Never Fear the People: A Workshop in Paraty (and a free download)

Teaching at the 5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty, Brazil was an incredible experience. The diverse mix of attendees, their shared passion for urban sketching, and a beautiful city made for a dream mix. Add in some rain, trekking across the cobblestones of Paraty, and standing right in the middle of Chafariz Square to capture it’s energy, and it felt like an adventure.

We started each workshop by drawing quick, almost-blind-contour sketches of “easy” (read “not moving”) people. We kept them loose and fluid, and didn’t sweat the details (or the proportions). It was all gesture and quick capture. Next, we moved into what was the most challenging segment of the workshop: drawing people on the move. To make it easier to capture the repeated motion of a person walking, we positioned ourselves in the middle of one of Paraty’s narrow roads, where we could observe crowds moving up and down the street.

It takes quite a bit of focus to look at and draw movement as it happens, to capture weight and posture and where each limb is in relationship to the others. And then, to keep it loose and moving! But you can see from the sketches below that we ended up with some really encouraging results.  paraty_worshop_day2participantsketchespart1

At this point, everyone got a break (drawing moving people is tiring!) while I did a demo sketch and talked through my thoughts on capturing people, place, light and color.
Here are some of a couple of my demo sketches.

For one final sketch everyone chose a spot from which to capture Chafariz Square: the place, it’s people and it’s sense of activity. Here are some engrossed sketchers, their sketches and some group shots .




And for those of you who asked for a copy of my workshop handout, here it is. Click here on the image below to go to dropbox and download it. (Wondering about the strange layout? You’ll need to print it double sided and fold it down the middle for it to make sense!)

click-to-downloadA big thank you: to all the participants who made this possible, to Urban Sketchers for the incredible opportunity. And to all those that gave me valuable feedback both before and after the workshop. I learnt so much from the experience!


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Paraty’s churches

Paraty is a little town, with only a handful of churches. Here are 4 I sketched over my stay. The Santa Rita church, the oldest one in the city. Drawings buildings is fun, but add in a scaffolding and a guy wheeling a barrow into the picture, and the scene really comes alive.


The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict, a simpler, more rustic church. Made even simpler in my sketch because I ‘forgot’ to sketch in 2 big windows that are such an integral part of the facade. Still, I like the capture of the watery light that morning in this sketch.
Seen the the middle of my sketch: guy taking selfie in front of the church. I find myself sketching this selfie-taking pose more and more these days.


Probably the largest and grandest of Paraty’s churches is Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios on Matriz Square. Sketched during the big sketchcrawl at the end of the symposium. Which means it was sketched quickly (so many people to chat with and say goodbye to) and in the fading light.paraty_church

And finally, the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Sketched from across the river, early one morning with this group. I loved those early morning sketch sessions.
paraty-across_waterMore sketches from Brazil coming soon. Or, all of them , as I post them, here on flickr.

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Paraty by the Sea

In Paraty, you never forget you are by the sea. There are, of course, the colorful fishing boats (which I  sketched a lot ). And then there is this fascinating flooding of the city. Paraty was designed so that the streets are flooded by the high tide when there is a full moon. Every month, for just a few hours, these floods turn the cobbled streets into reflecting pools that are great fun to sketch.

Here are my sketches from one afternoon’s flood.paraty_wet-street4
paraty_wet-street3And here are some photographs of the tide coming in through openings in the seawalls and of sketchers at work, capturing the phenomenon. We’ sketchers are a dedicated bunch, aren’t we?


This sketch was made as the water retreated, leaving little puddles for this boy to play in with his make-believe fishing rod.paraty_wet-street2My other tryst with the sea was on a boat excursion to the little islands that dot Paraty Bay. It was so relaxing to fill in a page with notes and tiny sketches while we cruised: no large image to capture before it was gone, and a page full of little notes and memories I would have lost if I hadn’t sketched… I really need to do more of these pages.

More sketches from the boat and from an island we docked at for lunch.paraty_islandday2


paraty_islandday4Still more from Paraty coming up soon. And all my sketches form Brazil, as I upload them, here on flickr.

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The streets of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The streets in the historic part of Paraty are narrow, roughly cobbled and lined with whitewashed houses on both sides. The uniform white of these houses is broken by their colorful doors and windows and terracotta roofs.
I sketched them over and over. Here are a few from my collection:

Pousada do Cais, where I stayed for my first couple of days in Paraty.

Just for the record, not ALL the buildings in Paraty had blue doors and windows with a yellow trim- for some strange reason, all the ones I sketched seem to have just that one color combination- like the one below.


And this one with local artisans selling colorful woven baskets and bows and arrows.

This next sketch has my only record of the dogs of Paraty. How could I not have captured more of them when they were everywhere? Our pousada had a collection of black dogs who slept right at the doorstep and were invisible in the dark. I think I stepped on one atleast a couple of times.paraty_street2Did I mention that I rarely sketched alone? One of the most amazing things about being at an Urban Sketchers Symposium is that you step out into the street and find it littered with sketchers all sitting around and drawing. Here are some I caught ‘in action’.

