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.

Liège in drawings

I felt like I won the grand lottery when I was invited to Liège in Belgium in May, to sketch the city with 200 other urban sketchers, during the Dessiner Liège 2018 event. Three days of sketching in the company of others, enjoying great food, exploring an interesting city and making new friends. Such a pleasure!

One of the initiators of this event was Gérard Michel, avid urban sketcher and Grand Master of Complicated Perspective (check out his Flickr albums, for example the Perspective Games). Gérard is a great source of inspiration to me drawingwise, and such a great person to be around. I only wish my French was more fluent so I could speak properly with the man! Oh well, I´ll practice until next time.

The mayor of Liège opens the event in City hall.

On the first day, there was an opening reception at Liège City hall (Stockholm, you have so much to learn), where the mayor welcomed us all to draw the city.

Gérard´s garden
Corinne and Detlef

Strolling around town with my sketchbook I kept bumping into urban sketchers on every corner. You need never wander alone at an urban sketchers event.

The first day was a bit rainy and cold, and of course that was the day when some of us decided to head up to the Terraces des Minimes to sketch a panorama view of the city. Took me all day, apart from a warm-up lunch, where I had the pleasure of being portrayed by Vincent Desplanche.

In this event, every participant got an accordeon sketchbook, handmade by the Liège urban sketchers. And in a very clever way, they organized an exhibition of those sketchbooks every evenings, in a beautiful room at ESA Saint-Luc Liège (École Supérieure des Arts). So much fun to see what everyone had been up to during the day!

Very honored to be portrayed by Tazab, even if it´s in a beer drinking pose…

Eating is always interesting in the company of urban sketchers. Usually, there is not much room for the actual food on the table, since everybody´s sketchbooks and drawing gear is already filling the surface. Fun, though, and I feel lucky to have been sharing so many meals with this crazy drawing crowd.

Freshly baked Belgian waffles – I am in awe over these.
That purple house, you know, behind the castle.

On the last evening, the local vintage car club came by the ESA Saint-Luc with their gems, a treat to sketch!

After the Liège event, our sketchbooks were on display at the Saint-Luc, along with work of the students at the school. So much beautiful work on display!

Barcelona workshop with PYSB


In April of this year, I had the opportunity to join PYSB, Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries, in Barcelona to teach a workshop called Watermarks, all about watercolours in urban sketching. Behind PYSB are Isabel Carmona and Swasky, expert workshop organisers and teachers, and this time me, Isabel and Marion Rivolier were the lucky instructors of a fabulous group of sketchers.


PYSB keeps a very nice format in their workshops, 30 participants divided into three groups, with one morning and one afternoon workshop session each day, for three days. As a teacher, that means I meet each group twice, ten people at a time, so plenty of time to get to know everybody, and nice amount of time to spend with each and every participant, for feedback and discussion. And Barcelona is always fab, no matter what you are doing there, so this whole event was a real treat!





We were moving around the Barceloneta for all the workshop sessions, and got to work in different kinds of environments – squares, streets, beaches and parks. La Barceloneta is a fairly small area, so no need to travel far for each session, we had everything we needed within walking distance.


Our main hub was the Centre Civic Barceloneta, and each morning, Swasky and Isabel added images to the photo wall that they always keep during their workshops. The photo wall is a great way to a) let the participants see what the others have been doing the day before, and b) spread the word about Urban sketchers to the surrounding community. The wall grew every day, and it became a daily habit to swing by to see what had happened since yesterday.



The beauty of urban sketchers workshops is that everyone is so generous in sharing their work. Everyone learns from everyone else, newbies and professionals side by side. As a teacher, I seldom have a more perfect pedagogical setting, everyone is interested, eager to work hard and then show their work and discuss their experiences. So much fun.





The whole Watermarks workshop experience was an amazing treat for me, I came home tired but full of inspiration and ideas. So grateful to have had the opportunity to join in with this lot in drawing a lively and beautiful part of Barcelona.


Bic Cristal – surprisingly great


On a whim, a while back, I bought myself three Bic Cristal pens, you know, those classic cheap no-good ballpoints that´s been around forever. I bought one black, one blue and one red. And I started drawing with them.And wow! These things are pretty fantastic drawing tools!

They´ll give you super soft hardly visible values, and strong, bold colour, depending on how much pressure you put on the ball point. The ink flows surprisingly well, and it´s easy to make nice transitions between light and dark.


I have been plaing around with using the three colours together, or one or two together with my usual fountain pens with black ink, putting one colour in the foreground and another in the background, to make a clear distiction between the two. I was a bit surprised how well it works to use bright red as a background colour in the top drawing!

