Thursday, 30 August 2018

Five days in Porto



I didn't get any drawing done on my first day in Porto. That was partly because it was a new city for me, and I was always left wondering what was around the next corner, and partly because it was a day for meeting and talking with people that I rarely, if ever, get to meet in person. To walk along by the river Douro that day was to bump into a stream of familiar friendly faces to greet (Elizabeth Alley, James Richards, Marissa Swinghammer, Melanie Reim to mention a few), which, being in a foreign land, is an odd sensation.

The ninth Urban Sketchers symposium (18-21 July 2018) was a bit like the gathering of the clan: around 800 people from more than 40 countries who draw on location descended on the city for the four days (although most, it seemed, arrived earlier or stayed later, or both). Everywhere you turned there was someone drawing, or people sharing their sketchbooks, or throwing their arms around an old mate.

Perhaps the talking was more important than the drawing (below I post some of my drawings from the five days I was in Porto). Within an hour of arriving in Porto I was meeting with the rest of the lovely USk editorial team: we work together on the international blog, communicating almost daily by email, but never as a complete group in person. We still weren't all present (Marcia Milner-Brage and Murray Dewhurst were missed), but it was close. (Image left to right: me, Gabi Campanario, Suhita Shirodkar, Béliza Mendes, USk president Amber Sausen, and Tina Koyama. Photo courtesy of Tina.)

This was the moment when I finally got to meet Gabi, the founder of USk, someone I consider an old friend, but who I had never met before. We first exchanged emails nearly ten years ago when I heard about Urban Sketchers. I'm proud to have had my drawings featured in his books, and he has kindly agreed to be in mine. Truth be told: finally getting to meet and spend time with Gabi was a much-anticipated highlight of my Porto days.

The remaining days were a rush of meeting old friends, making new ones, staying up too late, laughing over dinner, wondering how Porto is going to manage with the huge influx of tourists that we were part of, and drawing, drawing, drawing. There are too many names to even begin mentioning them here, but it was great being with you all. Happy days.

Some drawings:


Rua Chã, Porto: an alleyway I'd pass each day on my walk between the hotel and symposium centre.

Armazéns Cunhas department store, Porto.


Praça a Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, Porto.


St James's British cemetery, Porto: a group of us jumped into a minibus and spent a cooling morning drawing there. An entertaining lunch with Stuart Goss and Joaquim Espadaneira followed.


São Bento railway station: the Friday afternoon sketchwalk.


The view from the steps of São Bento railway station.


Virtudes garden, Porto: the Saturday morning sketchwalk.


Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo, Porto. I drew this one to replace one of the same subject that was sold to Richard Briggs in the last evening's silent auction. Thanks, Richard.


City Hall, Avenida dos Aliados, Porto: the big final sketchwalk on the Saturday afternoon. Beneath this, out of sight, are around 800 people busily drawing.


From Rua de Ferreira Borges, Porto, looking east, with the cathedral in the background.


The House of Sandeman, across the river Douro, with the cable car that runs between the bridge and the waterfront.

Next year, it's all happening in Amsterdam.




Monday, 13 August 2018

What I did when we went to Switzerland


Our first few days in Flims in eastern Switzerland passed just as we planned them, revisiting places where N had holidayed with her family when she was a small child. We swam in lakes, hiked through forests, and picnicked in Alpine meadows. Even on the fourth day, when I was feeling under the weather with a stomach ache, we managed a gentle 10km downhill walk to a viewing platform over the Rhine Gorge and a visit to another lake. But I lay and slept at every moment I could, and didn’t open the sketchbook all day.

By the evening, the nature and location of the ache had changed, and I soon found myself, along with N and daughter 2, in an ambulance heading to Chur, the nearest city. Swiss medical care, I discovered, is everything it is cracked up to be. Within a few hours appendicitis had been confirmed, and by the early hours I was being wheeled into surgery. “What kind of holiday is this?” I remember asking the anaesthetist.


I came round in a small ward with the most phenomenal Alpine view of the Calanda mountain, which I soon felt well enough to draw from my bed (top image, above and bottom image). It’s hard to say what the medical benefits may be of having such a view beside you as you recover from surgery, but this, as well as the neat laparoscopic surgery, fantastic nursing care, and excellent cuisine, meant I was soon feeling much much better. I drew it again, several times, along with the view at the bottom of my bed.


The act of drawing somehow felt more important to me than the end result. My roommate was better than I show him: I left for the flight home to London the following day, and he was expecting to leave soon after. We had no common language but we’d exchange cheerful thumbs-ups and smiles. He proudly showed me a press cutting about the construction site accident that had brought him to hospital. You could tell we were both very aware that if we had to experience what we were going through, we were bloody lucky to be where we were.


I’m home now, back at work, feeling so much better, and very grateful, thanks for asking.

[This post is also published on the Urban Sketchers blog.]