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Finally I can show these sketches from Barcleona!

December 4, 2013

So, right after coming back from Barcelona last summer I happened to be talking to a writer at The Artist’s Magazine.

Actually this is a funny story, so I will digress. Our group USK:MTL was sketching musicians at an event for historic re-creators, and there was this guy with a lute. I didn’t actually recognize it as such, I’m just sketching away and I think to myself “I don’t know what that instrument is – I could just make up some nonsense and nobody would care”. But, I’m a well trained Urban Sketcher so I drew it exactly as I saw it. Soon after I get a message – “Wow, my friend is a lute player, and I never see drawings of lute players, can I purchase that sketch?”.  So that is a little tale of why it’s good to get out and draw the unexpected things life shows you.

Anyway one thing lead to another, and it turns out the lute fan is a writer for The Artist’s Magazine. This leads to me doing a small interview about the Barcelona Symposium, and giving them two of my watercolors from the trip. So finally, the short article is out in the world. (Appearing right next to a short bio on Kansas correspondent Cathy Johnson, which is another small-world thing). Here’s the issue if you happen to see it on the stands:


So that means, hurray! I can finally show you guys the paintings! It’s always unexpected, what with the world of blogging, how long it takes to see things in print. Our expectations change so fast hey?

Barcelona_Casa de les Punxes

[Casa de Les Punxes, Barcelona, 12×16]

I didn’t know what to expect out of BCN – but it certainly was not these ‘witches hat’ buildings. I had no idea this was a thing. But they’re seemingly everywhere in the city, and they’re always charming to see. Such a whimsical bit of architectural nonsense. Barcelona, of course, has the world crown for whimsical architecture.


Here’s the drawing in progress on location.

Barcelona_ Gothic Bridge

[Bisbe Street Bridge, Gothic Quarter, 12×16]

This little bit of fun is in behind the cathedral in the Gothic quarter, and is probably the most photographed bit of the city. Because it’s so cute! How could you not love a style of architecture called ‘Flamboyant’.

Wikipedia has an interesting side-thread on the authenticity of this area. I gather there was a strategic policy in the 1920’s to insert some history into this neighborhood. A plan to improve the image of the city and attract visitors. I would bet that has been an excellent return on investment. Architects are divided as to if this sort of faux-history is valid. I personally like it – why not? It’s an artistic response to the past. I’m ok with seeing reproductions, especially if the alternative is seeing functional modernism.

I drew this with Liz Steel on one of our post-workshop rambles. I always get the best stuff by hanging around with the architects. They scout the spots so well. For some reason I didn’t get a good shot of her drawing. Next time, better reporting skills!


TIP’s And Tricks Here! >>>

Just a side note for those interested in the process. This trip I was sketching multi-page drawings on location, (the trick shown here, and here) printing them onto watercolor paper back home, and painting in the studio.

There is an interesting discussion to be had as to how true to ‘Urban Sketching’ that process is :) We have a desire to draw on location, from observation, which has so many advantages I won’t even get into it. Of course, we’d prefer to do the whole painting on the spot as well – it’s easier, and the results are always better if this is possible – but it’s a trade off isn’t it? Do you spend three hours on location getting one painting, or do you get as many sketches as possible and paint them later?

I’ve done it both ways. This trip I opted for sketching like mad and finishing later. There was so much to see in such a limited time, I’d kick myself if I came home with only eight paintings, instead of this stack.

Street Drawing Tip! >>>

The other deciding factor was the high incidence of pickpocketing and theft in this area. Unfortunately we had a number of street-crime incidents before, during and after the workshop, so I decided on the-better-part-of-valor and carried everything on my person in a very small bag. I hope to do more painting in Brazil this upcoming 2014 symposium. I should think Paraty would be more laid back than downtown Barcelona. <Edit – yes it was!< Check out the paintings :)

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2013 2:13 PM

    Bravo! I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy.

  2. Lyn Seley permalink
    December 4, 2013 2:47 PM

    Already downloaded my copy. Congratulations. Loved my time in Montreal sketching with you and Shari at the workshop.

  3. Adrian Kleinbergen permalink
    December 4, 2013 3:02 PM

    “I’m so sorry… they’re from Barcelona.” :-D

  4. Pip permalink
    December 4, 2013 3:09 PM

    Great Post Marc. Have you ever thought of making an instructional DVD of your methods? I would buy it! Love your watercolor technique. Best, Pip

    Sent from my iPad

  5. lefeust permalink
    December 4, 2013 6:06 PM

    This is just sooooooooooo pretty! I’ve never attempted to draw buildings, looking at your art, it makes me want to try (when it’s summer again! or maybe I need to visit the insides of interesting places too – I’m just so shaky on perspective though)

  6. December 4, 2013 10:25 PM

    Congratulations great article… I’m with Pip… when is your instructional DVD going to be available?

  7. December 6, 2013 4:14 PM

    Wooww … I love the first one

  8. December 13, 2013 11:07 AM

    Your work is so fresh and dynamic. It is wonderful that you share so much with us, the methods, tools etc. What printing process do you use to put the sketches onto watercolor paper? I make screen printing seps with a laser printer, wondering if that line would stay on 140 lb. CP or hot press. Will give it a try, just wondering what printer you use. Thanks Jody

    • December 13, 2013 11:15 AM

      Hi Jody – thanks for saying :)
      For the printing, I use an Epson 4900, which is a model with flat in – flat out feeding, so you can put any weight of paper through. It’s a nice feature. I was using already using the printer to make short run fine art prints, so when I read this idea on Donato Giancola’s page I started doing it myself (except of course it’s easier for a watercolorist :) He has to glue it to a rigid backing for oils). I’d imagine, by the way, that he doesn’t do this for all his work, just commercial illustrations.

      • December 15, 2013 12:37 AM

        Thank you Marc for the information on this process. I do not miss a blog entry and thanks for your generosity. Jody

  9. anita permalink
    August 17, 2014 3:45 AM

    hi mark. i really enjoy your posts and am a huge fan of your work. i have a little problem that bothers me each time i colour my sketches: the colours (when working wet in wet) get a darkened outer shape and do not mix properly. i see in your sketch of the bridge something similar happened. so my question is: how did you get rid of that effect? does it depend on the paper, colours or brushes? thanks so much for your inspirational blog and useful tips. cheers, anita.

    • August 17, 2014 10:23 AM

      Hey Anita – I think what you’re talking about (tricky to say over the web) is when pigment floats on the water – it’s like a little tide pool. Tiny particles of pigment crusts up on the edges like flotsam on the beach.

      So – one way is to use less water. It’s a bit of a balancing act, how much water vs. how much pigment. You want it to flow – but maybe not be so we that it puddles for long. Good paper (Arches, Fabriano) is more absorbent so that might help. And some pigments are more staining, where others are more sedimentary, so you can get used to which accumulate a lot of edge. But mainly – I like those artifacts! Sometimes I’ll add a wet blob, just to push the pigment away in a nice ‘backwash’. Like the drips at the bottom of the page.

      It’s just a matter of manipulating where the edges fall, so the ‘line’ at the wet/dry edge is part of the drawing :)


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