These drawings are from the last meetup of 2017 with Stockholm Urban Sketchers. We had lunch and listened to super cool music with South Station Stompers at a bar called Lilla Wien at Södermalm in Stockholm. Such a great environment to draw in, we stayed for hours! 🙂

Top drawing: 19 x 25 cm, Pilot Falcon with black DeAtramentis document ink and Bic Cristal ball point, bottom drawing: 19,5 x 16 cm, same drawing tools, only different Bic colour. Both on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook pages.

Urban sketchers Eskilstuna


I am part of the Urban sketching community, and Stockholm has it´s own local group that meets up on the last Sunday of every month to draw together. Good fun, of course, and new friendships as an extra bonus.

Due to work, I have had the opportunity to join the USk group in Eskilstuna too.  The Eskilstuna crowd has a higher tempo than we do in Stockholm. They meet every Tuesday lunch, do a sketch, have a fika and chat, and then head back to work. For me, this limited time is a challenge, but a lot of fun. I am constantly trying out ways to speed up my sketches a bit, not always succeeding, but the process is fun.

20 x 20 cm, Lamy Safari with De Atramentis document ink, and watercolours, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook page.

Drawing everyday chores


Doing laundry is a great chance to draw one of those things that we do without even thinking about it. It is a slow process and leaves heaps of time for sitting down, observing the everyday grind. Which always turns out to be more interesing than you´d think.

18 x 26 cm, Pilot Falcon with DeAtramentis document ink and watercolours on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook page.

Century pens in Chicago

Ed Hamilton, Century pens, Chicago

I have to add one more thing about the Chicago trip in the summer of 2017. I had heard beforehand of Century pens in Chicago, so of course had to visit. I have never really been to a store completely devoted to fountain pens before, so this was a real treat.

Ed Hamilton is such a nice guy to chat with, and a neverending source of knowledge about fountain pens and inks. I had a great time hanging out in his store for a while, and of course, the visit added a pen to my collection – yet another Pilot Falcon.


I´m almost embarrassed to confess that I own three of these (they are not too cheap – although less expensive anywhere else than in Stockholm). Two of them are customized for extra flex, while this one, from Chicago, is the original semi-flex pen. The customized ones are lovely to draw with, but very sensitive with their flexibility, one cup of coffee too much and my lines are squiggly for hours!

I love drawing with the Pilot Falcons, they suit me so well. The resin barrel is lightweight and rather small, which I love, and the Soft Fine nib gives a very fine line. (Though I wouldn´t mind trying a Medium out too…). They´re real workhorses, I have never had any trouble with ink flow in these pens, even though I´m not an avid pen cleaner.

If you are into fountain pens, and plan to visit Chicago, DO give Century pens a visit. It is such an inspiring place, and a good chance to get some serious fountain pen talk off your chest! 🙂

Quick sketches in Chicago


I spent one of my last days in Chicago with fellow urban sketchers Liz Steel and Suhita Shirodkar. I am usually rather slow when I draw, and quite enjoy the process of spending time on a drawing, so no worries there. But hanging out with these Queens of Quick Sketching, their speedy habits made me want to let go of some detail, and keep up with my company. So, lo and behold, a sketch done in about half an hour (while sitting in blazing sunlight, at that!). It actually works! As much as I like details, you don´t really need that much of it to capture the essence of a place. Fun, and something I need to practice a lot more.

Otherwise, when I want to speed things up a bit, due to time constraints or so, I usually simplify my colours, as I did in the demo sketch below during the symposium. Sloppier drawing, loosing a few windows here and there, and working with only two complementary colours is my go-to repice for speeding up the sketching process.


Top sketch: approx 20 x 24 cm, bottom: approx 19 x 17 cm, both drawn with fountain pen with DeAtramentis document ink and watercolours, in Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook.

The L


The L train, or El for “elevated train”, was a fascinating feature of Chicago. I have only seen this in movies and tv-series, some when I was quite young, so actually standing there in the noise of these rattling trains made me feel nostalgic, strangely enough. Wabash avenue quickly became one of my fav streets in downtown Chicago.


Top drawing: 42 x 29 cm, fountain pens with DeAtramentis document ink, grey Copic Multiliner and PITT Artist brush pens, bottom drawing: A4 size, fountain pens with DeAtramentis document ink, grey Copic Multiliner and watercolours. Both in Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook.

New Year´s interlude


This is perhaps not the most successful sketch of the year, but it´s definitely the last – had to bring out the watercolours in the cold at least once on this side of the new year! Aspudden in Stockholm was gray today, but people were cheerful, full of expectations for new year´s eve. A family with kids stopped by to chat, which is always good fun.

Happy New Year, everybody! I am sure 2018 will bring us the normal harvest of good and bad, but I hope it will also be full of creative endeavors and lots of love and friendships! See you next year!