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Sept. 22: Columbia City

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ultimately, It’s About People

Sagrada Familia
Barcelona! When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of an urban sketching symposium in Barcelona were true, I was thrilled. Although I didn’t know much about this city except what I’d seen on Rick Steves’ show, I had an image of an exciting, vibrant city filled with old and new. My image was correct, except a hundredfold. I expected a large, bustling city, but its intensity nearly overwhelmed me. From the sheer extreme immensity and bodaciousness of the Sagrada Familia (probably the single most impressive manmade thing I’ve ever experienced) to the sea of humanity cruising down La Rambla at any given moment, everything about Barcelona felt intense, over-caffeinated and fully saturated. I loved it, and at the same time, it exhausted me.

Combine all of that with being with 200 people from around the world who are equally passionate about sketching as I am, and the collective energy we produced was probably enough to light up the Sagrada Familia! I am grateful to the hard-working symposium team that brought us together.

I picked out a couple of my most memorable Barcelona sketches to post here. The type of place you could sketch every day of your life for a year and still find new things to capture, the Sagrada Familia took my breath away every time I turned. My husband and I spent all day there, yet I felt we had barely brushed the surface. By mid-afternoon, I realized I still hadn’t sketched it, so I braved the blazing sun, found an empty bench (empty only because it wasn’t shady) and took half an hour to sketch it (all the time I could stand that heat). It was the manmade equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and I sketched the equivalent of one rock.

Arc de Triomf
A second memorable sketch is one of the Arc de Triomf, for a couple of reasons. The Arc was the designated location of the group photo for all symposium participants preceded by a general sketchcrawl. When I got there, the Arc itself was stunning to behold, but what caught my eye was all the sketchers. I think it was the only sketch opportunity that all symposium participants as well as ad hoc sketchers were available for, so literally hundreds of sketchers were scattered all over the grass, benches, everywhere I looked. As excited as I was to be part of the symposium, I hadn’t expected to feel so moved to see so many sketchers in one place – and to know that I was fortunate enough to be among them.

The second reason my sketch of the Arc is special to me is that it was my first after taking Inma Serrano’s workshop, “Rhythm in the City.” Before her workshop, I would have stood at the foot of the Arc in such awe and dismay that I probably would have chosen a small detail to sketch – not the Arc itself. But her approach toward sketching and her way of seeing architecture as living creatures liberated me to take on the whole Arc – and it was the most fun I’ve ever had sketching an architectural structure!

As much as I learned from the workshops that formed the meat of the symposium, I think what was most important was being part of an amazing collective energy. My most memorable moments in Barcelona are about meeting sketchers I’ve long admired online; chatting with fellow participants about our local sketching communities; and sharing a common passion even when we barely shared a common spoken language. After the paint has dried and the last sketchbook page has been scanned, ultimately the Urban Sketching Symposium is about people.

To see more sketches and photos from Barcelona (as well as my following week in Germany), please see my Flickr set.

Gail, Tina & Jackie


  1. Really nice reflections on your experience, Tina. I agree with you, it's adds another layer to actually meet some of the sketchers whose work you've been watching. Really makes it feel like an international community.

  2. Great photos and sketches Tina! I just got onto the website and saw this- so great!

  3. And it was so fun to see you, Gail, and Stephanie in Barcelona!