The prequel: Sketch Tour Portugal

I arrived in Portugal the day before we started on the official Sketch Tour Portugal. That gave me a little time to sketch by myself and get into the groove of 6 straight days of sketching. I stayed in the little fishing village of Paço de Arcos. This is the view from the front steps of my hotel.


It started to rain a little as I wrapped up this next sketch, but what’s a little splatter on a sketch of boats?boats.jpg

Another slightly rain-spattered sketch, but I’m just excited to be drawing brightly colored houses and terracotta roofs.


I can tell I’m too jetlagged to work in my large sketchbook, so I switch to tiny pieces. (that’s my palette for scale) Candy colored homes, cars and street signs.

More little vignettes. And yes, cobblestones.


Ready to head to Portugal yet? If you are, you’re going to need this handy guide that tells you how you order your coffee in Portugal. To beat that midday slump from jetlag? Um café duplo is what you ask for.

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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition VI

And just like that, we were at Day 6, our last day of Sketch Tour Portugal, Surf Edition.

White sand and fishermen’s sheds. Surf, of course! One of many surf beaches dotting the coast in Comporta.Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_comporto.jpg

Smaller and calmer seas here. Perfect for a surf vacation for the whole family. This family is done for today and heads back up the beach, each with their own surfboard-carrying styles.Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_14CC

Waiting for the ferry that takes us back towards Lisbon. How do you know when your sketch is done? When the ferry docks and cars start rolling in.

Our very last beach stop is Praia de Carcavelos, Lisbon’s own beach. You can tell that the words gotten out: the surf is good today and in the early evening, people from the city start arriving for some quality beach-time at the end of their day. These surfers are taking a break before they head out to sea again.

I wander off the main beach to this pier full of fisherman. I love this sort of sketching: places off the main drag, where I can watch people deeply engaged in an activity.


The sun is starting to set. Time to wrap up the day and head back home. I felt just like that guy with the red surfboard: lucky to have had a wonderful time, and just a wee bit sad it was all done.


And it’s a wrap for Sketch Tour Portugal:Surf Edition. This is Pedro Freitas our videographer interviewing João Catarino before we head back to Lisbon. Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_19CC

Many, many thanks to everyone involved in making this such a memorable experience.  And thank you for following along on this adventure. Are you planning that trip to Portugal yet?

Here are Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 ,Day 4  and Day 5 of Sketch Tour Portugal.

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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition V

Day 4 of Sketch Tour Portugal, was a light-on-sketching day, but we sure made up for it on Day 5. It was about the point in the Tour when I felt like I knew what i was doing, but also close so close to the end that there was a real sense of urgency in capturing everything I wanted to…
These gorgeous pines are Umbrella Pines (Pinus pinea). And yes, they did look like they had been perfectly pruned in to these shapes. In Comporta, Portugal


A huge surprise waited for us at the end of a nondescript looking path towards the ocean. The cliffs and beach of Praia de Galé. Red-orange cliffs and an azure sea.Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_7CC

So much of what you sketch depends on how you see and what attracts you. Case in point: @joaocatarino65 and I sketched the same scenes and those are our sketchbooks side-by-side.

We thought we’d do a small lunch to get our day moving along, so we asked for ‘something light’ at Pão Cafè & Companhia. This is what we got. The Portuguese take their food seriously and for a good reason.

And that was before the Pastel de Nata and coffee , of course. I never ever skipped a chance to eat Pastel de Nata, which is not to be confused by the similar looking Pastel de Belem.

Back to work that afternoon, sketching boats and fishermen fixing octopus traps. It’s a slow and meditative process in which bright aqua twine strongly secures a funnel shaped net to a rectangular net-cage. The octopus goes for the bait inside but can’t get back out. I love fishing villages. There is always the main beautiful beach and great food that tourists come for and if you walk around just a bit, you find a smaller dock where the fishermen’s boats are. Chances are you will find them there, fixing, mending or just chatting away the afternoon.


