Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sketching Barcelona: Setup, Value, and Beyond (Workshop R)

Instructor: Matthew Brehm (Idaho, USA)
Location: Various locations in the Barri Gòtic

In well over a decade of teaching observational sketching, I have learned that there are three general areas of practice that tend to present the greatest challenges for those trying to learn the skill. The first has to do with accuracy in the “Setup” of a sketch – translating what is seen to what is drawn on the page. The second has to do with the contrasting “Value” of tones – conveying a clear sense of light as it defines a subject’s three-dimensional form. The third area is about going “Beyond” and learning in the absence of a teacher – how to continually develop one’s skills in a self-directed manner. This workshop is centered on simple, practical techniques that are applicable to any subject and all media, and will include a combination of exercises, group discussion and individualized instruction. Concepts will be presented in short demonstrations, put into practice through brief exercises, and reinforced with one-on-one and group feedback. The workshop will take place in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), and more specifically the streets and plazas listed below. This district of Barcelona provides a perfect blend of small and medium-sized urban spaces, and the more intimate scale of the medieval streets – many of which date to the time of the original Roman settlement on this site. When and where appropriate during the workshop, historic information regarding the city and its monuments will be blended with our primary focus on sketching.

Meet at Plaça Reial
(East corner, at the archway leading to Carrer Vidre)

Opening Introductions and Discussion
(+/-15 minutes)
At this time, participants will introduce themselves to the group and perhaps bring up a particular sketching-related issue they would like to deal with in the workshop. Participants will also be provided with an illustrated handout that covers the topics and format of the workshop.

(1 hour)
Plaça Reial and Plaça de George Orwell
The fundamentals of observing a subject and constructing a drawing, including the most effective tools and strategies for achieving compositional accuracy. Simple measuring devices and techniques will be presented, followed by a very brief discussion regarding only the most essential – and most useful! – aspects of perspective. After a short demonstration by the instructor, participants will complete a series of small, three- to five-minute sketches that are limited to the basic structure of a subject, which, in this case, will be the Plaça Reial. The relatively simple, rectilinear form of this great urban space will serve as the basis for working with composition and basic perspective techniques, and the brevity of the exercises will keep the focus on the sketch setup rather than value, color, or detail. If there is time, and the group would like to try a more challenging subject, we will move to the Plaça de George Orwell, a fascinating triangular urban space just a two-minute walk from the Plaça Reial. This session will conclude with a brief sketchbook display and discussion.

(1 hour)
Carrer Milans, Carrer Regomir, Carrer Palma de Sant Just
This session will build on the techniques learned in the first hour, but will be focused on the character of light as it works its way into the narrow, human-scaled streets of the Barri Gòtic. We will focus on basic and advanced techniques for strong, clear light in a variety of media, including skills related to the “logic” and “forcing” of shadows. Participants will work on a series of two-stage sketches, starting with a brief setup sketch and followed by the very quick and expressive addition of simplified, abstracted shadows. This session will conclude with a brief sketchbook display and discussion. (Note: In the unlikely event of overcast skies, the tall palm trees and darkened arches surrounding the Plaça Reial can be used as the subject for this part of the workshop.)

(+/-30 minutes)
Plaça de Sant Just or Plaça del Pí
The workshop will conclude with a lively discussion of strategies intended to help each participant continue their own learning process. We will cover general concepts regarding how we acquire skills such as sketching, and specific techniques intended to help us break through plateaus or stagnation.

Learning goals

Participants will complete the workshop with the ability to:
  • use essential strategies for observing subjects and accurately transferring these observations to the page, regardless of media. Such strategies will include pencil-sighting for measuring lengths and angles and sight-sizing for composition.
  • use the most fundamental aspects of perspective as a way to increase accuracy and sketch complex spatial subjects with greater ease – without getting bogged down in complex rules and terminology.
  • use abstraction as an aid to discovering the essence of a sketching subject, both formally and with respect to light.
  • use increased speed and efficiency as a way to work through multiple readings of a scene, and to improve focus and drama in a sketch.
  • continue their own process of learning after the Symposium concludes, by establishing goals for improvement and working toward these goals with a greater sense of focus and perseverance.

Supply list

This workshop will be open to all media preferences, but it will begin with exercises in soft graphite pencil (2B-4B). The instructor will come prepared to provide these pencils to all participants, so the only absolutely essential equipment is a sketchbook!

Other sample sketches


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