Paraty by night. Whitewashed buildings and inky skies. Sketched with friends and a caipirinha. Which might explain the crazy Paynes grey sky.


More on Paraty coming soon. Meanwhile, all my Brazil sketches, as I upload them, here on flickr.

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Boats of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Historic Paraty is a town of whitewashed homes and churches. Only the bright doors and windows and the terracotta roofs add spots of color. But the boats of Paraty are a different story. They are unabashedly colorful with equally colorful names.

Painting those boats made me wish I had pepto bismol pink and bright baby blue in my palette. No amount of undiluted pigment could capture those colors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try…



And a quieter one below, perhaps because I didn’t get around to finishing it?

One last one, this one with a row of really bright homes to batch the boats.

More from Paraty, Brazil coming soon.

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Sketching on Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I’m back from an incredible 10 days in Brazil at the Urban Sketchers Symposium. And I’m back with a head full of ideas and inspiration, and long lists of things to work on and learn. But instead of recording my trip from start to finish, I’m going to start with one of my last days in Brazil, a day spent in Rio, sketching with fellow Urban Sketchers on Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).

When I travel and sketch with my family, I’m stealing sketch time between the things we have planned for the day, which means I do a quick sketch and move on to the next location. This was quite different: 8 sketchers, on top of Sugarloaf Mountain, with nowhere else to go for the day. Here are my 6 sketches from my day up on the mountain.

Sketch 1, my first one from the morning. The view is so spectacular, that I  try to capture it all : The bay, the city, the favellas spilling down the mountains and the gigantic figure of Christ on Corcovado Mountain. Maybe that’s way too much for one sketch?

Sketch 2. This time I try to focus on a vertical slice of the landscape instead of drawing the whole vista. Drawing from the same location a secrond time around helps me work differently. I don’t need to describe everything in line anymore. A few things are described in line, some in color, some in both line and color and many with just the white of the paper.

By sketch 3, I’m back to my first view. It is interesting to go back and see how it is different from sketch 1. sugarloaf_christ2

From there I move to the other side of our viewing platform, this time looking up at Sugarloaf Mountain itself. Sugarloaf is one of many, many strange monolithic rock formations that stick right out of the landscape all around Rio. I sketch it here with the ocean in the background to ground it and with cables running out of it into the foreground.

My next sketch of Sugarloaf. More Sugarloaf, less everything else. I’m enjoying carving things out of the white paper – the structure at the top of the mountain, the cables and the highlight on the mountain.

And one last sketch, in monochrome this time, which is unusual for me. One of my big takeoutsf rom the Symposium, something I’d really like to work o this year,  is to focus on value. It’s hard for me to abandon color, I love it so much. But I’m going to try and do value studies when I can. And using a warm and cool grey together makes it not seem so monochromatic at anymore.
sugarloaf_loaf3And finally a couple of shots of the amazing group I sketched with that day.  It is incredible how much you learn with you hang out with such a talented bunch!


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Costa Rica, part 4.

One last post from Costa Rica, from the relatively dry (just a couple of thundershowers everyday) Pacific Coast near Manuel Antonio National Park.

We spent lots of time at a quiet little cove called Playa Biesanz where the ocean was as calm as a pool and there were more locals than tourists. At Manuel Antonio the forest comes right down to the beach and the ocean is dotted with little green islands.

One entrepreneurial guy set up a little kayak and life jacket rental on the beach, using a casuarina tree to help set up shop.

Like every other place in Costa Rica, what fascinated me most was the vegetation. The forest is everywhere, and always on the verge of taking over the little patches of man made landscape. This stone statue (of a monkey god? I think that’s a capuchin monkey on it’s head) stood moss-covered by a hiking path.


The garden crew at our hotel spent all day trimming and pruning trees. This guy uses a long stick with two knife edges to cut back palm trees.

More trees I drew: The banana tree.CR_manuel_antonio_banana

And a tree we called the ‘Sloth tree’. Almost every sloth we spotted (and we spotted a lot of them) was in this tree. And yes, this is another sketch that a thundershower played a big part in shaping.CR_manuel_antonio_slothtree

When you live right at the edge of the forest, the iguanas join you for breakfast. This guy waited patiently by us while we ate breakfast on the patio. He was just there for the crumbs. For a black spiny tailed iguana, he was small at about 2 feet long.

My last sketches from Costa Rica: the fruit stands with pineapple and watermelon, mango and mangosteen, loads of bananas, star fruit, papaya, custard apple, malay apples, coconut and fruit I don’t know the name to and didn’t get around to tasting. (That means I’m going to have to come back another time!)

One last sketch, Hari and the kids reading Tintin on our long flight home.CR_going_home

Goodbye Costa Rica, what an adventure that was!

Posts 1, 2 and 3 from this 4-part series here:

Or, all of my Costa Rica sketches with none of the commentary in this flickr set.

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