Skip to content

Returning to Rio: Tinting your old sketchbooks

December 8, 2015



While preparing for my class on Travel Sketching, I went back to an old sketchbook from the 2014 Urban Sketchers conference in Brazil. These were my doodles from the afterparty in Rio. Here’s a link to the original story. One of the best sketching walks I’ve every been on :)



Craftsy ended up using this one for the ‘title page’ of the video (though they photoshopped it into a studio shot of a sketchbook). A student recently asked to see the before and after – so here’s the original drawing, made on location, compared with the painting done almost a year later.

I think you can see my strategy here – The values are clearly established in the drawing – so when I go to color, I’m following the light’s and darks I’ve indicated for myself. And I’m thinking in terms of solid shapes of color. Not floating dabs, or brustrokes – I want strong silhouette shapes.

I usually try to paint on location, but at the time I was a bit tired of carrying my gear after almost a week of teaching and traveling. I had just been sketching with Paul Heaston –  and watching him produce some excellent pen and ink – I decided to borrow his method, working with just a pen and a lot of cross hatching. It’s quite a relief sometimes to be able to pack light.



I always liked this sketch – it was Lynne Chapman’s idea to draw this police checkpoint. I’m not sure I’d have had the guts to draw them on my own, but in a sketching group you are always braver.

The police are everywhere in Rio. I had never seen so many armed cops – it seemed like the police force has to be one of the largest in any city. There were six of them on every street corner where we stayed near Copacabana. I suppose I’m being a typical nervous american tourist – even in Montreal I’m used to seeing cops in groups of four at the metro stations. But still – when walking around, I was wondering – why are they everywhere? Is the crime really that bad?

Our friend Rafa said this was a good neighborhood, so we didn’t need to worry – as long as we were out of there by sundown.



So – again, normally my advice is to paint as soon as possible after the drawings – the same day if possible, so your memory is fresh. It’s even better to paint right on the spot, so the color will be more true to life.

I don’t think I’d have gone back to these if I hadn’t scanned them. It’s a bit easier knowing you have them archived. The drawings are important memories for me and I’d have been nervous about ruining them. Of course I needn’t have worried – they always turn out in the end. If the drawing is solid the color is always a nice improvement. You really can’t go wrong :)

I’m looking forward to the next urban sketchers symposium in Manchester. We should know in a few months if I’ve been accepted as a instructor. I hope to get a chance to draw with some of these folks again :)



7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2015 1:13 PM

    This is some beautiful sketching! I like it.

  2. December 8, 2015 2:10 PM

    So fun to see these again…your workshop in Brazil was GREAT, you are a natural and gifted artist and teacher, Marc!

  3. December 8, 2015 2:25 PM

    Hope to get into your workshop in Manchester!

  4. December 9, 2015 1:53 AM

    I cannot imagine why you would not be chosen Marc, as an instructor for Manchester.As far as I am concerned, you are the best urban sketcher teacher on line and your courses on Crafsty so inspirational !

  5. December 10, 2015 6:45 AM

    Wow, I really like to see both versions, as they feel they could be layered one upon the other, thus bringing a new perspective. I would love to see how you would draw Montreal’s constabulary as they adopt for the past few years some “colourful” alternative to their usual uniform to protest their current labour “woes” :-)

    • December 10, 2015 11:41 AM

      That’s been something I’ve been meaning to draw! The great Pantaloons Protest. I hope the don’t resolve their dispute before I get around to that! (Not really, I hope they can get a resolution – but I would kick myself for missing it yes!).

      • December 15, 2015 6:33 AM

        I wouldn’t be surprised if 50 years from now, they wear the same look and it becomes part of the legend of La Cité :-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: