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

Poland sketches #1 Train to Warszawa

train, Katowice, Warsawa, Poland, travel, traveller
Compartment carriages are the best!

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

“It was pretty early that, in my mind, the act of travelling was coupled with that of sketching, at least since I had the habit of reading and re-reading my father’s decades-old copies of Corto Maltese graphic novels. When they started publishing them again a few years ago, they included a few dazzling watercolors of the romantic soldier of fortune, set in exotic atmospheres and locations. It further spurred my will to travel and sketch, to record in line and color that which I see, taste, smell, hear and feel, the people that I meet, or that I don’t meet, but for one reason or another, compelled the pen to scratch the paper of yet another page of a sketchbook.

Travelling and sketching are two of my favorite activities. The first, fed by the mystery of the unknown and the curiosity that the other awakens, drives me to walk the globe, finding similarities and oddities, the different aspects of the human experience, that help me build a mosaic, an idea of what in the world are we doing here.

The second takes care of recording what I feel about all the things I come across while travelling. Sketching is an interface with the outside world and that which results from distilling the I and the other together. Maybe the second is the answer to the big question of the first: to find our own way of merging with the world.

A few days trip to Poland doesn’t seem to fit next to the esoteric and romantic wanderings of the sailor, and it’s certainly not the key to the secrets of the human experience, but I think that even in the shortest trips or the least exotic locations, sketching serves the purpose of interpreting and assembling tiny bits of wisdom and knowledge to the pool of oddities and patterns that makes us unique.

Further on, for more prosaic matters: sketching while travelling is a fine way of filling 3 hours of railroad travelling. It’s a better ice-breaker than wódka. It’s an excellent long exposure camera, capturing all the things that are happening around the sketcher, with more clarity and verve than a camera (or a cell phone for that matter).”

train, Katowice, Warsawa, Poland, travel, traveller
Cheap beer and wódka welcomes travellers to Warsawa late night. Pijalnia is a franchise of polish wódka bars that doesn’t feel like a franchise.


Sketching workshops at LUCSUS

In the last two weeks, with great help from Kim Nicholas, I’ve been guiding a sketching workshop at LUCSUS – Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, exclusively for the sustainability master programme students. The idea is a simple one, and Kim loved it from the start: to show young people with no direct academic connection with arts that they can learn how to draw!

LUCSUS sketching workshop

We held two workshops already and everybody seems to be responding well. The two hours spent focusing on blind drawing exercises turn out to be quite fun and relaxed. All but a couple of all the students don’t sketch regularly, so we were breaking new ground there! After a while the concentration levels go up and from then on the sketching quality improves exponentially. My hopes for these classes is that most of these guys get the notion that starting to sketch is as easy as looking at any given object, and that sketching is indeed seeing reality as it is!

In the end, we did a fun exercise which was suggested by sketcher João Catarino – a frankenstein-making marathon! We faced each other in pairs and had one minute for a blind line portrait which should remain unfinished. When the time was up, everybody would switch partners and continue the portrait with a new face. Some of the results were remarkably recognizable! Here’s my contribution. It’s a frankenstein-portrait of an actual couple that just happened to get merged in my sketchbook. Thanks Theo and Ann.

LUCSUS sketching workshop

A sketcher’s greatest ally

Time! Time is a sketcher’s greatest ally. Time was what abounded in the plane trip back home for a few weeks of holidays.


Apart from the short bursts of slight turbulence and the lacking of depth in one’s perspective (which usually accounts for the fish-eye sketches), I’d say a plane is one of the few places where you don’t get much distraction from your sketching activity.


One other place being the very airport where said plane lands. Themes are as varied as can be – cars, modular buildings, coffee cups, assorted machinery and tarmac bric-à-brac, hostesses and passengers and a plane with the old Lufthansa logo and paint job being towed.

Sketching with Marie

So it goes when sketching becomes a tool for meeting people and networking. I had met Marie Flood some months ago, during the exhibition at Martas Café. She was there as part of a fanzine market and we talked about meeting afterwards to sketch together. And we did, during a sunny afternoon – way too sunny for this latitude. We sought the relief of shade and the comfort of caffeine and talked for hours about art, architecture, people and ourselves before we even laid pen on paper.

Marie Flood

When we finally did, I was happy that I chose an A4 sketchbook, so that the background would fit together with her portrait. I also had the chance to go through Marie’s impressive sketchbook. It was inspiring for me not only because of the quality of her sketches, but also because she sketches mainly from her imagination – something that doesn’t come naturally to me any more after years of sketching what I see. She says imagination is like a muscle and needs practice. I guess she’s right. It’s like every other skill.