Urban sketchers symposium in Porto

Porto by the river Douro

In July 2018 it was time for another Urban sketchers symposium, this time the ninth – I´ve been to eight of them. These symposiums are always a joy to attend, and this time I went as a participant instead of an instructor, a very pleasant experience.

Porto is an incredibly beautiful city, the views from the hills surrounding the river Douro are often breathtaking. I wish I could have stayed here drawing for a month or two.

The symposium had 800 participants, the largest number yet, but everything was incredibly well organised and worked without trouble. The work done by volunteers in these events is amazing, it is not a small thing to run such a huge event.

Photo gathering

I didn´t get myself a workshop pass, I went for the maximum drawing option and bought an activity pass, to join all the sketchwalks around town.

Sketchwalk at Praça de Gomes Teixeira
Drawings at Praca de Gomes Teixeira
Fonte dos Leões

Gabi Campanario, the founder of Urban sketchers, gave a workshop as we passed by at a street corner on one of the sketchwalks.

Gabi Campanario in action
Two watercolourists that I truly admire:
Christine Deschamps and Marion Rivolier

Three days of sketching is both energy boosting and tiresome at the same time. Luckily there are other things to do too, there are usually a few lectures to listen to, and demos to look at. I went to see a demo with Fred Lynch, professor of illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, on how to capture the story of a building. This guy isn´t only a skilled sketcher, he is also incredibly fun to listen to, and has a lot of drawing wisdom to share. See his work here: https://instagram.com/fredlynchart/

Fred Lynch demo

I have so many peculiar drawing memories from Porto. On a warm day me and a friend sat down in the shade under the plane trees in Jardim do Cordoaria, and I have never seen anything like it. These treetrunks are fantastic! And they are just plain plane trees, nobody seems to really know for sure what happened to them, what gave them thes huge trunks.

Jardim da Cordoaria

Or how about the time i went inside the cathedral Sé do Porto to sit and draw, and suddenly realised that the benches around me were filling up, and suddenly there was a mass going on, with the most beautiful organ music echoing among the columns, and everything was so calm and so restful. A really nice experience.

Oh, and the Porto São Bento train station, with the amazing tile walls – so blue that I had to bring out my Bic Cristal blue ballpoint pen.

I collected tiles everywhere in town during the symposium, I concentrated on the blue ones, but of course they come in many colours. Drawing them, you learn to recognize some of the patterns, and you start seeing irregularities in the façades, how some broken tiles here and there have been replaced with other patterns. I makes me curious about all the patterns, where do they all come from?

I sketched part of the grand finale too, the huge sketchwalk on the last day with 800 participants (plus anyone else who wanted to join in), on Praça do Liberdade. It is a lot of fun to sketch sketchers, everybody knows they are being drawn, and nobody cares, “it´s what we do here”. This means you never have to worry about people spotting you sketching them, everybody´s drawing somebody anyway.

All in all the symposium was an amazing experience – as usual – with lots of drawing, inspiration and meeting old and new friends from all over the world. Porto was a splendid new acquaintance that I´d love to go back to, with incredible views, lots of nice people and great food.


Lovely Stuff!! You must come to Cornwall – bring the rest of the PYSB gang with you!!

I saw your work in the book An Illustrated Journey, really inspiring. You are able to simplify a scene in line, and yet in shading and color indicate the complexity. Subtle and in wonderful balance. Thanks for sharing.

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