It’s taken a few days to clear the brain-fog which often happens after long-haul flights. Factor in a one and a half hour’s flight, a seven hour stopover, a seven hour flight, a two hour stopover, a final sixteen-hour flight, and you’ll have some idea of why I couldn’t get my post out sooner. However, here I am, back in New Zealand and inviting you to share a little of my experiences of sketching in three Spanish cities, beginning with Barcelona, a city made famous by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) for his unique take on Catalan Modernism architecture.
Amelia and Ellen, our two terrific guides, made sure that our art group experienced the very best of Barcelona right from get go; and took us to Picasso’s old hangout, the Four Cats café, in the Gothic quarter. Posters of Picasso’s prints filled the walls, and we lifted our gaze from our wine and tapas to draw inspiration from the great master. The next day we were heading out to our first sketching destination. Casa Mila, or La Pedera as it is also known, is the most famous of Antoni Gaudi’s house designs, an apartment block in this instance, which hugs the corner in a grand, exotic style. I had seen Casa Mila on an earlier visit, and wondered how the heck I was going to sketch it.
We took a bus to Passeig de Gracia, on a surprisingly chilly morning, clutching our sketch bags like a bunch of school kids on an ‘out of school experience’. My apprehension turned to excitement, as we crossed to the corner diagonally opposite and settled in to capture our best view. Boy. What a complicated structure, but so interesting with its gorgeous organic shapes and decorated windows. None the same as another I might add. I was in awe, but I had a job to do; so off I went sketching loosely across two pages, knowing that I’d be using ink first, and applying colour later.
I was quite pleased with my sketch overall.
Back in our hotel, we added extra water colour to our masterpieces, then headed out for tapas. It was a great day spent with great people. Thanks Tony.
The following day was hot, and clear, and first up for sketching was the fabulous Plaça Reial. I did a quick pen sketch, and have half-finished a detail of the ‘angel’ whose perfect sculpture was repeated around the centre fountain. A saunter down tree-lined La Rambla next, to mingle with masses of tourists. It’s a great promenade, with cafes, buskers, food and flowers in abundance. One great place to pop into is La Bouqueria market, where the amount of food available is staggering. All is temptingly displayed, and thankfully my husband captured the essence with his camera, as standing in the bustle with a sketchpad proved a bit much for me.
A trip to the Picasso Museum in the afternoon, and a degustation dinner of some magnitude, at restaurant Fonda Espana in the evening (a totally must-eat-there experience). Food. Food and more glorious food! Oh my groaning tummy.
We were up early the next morning and on the rooftop of our hotel, where Tony held a sketching tutorial, before we all headed off to Parc Güell. This was a bus ride away to higher ground and Gaudi’s magnificent mosaic-filled park. Another hot, bright and cloudless day. Parc Güell truly is a remarkable place, where colour abounds, on seats, benches and buildings. The mosaics astound. A delight.
I was rather overwhelmed by the vast structure we were grouped around, and turned to sketch a street corner opposite. I decided to add a sketch of the mosaic lizard to the page in my sketchbook, as I felt it deserved more colour.
I had begun to earlier sketch the view across the city from the mosaic tiled benches, but was chased into the shade by the sun. Later I finished off some tiles in colour. It is a schema, not the actual scene from the bench where I started.
The following day it was Sagrada Familia. Again, I knew a challenge was ahead. This is Gaudi’s largest project – a cathedral of such immense scope it is hard to credit how he first conceived this vision, and to imagine how he would have felt to see it (almost) realised. We gathered across the lake from the cathedral to draw. I tried, but found the sheer scale of the building too much for me. It was also freezing, so I decided to focus on sketching details once we were inside the complex. I was looking forward to climbing a tower, as I’d done years before. But so much had changed: the number of tourists, security, and the ability to wander freely up the towers.
And the last word from Barcelona comes from our tutor Tony, who can’t stop sketching, even when at the opera!
My next post will feature our time in Valencia.