This is how surfers travel. A camper with boards strapped on top and a bed in the back. When the get to a beach with good surf, they pull up, don a wet suit, and head to the ocean. Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_12CC

At Praia de São Torpes, this surfer heads down the wooden steps with his board, just in time to be out on the surf as the sun sets. Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_13CC

I have meant to sketch the agave that line the coast everyday, and I finally get to one today. Those agaves can get gigantic!

We should have ended our day there, but it was our last full day of sketching (Day 6 was a lot of driving back to Lisbon) so we squeezed in one more sketch. It’s a bit foolhardy to think you can do a color sketch under super-yellow sodium vapor street lights, but we did it anyways, because, why not?
Here are Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 of Sketch Tour Portugal. Our last day, Day 6, coming up next.


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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition IV

Day 4 of Sketch Tour Portugal, and we’re still in Peniche. João heads back to the surf competition but I steal away from the action at Super Tubos beach and head off to draw the local fishing boats. Portuguese fishing boats are small vessels in bright colors, all built of wood.



Day 4 is a big driving day (which means not much sketching): we are going to head down the coast to the area south of Lisbon. But before we head out, a quick stop at a little chapel by the sea, The Chapel of our Lady of Remedies (Nossa Senhora dos Remédios). On a quiet and spectacularly clear morning, I know why the Portuguese love this particular shade of blue so much: the sky exactly matches the brilliant blue of the trim today, as a man with a cane slowly makes his way into the chapel.

In Portugal you can have the busiest of days but you will still sit down to lunch. Before our long drive south, we lunch at Noah’s near Santa Cruz beach.


Our drive down the coast will take the rest of the day, so we stop on our way, just before sunset, to sketch at the riverfront in Alcácer do Sal. The sun is setting, the buildings are bathed in gold. Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book2_4CC

I can’t resist a second, super-quick version as the light fades away…

And that ends Day 4 of Sketch Tour Portugal.

So many of you have written in to ask about the sketchbooks I’m using. I wish I’d taken a photo at the start of the tour when these books weren’t so battered, but I didn’t so here they are as they look now. laloran-books
Handmade in Portugal (but available to ship anywhere in the world), Laloran made these books especially for Sketch Tour Portugal. The books I used were a 220 gr. paper called Conqueror Stonemarque High White.

I also got myself 2 custom-made sketchbooks in different sizes, one that is a 1:2 proportion (so it opens to a square) and another one that is square.  You know you have a Laloran sketchbook when the inside cover has a little hand-drawn logo.

These two books are 180 gr paper Clairefontaine paper.  You can either buy a sketchbook you like on the Laloran website, or use the link on the right to customize your choice.

Day 5 of Sketch Tour Portugal is up next. Meanwhile, here are links to Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition III

Before I get to day 3 of Sketch Tour Portugal, a little step back to a sketch done on day 2. This is warm up day at MEO Rip Curl Portugal , a huge competition that is part of the World Surf League. At SuperTubos beach in Peniche, I  get a quick lesson on the physics of tubes and barrels (they’re two different types of waves) from @joaocatarino65. Only a few cameras on the beach but the big day will be different.


But we don’t head straight to Supertubos on the morning of day 3. Because first, we’re going to go see the amazing big waves of Nazaré. We didn’t see these waves at their highest, but even at half of their highest height, they were incredible. Want to see what they look like when they’re huge? Here’s a piece about the waves and how they work. I have never seen anything like it, and watching surfers in the waves was breathtaking and scary. And quite a spectacle as you can see in my sketch from all the people around me.


But there’s more to Nazaré than just big waves. This is an old fishing village. Tourism is it’s main industry now. Here are vendors in the traditional fisherfolk garb selling nuts in the town square.


Everywhere in Portugal are whitewashed buildings with yellow or blue trim and terra-cotta roof tiles. I could look at them forever and never tire of them. This is at Nazaré’s town square, where there’s so much to sketch.Sketchtour_portugal_suhita_book1_22CC

But we can’t wait because we need to head back to the big day at Supertubos. And there are crowds here! I have to jostle between them to catch a view of the ocean. When Portuguese surfer Fredrico Morais aka Kikas sprinted across the beach for his heat the crowds went wild!
Up on the sand dunes behind me, more crowds, all having a super day.

