USKPorto2018: Part 2 - Busy days

August 9, 2018 | 8 Comments

Following on from my three quiet days in Porto the week before the annual Urban Sketchers Symposium, today I will share what I got up to during the final days prior to the start of the big event.

I knew that a lot of people were turning up in Porto over the weekend, so I was expecting Saturday to be busy. However I somehow managed to have a solo morning which included a coffee and pastel da nata.

Just for the record, I am actually an introvert. I have a big ‘ON-switch’ but I really need to have solo time to recharge. The USK Symposiums always require my biggest ‘ON’ mood, so I’m always trying to sneak in any quiet sketching time I can.

Before my coffee, I attempted to sketch this view of the Cathedral from the park near the hotel. I was drawing with a new Lamy Safari filled with Lilly SketchInk and it didn’t seem to be flowing smoothly. So I didn’t really enjoy doing this sketch even though the view was inspiring. I’m still sharing it with you – just so you know that I’m not always happy with my work (how could you possibly think that anyway?)

Note 1: I achieved a little shading by applying water while the permanent ink was still wet.

Note 2: A few people are asking about what the SketchInk is like. I need to do some more testing now that I am back home to determine whether the lack of ink flowing at times was a result of the ink or the new pens. So stay tuned.

Here is a photo of the Cathedral from a higher position. Oh! there were so many possible sketching spots in Porto.

My next sketch was this one of San Francisco – lots of great volumes here. I would like to do another version (or two) of this as this was a bit of a ‘kitchen sink’ attempt – trying to do everything at once.

Walking through some of the streets near the venue – and some of the crazy staircases. I’m glad I was going down, not up, this one!

This year all the workshop instructors also did a short demo. I was not going to take my demo group up the hill to Clerigos, and so was thankful to find a nearby church which would be suitable for the 30 minute session. I had fun doing this sketch – can you tell?

Saturday Sketchwalk

On Saturday afternoon, the local USK group organised a sketchwalk from the Dom Luis I bridge to Alfandega. It was great to meet some of the local sketchers and see who else was already in town.

Sketchers at the start (Dom Luis I Bridge) and at the end (Alfandega) of the sketchwalk.

My sketch at the start.

I knew I didn’t have the focus to do this scene in watercolour (talking to too many people) so I limited myself to a quick loose ink drawing with tone added by a warm grey Ecoline Watercolour marker.

In a row sketching non-stop after the sketchwalk had officially finished at Alfandega.

Oh! it was so much fun to hang out with obsessive sketchers once again.

Here is my sketch from this position. I was a little distracted so this is a good example of my reflex sketching.

Sketchbook throwdown time – such inspiring work.

Group photo – not everyone was there at this point. I think about 40 sketchers in total and 9 of which were from Australia.

After the sketchwalk I wanted to keep sketching so I found Anne Rose (and Birgit from Germany) and we searched for some balconies to sketch. On this occasion I was looking at the shadow shapes first, but I didn’t see it clearly on the first attempt.

And then one more quick sketch before meeting up with Mike Botton for dinner. Yes, Palladian Odyssey Mike had just arrived. It was lovely to see him again and I found it hard to believe that the Palladian Odyssey Tours were part of the same trip.

After dinner we went for a walk and was surprised that there was a concert happening inside Igreja da Misericordia – one of the Baroque churches I had sketched earlier (but forgot to share in yesterday’s post!). So here is my external sketch, a view inside and the very loose record I did at the time.

The Bridges

Sunday is my day of rest and worship… so as an interlude to this article I will share two photos of bridges across the Douro.

The thing which is so unique about the bridges in Porto is that they are very high – connecting the upper levels on either side of the river. This is the famous Dom Luis I bridge.

Many people believe that Dom Luis I is an Eiffel bridge, but I believe that he designed another one a little further down the river. This is it – Maria Pia.


My great friend Suhita Shirodkar was now in town (we hang out together a lot during a Symposium) so after breakfast we headed to her workshop location (Praca da Ribeira) so she could do some prep.

And then we crossed the river for this view. While sketching this, Eduardo Bajzek from Brazil walked up. We had a great catch up – it’s years since we have had a chance to talk. It comes in handy that I can sketch and talk at the same time.

Soon it was lunch time so we met up with Jane Blundell (and family) for lunch at a shop that sells jam in tubes (they look like paint tubes) and I actually sketched the food! It’s rare that I do this unless I’m by myself.

Suhita and I wandered off to the area near the Dom Luis I Bridge as I thought it was a part of Porto which we would not be near to once the Symposium started.

Time for another sketch…

… and some more stairs to walk down.

Next, I popped in and said hello to a few of the Sydney sketchers and did this sketch from their apartment window.

