Porta Settimiana is a gate in the Aurelian Wall on the west side of the Tiber. Marking the beginning of the Via della Lungara that leads from Trastevere to the Borgo, Porta Settimiana is a restoration of the original gate that was built in 275 AD over the Via Recta, undertaken in 1498 under the direction of Pope Alexander IV.
Looking the other way back through the Porta at the corner where Via della Scala meets Via Benedetta is l’Antica Trattoria Da Gildo, one of my favorite little restaurants in Rome. This is where I had my first taste of Cacio e Pepe in 2000, which has not yet been surpassed. I frequent Da Gildo whenever I teach in Rome and I’m looking forward to dining there again this fall.
Urban Sketchers has just announced that the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium will take place in Barcelona, July 11–13, 2013. A beautiful setting for what looks to be an exciting event, with lots of workshops, panels and lectures.
For more information and to sign up for updates, see <www.urbansketchers.org>.
I have often dreamed of writing and illustrating a children’s book, or at a larger scale maybe even a graphic novel. Always stopping me, however, was the lack of a genuine story to be told, a narrative with emotional and intellectual content. Technique, no matter how well developed, could only carry me so far.
That is why drawing on location suits me. Instead of having to create imaginary settings and characters, I can rely on the visual stimuli derived from direct observation. Real settings that can be experienced in a straightforward manner provide the raw material for my sketches, which I can then interpret in a purely descriptive manner or alter to suit my temperament.
This view of the train leaving O-Okayama for Tokyo is from real life, but even when drawing from a photograph, which lacks the immediacy of drawing on location, the visual information provides a starting point for thinking about and responding in a graphic manner. It’s a matter of fiction versus reality and I imagine even a lot of fiction is based on personal experiences, perceptions, and insights.
Behind each of these sketches lies a possible story. Maybe some day, if I am fortunate enough, I will be able to knit these into a more compelling one.
We happened on this graphic of South America during our recent visit to Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina. It figuratively turned our heads upside down. We had been so accustomed to maps of the world having north oriented up and south down. This graphic shows that there are other ways of seeing our world.
This idea of (dis)orientation manifested itself in another way on our first day in Córdoba, as we walked around the historic center with map in hand. I am usually pretty good at reading maps and orienting myself in new environments but something was amiss. It took a while but I finally realized this was because I had assumed that the sun was in the southern sky. But here in Córdoba, the sun was actually illuminating the northern sides of buildings and so what I had thought was south was actually north on the street map. And even knowing this, it remained difficult to overcome a lifetime of assumptions.
In each city we visited in Argentina I was asked to do a drawing demonstration. Public demonstrations always make me a little nervous but the warm reception to these made it worthwhile. The first demonstration was at Alta Gracia, where I explained my approach to selecting a viewpoint, composing the view, and beginning the drawing.
Le Corbusier’s Casa Curutchet in La Plata is an truly amazing work of architecture. Here is the demo I did of the exterior after we had toured and sketched the rich, light-filled interior spaces. It was exhilirating to see how well Le Corbusier was able to translate his Five Points of Architecture to a new continent and culture.
I didn’t have a lot of free time to sketch on my own in Argentina, but here are two views of Córdoba from our first day there. The first is of the Plaza de la Independencia as seen from our hotel room.
The second drawing is of the Plaza San Martin, center of the historic district and featuring a statue of José de San Martín, the Argentine general who lead the successful struggle for independence. In the background, you can see the 16th century Cathedral.
The focus of my visit to Argentina was giving two talks and having the opportunity to work with students from Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil. I really appreciated the enthusiasm of the students and their willingness to draw without inhibition.
It was an emotional time for me when I saw the students’ work exhibited in La Plata. The students had drawn in accordion-fold sketchbooks, which you can see hanging vertically in the background of this photo. Seeing the display in this manner reinforces the idea that no single drawing is as important as an entire body of work, whether it be a single sketchbook or a whole series of sketchbooks. It was very heartwarming and gratifying for me to see how proud the students were of their work and I hope they will continue to enjoy drawing with increased confidence.
Here is a photo of the view that Wilder Gómez Taipe, Edgardo Minond and I drew in Buenos Aires, followed by photos of my drawing in progress.
I wanted to show these to illustrate how my process starts with blocking out the major forms with light pen strokes. In this way, I can both compose the view and ensure that the composition will fit properly on the page. At this early stage, adjustments can still be made before committing to the drawing’s development.
Once I have the composition blocked out, I then begin to work on the major forms and fill in the details. I usually begin with foreground elements to frame the view before moving on to the focus of the drawing. At other times, I may start with the focus of the view but always rough out framing elements fairly quickly so that the drawing composition is always in the forefront.
In a few days, I will try to recap my Argentina experience.
We’ve had a wonderful time drawing with the students and faculty, starting in Córdoba, then in Rosario and La Plata for the congresso. This was the last drawing site in La Plata, the Casa de Gobierno, before the exhibition of the students’ work at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
Here are Wilder Gómez Taipe, Edgardo Minond and me drawing similar views of Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires yesterday.
Sadly, we leave for home today.
Friday evening, after my presentation, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with UNC faculty at Juan Griego, where Horacio Burgos performed the Brazilian music of Antônio Carlos Jobim and Argentina Tangos. Music, like architecture, can express the soul of a culture.
Here are the students I drew with yesterday at Alta Gracia, one of the six Estancias established by the Jesuits around Córdoba in the 17th century. Beautiful, crisp day. While most of the students are from Córdoba and Rosario, there are also a few from Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Tomorrow, we draw Córdoba before leaving for Rosario.