The waves that day? They’re big, with a strong wind blowing from the shore (See all that surf blowing off the top of the crest?). Still, it’s incredible to me that these surfers ride inside that little ‘tube’ the wave makes when it curls up- and that they emerge from the tube just before it collapses on itself.

It turns out to be a great day for Portugal. In this sketch, on the left is a dejected looking Owen Wright from Australia. He didn’t make it to the next round. But in the limelight is Vasco Ribeiro, Portugal’s wildcard, who is all smiles after a great day riding the waves.

And that wraps up a pretty exhilarating day at the beach. Day 3 is all done!

Missed my previous posts? Here are links to Day 1 and Day 2.


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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition II

Starting Day 2 of Sketch Tour Portugal on Praia de Santa Cruz. Rumor has it that the guy who built this tower by the beach wanted to admire all the beautiful people out on the sand from up high.

I loved this sea arch at the far end of the stretch of sand.

And the fishermen just stuck their poles into the sand and stood around chatting for a long while. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

That afternoon we moved to the mellower surf of Baleal, crowded with schools of beginning surfers to one side.  I watched the surfers and the surfer-watchers on the beach.

The waves on the other side of the beach were bigger and more advanced surfers hung out there, all with their longboards. ( Yes, I learnt the difference between long and short boards and different kinds of waves, all courtesy of João Catarino. Almost every surfer will pause like this one in the foreground and really look out at sea before heading in.

There were a lot of what looked like ‘classic white’ surfboards and some really brightly colored ones. I wonder whether surfers feel strongly about being a classic or bright colored kinda surfer?


That was Day 2 of Sketch Tour Portugal, Surf Edition.
Day 1 is here.
More coming up soon, ofcourse.

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Sketch Tour Portugal: Surf Edition I

Last month, I was in Portugal on invitation from Portugal Tourism and VisitPortugal.
Sketch Tour Portugal consists of 22 sketchers from around the world, capturing different aspects of Portugal through their sketches over the period of a year. The Tour pairs an international sketcher with a local sketcher: a fabulous way to get the best of both worlds- the expertise and understanding that a local brings and the fresh eyes of the international sketcher.

João Catarino and I did a really intense 6-day tour of the coast of Portugal. Our focus was the surfing culture and surfing beaches of Portugal. We covered atleast 15 beaches up and down the coast, and also stopped to capture some of the fishing culture and beautiful towns, chapels and monuments linked to these beaches. Exhausting? Yes. Rewarding? You bet!

I could go on and on about how wonderful Portugal, the food, the hospitality and the tour were, but let’s just get down to the sketches…

First drawing of Day 1. We start our day at Praia de Carcavelos sketching Forte Sao Juliao da Barra. It seems right to start here: João Catarino is a surfer and knows every little hidden gem of a beach up and down the coast, but this is his home beach, where he surfed as a kid. Purple skies today with a possibility of rain.

Just as I start to pack up, this little ship appears on this horizon… how could I not do a quick sketch?

We hurry up the coast to Praia do Sul. This is my view as I eat lunch.

And below is a sketch of my lunch. Polvo à lagareiro. Oven-roasted octopus and baby potatoes. If you’re not a fan of octopus, you haven’t had it Portuguese-style.


Later that afternoon at the beach in Coxos. This fisherman walked back from the beach with a rod and a net slung over his shoulder.


Coxos is not a beach for beginners. The big, emerald colored waves are gorgeous, but challenging to surf. This surfer waxes his board before heading out to the waves. Watching surfers is fascinating. They have such a reverence for the sea. They watch it intently, and those moments spent slipping on a wetsuit and waxing a board are focussed, meditative moments.

This is from up on the cliffs above Ericeira. The surfers are little ants on the beach below.

And this is João drawing the surf.

We ended our day drawing this statue called The Guardian. Ericeira is part of the World Surfing Reserve. This statue stands up on the cliffs looking out for surfers and all people of the sea. People come here to take photographs with the guardian or of the breathtaking view before them.

And that was Day 1. More from Sketch Tour Portugal, Surf Edition coming soon.



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