Back to Praca da Ribeira where a lot of sketchers were hanging out. I was happy to be with these three again – Paul Wang, Suhita Shirodkar, Jessie Chapman.

It was super hard to sketch because of all the sketchers I was greeting and because the light was fading. Also just to make it more interesting, we were being interviewed for a local newspaper.

And finally at 9pm we went for dinner. It was an old-style dinner where we were all sketching each other. I call it ‘old-style’ as it was standard practice a few years ago but we don’t seem to do it as much these days. So much fun – even though I haven’t done any people sketching for months!


We had instructor registration at 11am, so Suhita and I headed off for a quiet morning sketch and ran into Ian Fennelly. So we joined him (sitting on a doorstep) and sketched this small church. An Urban Sketcher (who I know) walked out of the building we were sitting in front of, and Ian spent more time on the phone (coordinating meeting his group) than he did sketching. So much for a quiet morning sketch!

And then I did a second sketch looking back to Suhita and Ian.

A number of sketchers walked past while doing this sketch as well. No hiding anymore – USKers absolutely everywhere!

The area opposite the Hub (Alfandega) was really interesting and there was a sunken road at the base. This sketch was my record of the relationships of the different elements in this area.

And then a few laneways near Alfandega.

The afternoon was taken up with an instructors outing to Pocas Port Wine Cellar. I didn’t really sketch much due to a video interview which I was asked to do. So this is all I got done that afternoon.

In the evening we had a second instructors outing to the incredible Livraria Lello (bookstore). I will create a separate article for this.


My final chance to do a sketch before the Symposium started – another go at the buildings in Praca da Ribeira. Using a Sailor Fude pen with the new De Atramentis Urban Grey Document Ink. (More about this ink on another occasion, I promise!)

And just before the first Symposium sketchwalk, Mike and I had lunch with 7 out of the 12 participants from the first Palladian Odyssey Tour in 2017. A special bond has been created with this group (and anyone who has done a PO Tour) – so it was incredible to have seven of the from the one group together again at the Symposium.


And in between all these sketching times I was doing a lot of catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones. The hotel breakfasts were a lot of fun, chatting with different people each day. Here is Rob Sketcherman, Ian Fennelly (so great to meet him this year) and Alvin Wong from HK.

And when at the hub, I was constantly saying hi to people I have meet previously. It was neverending!

I made a conscious effort to had a few conversation with USKers who I had only really said hello to in previous years. One of these was James Hobbs from London whose thick lines are so inspiring (especially as I’m on a mission to get people to go thicker than EF – another topic for another day).

Hmm… it’s a bit tiring putting these articles together. Did I really do all this stuff in a few days?

Yes! I did… that is the nature of the Urban Sketchers Symposium and especially a big one like this with 807 people registered.



  • Anne Marie Percival says:

    Thanks for such a detailed post Liz…..and the capture of so many places I recognise but didn’t actually sketch….I, too, have recently changed all my EF nibs……going for medium…..and fewer ink lines (when I remember!). Incidentally, the reason Ian spent so much time on the phone was because he had changed the place where he had arranged to meet us……the place you were sketching was actually just around the corner from our hotel

    • Liz Steel says:

      ha! those mix ups happen at the symposium and it was super hard to explain locations in Porto… it was just strange that I wasn’t the one coordinating everything for a change 😀 that happened to me in Lisbon.
      I need to write a blogpost advocating M nibs.
      I’m glad you are enjoying the posts. I want to have a detailed record for myself and mix in the photos, since I couldn’t sketch everywhere too.

  • Mary Beth Person says:

    Thank you so much for this report, Liz. I have taken all your online classes (as well as from some of the other sketchers that you “run into” along the way), but have never been able to attend any of these events. Although nothing like the real thing, it is so wonderful to be able to take part “virtually” through your pictures and descriptions. Thank you, thank you for all the effort you put into publishing these articles.

    • Liz Steel says:

      My pleasure Mary Beth – I hope that you will be able to attend one of these events one day. ANd thanks for doing all my courses – really really appreciate it! 😀

  • Great post and fun to see where you sketched before the symposium started. There were just so many wonderful locations to sketch. Thank you for sharing all your work.

  • James Hobbs says:

    It was great to be able to have a longer chat than the “hello, goodbye” that flashed by in Manchester, Liz. But it still wasn’t quite long enough! Another time. That’s a fantastic whirlwind roundup of the Porto experience you’ve written here. Respect!

  • Penny Henriksen says:

    So jealous- you got to have yummies. I soooooo miss the bread. Each town has its own local specialty bread and they are all fabulous! I lived over a padaria for 6 mo down in Averio. Smelled sooo good all of the time.

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