Arriving in Porto
I arrived in Porto late on Tuesday 10 July, a full week before the Urban Sketchers Symposium began. I always try to be one of the first sketchers to arrive in a symposium city, so that I get a chance to do my workshop preparation and explore the city in calmness before everyone starts turning up and the socialising begins. I have been to every USK symposium and know a lot of people – it’s therefore very hard for me to find some quiet time to sketch after the bulk of sketchers are in town. So, today I want to share my sketches and adventures during my first three days in Porto – what I am calling my “Quiet Days”.
Warning: this is a long article!
Wednesday 11 July
It was raining so I didn’t pull out my sketchbook.
Instead I made the big ascent to visit my workshop location – Clerigos (full name Igreja dos Clerigos). Porto contains main steep hills so it was good to have a few days of training before I had to do these climbs carrying all my extra teaching materials.
As the rain was still coming down, I went inside…
… and did a quick sketch. Not what I expected my first Porto sketch to be, but still good to be getting the hand moving and sketching something much more richly decorated than the buildings of West Wemyss.
Oh ah! this is a lovely complex Baroque facade. I’m a happy girl!
It was too wet to do anymore serious workshop prep, so I decided just to walk the streets (up and down) and get a feel for the place.
But in the next block, I stumbled across a lovely art store – Papelaria Modelo – and made a new local friend who would be manning their stall at the symposium. I bought a few things too.
Porto was a little grittier than I imagined and much grayer than my memories of Lisbon (the only other part of Portugal I have visited). Lisbon has lots of white limestone and reflected light, but the grey granite in Porto had a dulling effect of the colourful (often tiled) walls. As for the steep winding streets… they created incredible vistas with buildings at every angle. Another important distinctive of Porto was the large windows and balconies.
An incredible place, but not that easy to sketch, especially in my loose and free style.
Once the rain stopped, I decided that I would tackle some of these typical Porto buildings (in the Praca da Riberia) in a calm leisurely way from the comfort of a cafe table. And that is exactly what I did! However, I was sketching so leisurely, that I was bored by the time I had finishing the drawing part, and decided to leave it as a black and white ink sketch.
I had a lovely solo dinner to finish a great first day and made friends with the couple at the next table and all the staff at the restaurant. Note: when you are sketching you are never truly alone. Towards the end of my meal I did this loose sketch of the view from my table.
My Green Sailor Fude pen (with the 55 degree bent nib) hasn’t been working perfectly for the last number of months, and even though I had fully cleaned it prior to this trip, it hadn’t been flowing well when I was in Italy. I had therefore abandoned it, but on this occasion, decided to give it another go. And it started working again – I can’t explain it, but I was very happy to be able to use it again.
The expressive lines from the Fude nib made it much easier for me to quickly capture all the rich details of the Porto buildings, so you will see a lot of Fude sketches coming up.
Note: I will do a full workshop report later.
When I was close to finishing up on my workshop work, two Porto-born sketchers (and architects) joined me. Humberto Marum (known as Marum and based in Australia) and Hugo Costa (yolahugo on Instagram and now living in Spain). I know both guys online but we have never sketched together.
And then the boys took me to a less touristy area and I tackled a big scene on the corner of Praca de Carlos Alberto. Hugo likes these big vistas and I enjoy sitting next to other sketchers and comparing how we interpret a scene. You can see his version here.
I mentioned earlier (when in Scotland) that I was using some of the new SketchInk – colour Lilly. Well, at the local art store Papelaria Modelo I had purchased another bottle! This time is was a lighter grey – called Tina – and I used it for this sketch. I was still very much in a black ink mood, so I also added black fude lines..
I then had a lovely dinner with Marum and his family – including his gorgeous 4 year old daughter who wrote her name and her brother’s name in my book.
This day was actually my birthday. I don’t make a big deal of the day and was expecting to be solo for all of it so it was a real treat to spend the day with these two great guys and have the most delightful time sketching together. Thanks guys for such a fun day!
I often say that my favourite days during a USK symposium trip are actually those either side of the official symposium days when I spend time in a relaxed way sketching with ‘random’ people from all over the world. This day was definitely one of those.
After my coffee earlier, I ran into Anne Rose from the Netherlands. (Ah! the city is coming alive with urban sketchers.) We had a lovely lunch and then spent the rest of the day sketching together. Anne Rose likes to sketch quickly so we hit it off immediately.
I started with a big painted shape and then decided (with Anne Rose’s agreement) to leave it with only minimal lines as the first wash was doing beautiful things.
Another fantastic pre-symposium day. A huge thanks to Anne Rose for making it such a good one.
And so ends my first three (quiet) days in Porto.
The following few days in the lead up to the symposium were much busier due to the fact that lots of urban sketchers were arriving. So I will share more about that tomorrow.