Freedom Revolution Workshop with Marina Grechanik

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Largo do Carmo

This saturday, we had the privilege of having Marina Grechanik from Tel Aviv, in Lisboa, for a Freedom Revolution Workshop. The motto was to sketch the revolution by telling the story of its heroes: the people. We used her favored materials and techniques, and I was deep outside my comfort zone, except in the first warmup sketch.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Largo do Carmo, expressions

The first challenge was to capture emotions in people’s faces, with a quick gesture, with line or with a combination of wash and line. The sketches with less detail seem to be the most successful in conveying the basic emotions people were showing. Can you spot the instructor?

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Rossio, postures

We came down to Rossio train station, because of the rain, for the next challenge: to sketch action. To capture basic stances and gestures, body postures of people doing small actions, with line or with a color wash. Near the end of the challenge, I sat next to Paula Cabral, who was kind enough to let me use her ecoline-filled waterbrush – a very efficient tool! And works marvels in combination with the colored pencil and Paula’s wax crayons.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, lunch, lottery

During lunch, I sketched a panorama of our table, and to avoid further conflicts or complications, the portrayed ladies made a lottery to decide who would keep the sketch. Teresa, the winner, portrayed on the far right side of the sketch, was happy.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço

The afternoon challenge was longer in time. We took over the Terreiro do Paço, the administrative plaza of the capital, turned tourist attraction in the latest years, and more populated that day especially because it was one of the major sites of the actions that led to the ’74 revolution. The site is naturally charged with a political energy and, as Walter Rossa put it in a conference I attended recently, “it is meant to be inhospitable”. Will all the tourist and leisure life that exists here now soon come to an end? Wouldn’t we want it to come to an end?

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço

The challenge was divided into two parts. Number one: to sketch a story of a single place, using only a line tool, gathering information about the actions, the characters and the interactions that happen in that particular spot. Number two: same as number one, but with washes and colors.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço, music

The stories I captured in line weren’t so successful, so I hurried to get to do some more washes. My education in washes began in the Lisbon Urban Sketchers Symposium in 2011, in Cathy Gatland and Isabel Fiadeiro‘s Urban portraits. Now with Marina, this technique awoke from the ashes and, hopefully, is in me to stay.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço, music

The musicians in the previous story were performing under the archways of the Terreiro, surrounded by some Banco de Partilha Social and around a couple hundreds of school kids going about their diverse kid’s businesses. Somewhere along the way, one of the girls borrowed a guitar and a high school band immediately and spontaneously formed and performed three songs with enough vigor and power to attract a small mob.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, skateboard, Terreiro do Paço

Some skaters improvised an obstacle from a sunshade support. Soon afterwards, the light drizzle had turned to a more proper rain. We took shelter under the archways, Marina wrapped up the workshop and we moved along the Baixa to drink some tea and some moscatel, to warm up our bodies and lift up our spirits.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, tea, moscatel, Baixa

Sun and beer

The afternoons in Lisboa are lazy when there’s sun and beer and good friends are around. Lourenço came to visit Lisboa. I had not met him since he was in Sweden. And now, we could meet under the sun of our native country. He brought his entourage, which made the day more special. We were supposed to go visit Sebastião Salgado’s exhibition – Génesis – but it was too crowded, so we took a detour to the Clube Náutico de Belém.

Clube Náutico de Belém, beer, tremoço, Lisbon Psych Fest, Lisboa

While I had spent the morning learning about the rule of thirds in Nelson’s workshop, the afternoon was all about getting to know some fine people and learning, for instance, about psicofarmacologização (yeah!), Lisbon Psych Fest (unfortunately over by now, but be on the lookout for the next year’s edition), the escalavardo, a mongoose-like beast that sucks the blood out of the chickens in the heights of Monchique, and how to properly pour green sparkly wine – do it from a height, to take some of the rougher gas away.

escalavardo, Benfica, Lisboa

Welcome back any time Lourenço!

Sketch meeting in Silves

Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, city wall, town gate, taipa, red sandstone, Algarve, Portugal

The 18th of April was the International Day for Monuments and Sites. Several groups of Urban Sketchers Portugal met that day in cities with historical interest to celebrate the date. As I was going south for work, it was a perfect opportunity to get to know Silves from a different perspective – that of a sketcher.

Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, Algarve, Portugal, photographer, dancer, dance

I got there early in the afternoon, but the sketching had been going on since the morning, mostly around the bridge over the Arade and the southern slope of the historical burg, between the river and the castle. A couple of dancers and a photographer chimed in to the town gate square for a photography session with the wall and the urban features as background.

Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, city wall, town gate, taipa, red sandstone, Algarve, Portugal, wiring, puxada, Algarve, Portugal

The most visible feature of the monuments and fortifications of the town is the red sandstone of which it’s made. The stones in the ramparts cover up a core of taipa, rammed earth concrete, which makes the walls of Silves a case study in rammed earth endurance. It is left to interpretation whether the walls were historically painted or left bare, but the chromatic contrast between the red sandstone and the whitewashed houses really builds up the atmosphere of Silves.

Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, city wall, town gate, taipa, red sandstone, Algarve, Portugal

The town has its own Archaeological Museum featuring exhibits from the paleolithic, all the way through the Roman occupation and the Islamic Iberia and up to the Christian Reconquista, culminating in a few pieces of 16th and 17th century ceramic. By then the town had lost its main role as the center of Algarve, in part due to the diminishing of the river stream and also because the Reconquista was over, so the town became less strategic over time.

Archaeological Museum of Silves, Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, column elements, Vicente Sardinha, José Barreiros, Algarve, Portugal

No sketch meeting is complete with a joyful dinner and a couple of pleasant conversations. I was thrilled to meet so many new faces and to be reunited to a few old faces.

Archaeological Museum of Silves, Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, Algarve, Portugal

We spent the rest of the evening in the Archaeological Museum, watching a few presentations from experienced sketchers, their journeys and their stories.

Silves, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketch meeting, conference, Pedro Cabral, João Pinto, Rita Caré, Vicente Sardinha, José Barreiros, Algarve, Portugal

Rule of thirds

Nelson Paciência, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketching, workshop, sketching workshop, Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva, Lisboa, Amoreiras

The Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva (Historic House Museum of artist Vieira da Silva) has a year-long program of sketching workshops, held on saturdays every two weeks, in cooperation with several members of Urban Sketchers Portugal (myself included). The themes are quite diverse so, even if you’re an experienced sketcher, there’s something for you.

Nelson Paciência, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketching, workshop, sketching workshop, Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva, Lisboa, Amoreiras, Vicente

I decided to attend Nelson Paciência‘s workshop a few days ago, titled “How much stuff fits in my sketchbook”. Fitting title for a sketcher who skillfully cramps stuff in the small canvas of his sketchbook.

Nelson Paciência, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketching, workshop, sketching workshop, Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva, Lisboa, Amoreiras, Vicente

He showed us how to use this cramping style, and suggested several techniques to help us in the process. One is to deform the subject to the canvas. Another one is to turn the head and look at more than just the view in front of you. Another yet is to keep out the stuff you don’t want to sketch, so that you get more free space for the stuff that matters. Here he is, stating that he “likes to squish heads”. Game of Thrones style?

Nelson Paciência, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketching, workshop, sketching workshop, Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva, Lisboa, Amoreiras

He then proceeded to teach us how to use the famed photographers rule of thirds to our advantage. A simple layout device that allows us to direct the focus of the viewer to what we want to give focus to. And this is when we – the students – sprung into action. We had to make a few sketches based on the rule of thirds, with different focuses, foregrounds and backgrounds, etc.

Nelson Paciência, Urban Sketchers Portugal, sketching, workshop, sketching workshop, Casa-Museu Vieira da Silva, Lisboa, Amoreiras

It was a pleasant morning to learn and practice something new. Quite challenging also! On my way home, this Fiat 126 was waiting for me to sketch it.

Fiat, Fiat 126, Amoreiras, Lisboa, vintage cars

Distilling for the soul

dorna, Monchique, Alferce, medronho, firewater, barrels, tradition

In the south of Portugal, high up in Monchique, the rooftop of Algarve, the accent tends to steal a few letters from each word. Destila, the process of distilling, becomes Estila. And in Monchique especially, the estila has to do with a particular kind of fruit – the medronho – which turns it into a mildly sweet and fruity firewater (aguardente) named after the very own fruit.

A small band of regional Urban Sketchers put together a series of sketch meetings in a couple of distilleries, deep in the woods of the Monchique mountain range. The first distillery, and by far, the most interesting one, has had the same process for ages, the traditional way!

medronho, Monchique, distillery, tradition, copper, alembic, firewater

The fruit ferments in gigantic barrels called dornas for a few months. Then, the resulting paste (massa) is transferred with a large copper ladle (cácero) to a round copper vessel (barriga) which is attached to a copper alembic. The whole device is inserted into a masonry furnace, heated by firewood. As the distilling process begins inside the copper alembic, the precious transparent fluid pours down a pipe that goes through a massive ceramic tank, filled with running fresh water, to cool it down. It might have been more efficient to have a spiral tube going down a narrower tank, but as the distillers explained, the spiral tube would create more challenges to the cleaning process. More cons than pros. Scratch that!

What comes out of the other end is a deliciously fruity smooth rich-bodied transparent medronho that wraps up the meals of most homes in Algarve. It’s also a deceivingly treacherous liquid, as it is so smooth and tasty, you don’t realize you’re having an alcoholic beverage until it’s too late!

chouriço, recipe, sausage, chorizo, tradition

The distilling of one batch can take up to four hours, so the crew finds ways to entertain themselves throughout the day. This particular fella shared his own technique of properly roasting a chouriço: wrap it up nice and tight in brown paper; put it on the ground and cover it with ash; cover the ash with glowing embers. Wait until you feel it right; take out, unwrap, slice in medallions, serve with traditional Monchique sliced bread; wash down with medronho. You’ll be happy for the remainder of the day, no matter what.

lunch, sketchers, Urban Sketchers, Monchique, Alferce