) that we were all willing to freeze for the last hour and have a go at the church.

I did two quick demos. The first was an example of what to do when your first line is wrong.My first line was the top of the curved pediment and it was too far up the page.
Three options 1. redraw it 2. cut the tower off 3. do some design work (miss out the round window)
I did option 3 saying that I wouldn’t lose sleep over this ‘error’.

But the reality was that the round window was unhappy with me so I did another one to make both of us feel better.

I was so impressed by the work that was done – they were sketching Santa Rita cold (in two senses!) They hadn’t done the preliminary measuring and they were all freezing!

Despite the adverse conditions I have never had a workshop that was more fun… the wind must have made us all a little silly (well me anyway!) and so for our group photo I thought it only appropriate to jump up and down to keep warm. This has to be the funniest group photo around! Thanks to Tia for taking the photo (she says we were pathetic jumpers!)

Workshop 2: Friday morning

 Much kinder weather – no threat of rain and overcast so not too hot. So I was able to do my workshop to plan. Yay!
The excitement of this workshop was having a horse join us!

First demo of the church from a side angle…yes!

Second demo included the very expressive delicate scaffolding. Pity that the sun moved so quickly and the best time to sketch this was really 9am!

The big thing for this workshop was being asked
“How can I see the thicknesses? – why am I not seeing them as thick as they are?”
These are the type of questions I love being asked … not “what colour do you use?” or “how do you draw so and so?” The more important issue is always “why or how can I see better? ”
It was fun coming up with a few ideas to help…can you work out what they are from this page.

A great collection of sketches done and it was really exciting to see a few people incorporate some of my ideas into the way they normally work.


Workshop 3: Saturday Morning

Last workshop and the challenge was being too hot in the sun!

My first demo was from a different angle because I wanted to make sure the participants could shelter in the shade.

Ah! I had such a stunning location for my workshop.

Really love these photos of the sketchers hard at work.

More of my working sketches – every time they were different…

Someone had a box of markers and I just couldn’t resist doing a very quick sketch using them – I am glad that I did as I was able to refer to this during the big crit when talking about mixing up warm and cool colours.

This workshop really reinforced the importance for me of a strong working method and what was interesting was how at the end when we shared our sketches we were able to find a similarity in approach to the way Behzad works (can you pick his sketch?)
There was a really rich variety of different interpretations of the building at the end.

I finish with my crazy crazy last demo… totally going wild!

A huge thank you to everyone that did my workshops – I had so much fun at each of them and have been so inspired by what you all did. I hope that you have been able to take away a few ideas to incorporate into your own work and most importantly have more fun when sketching architecture!

If you are still reading… thank you very much for staying with me! These have been unusually long blog posts but I wanted to keep similar content together and don’t have to time to drag my posts out for another month. So much happens within the 4 days of the symposium that it writing up detailed reports is a wonderful opportunity to reflect and absorb.


  • Diego Akel says:

    Oi Liz! So glad that you’ve already came here to Brazil!

    I’m a animator who are rediscovering my drawing passion, and searching and researching on the web I’ve found your incredible work. Your blog is much more than a regular blog with personal work and stuff… It’s really a web portal for sketching techniques, works, tools, tips, and so many things… So great to see your adventures – all over the world, even in your nearests cafes! – and your joyful sense of humor which makes your posts so personal and unique. It’s like you were an old sketch friend from long time. Thank you so much for putting so much effort and heart here; to see people like you sharing you thoughts, technique and love for your work is very, very inspiring.

    All the best to you, and please come back to Brazil! (Maybe to my city, Fortaleza, where is always sunny – sometimes even too much 😉 )

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