Sketching weekend in Portimão #1 / Fim-de-semana de desenho em Portimão #1

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ISMAT, the local university in Portimão, organized an event to promote its next school year to new and old students. Based on the emphasis that the courses in architecture and design have in the university’s portfolio, it seemed fit to include free sketching workshops as part of the event. I, together with expert sketchers Luís Frasco, Filipe Almeida and Hélio Boto, banded around 50 eager students and showed them some simple exercises that allowed them to explore and enhance their sketching experience.

O ISMAT, uma das duas universidades em Portimão, organizou um evento de alguns dias para promover o seu próximo ano lectivo. Como os cursos de arquitectura e design tem um enfoque especial no currículo da instituição, parecia natural incluir oficinas livres de desenho como parte do evento. Eu, lado a lado com os exímios desenhadores Luís Frasco, Filipe Almeida e Hélio Boto, reunimos cerca de 50 alunos e mostrámos-lhes alguns exercícios simples que lhes permitirão explorar e melhorar a sua experiência de desenho.

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During the morning, Luís and Filipe showed everybody how to differentiate the foreground from the background through different techniques: line weight, the use of washes and the amount of detail employed. Students explored the techniques by the beautiful shoreline of the Arade estuary.

Durante a manhã, o Luís e o Filipe mostraram a todos como se pode diferenciar o primeiro e o segundo plano num desenho, através de diferentes técnicas: espessura de linha, o uso de manchas e a quantidade de detalhe empregue. Os alunos exploraram os exercícios espalhados ao longo da brilhante ria do Arade.

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I took the morning time off to be their student and also to prepare some exercises for later on. After a quick lunch, Hélio took the lead on the afternoon workshop, showing a couple of perspective templates: a street perspective and a corner perspective. Students were told to go out and find those templates in the streets of Portimão and sketch them. Perspective is a tricky concept for new sketchers, but with few pointers, everything fell into place eventually. Later in the afternoon, I showed the students how to deal with moving people, just to allow organic, quick, expressive lines to flow out of their pens and pencils.

Usei a manhã para ser aluno deles e também para preparar alguns exercícios para mais tarde. Depois do almoço, o Hélio arrancou a oficina da tarde, mostrando dois modelos simples de perspectiva: uma rua e uma esquina. Os alunos foram encarregues de encontrar esses modelos nas ruas de Portimão e desenhá-los. A perspectiva é um conceito tramado para iniciantes do desenho, mas com algumas dicas, tudo correu pelo melhor. Mais tarde, mostrei aos alunos como lidar com pessoas em movimento, apenas para permitir que linhas rápidas, orgânicas e expressivas pudessem começar a sair livremente dos seus lápis e canetas.

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While Filipe had to leave early, the sunset saw a trio of tired but satisfied sketchers by the shore.

Enquanto o Filipe regressava a casa mais cedo, o pôr-do-sol assistiu a um trio de desenhadores à beira rio, cansados mas satisfeitos.


Carbon and other elements

For more than four years, I was part of Fc-Acto, the Lisboa’s faculty of sciences very own academic theater group. Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a spectator of one of their shows. As many other academic groups, it’s fueled mainly by the goodwill and hard work of the students/actors themselves and their director. Every year, Fc-Acto puts together a play, and frequently competes for a spot in the program of FATAL – Lisboa’s Yearly Academic Theater Festival. Groups from all over the country, together with a few foreign guest groups, perform in stages all over the city.

In its 10 years of existence, Fc-Acto has participated in a few editions of the festival, not without leaving behind blood, sweat and tears and having its moments of doubt and insecurity when faced against the admission criteria and jury for the festival. This year, Fc-Acto was, in fact, selected for the program and put forward a play called “Carbono e outros elementos“.

FC-Acto, FATAL, Lisboa, theater, academic theater, cantina, faculty of sciences, Portugal

In natural sciences, life is all about carbon. In “Carbono” the students/actors themselves built the atmosphere and the contents of the play by bringing their own life, names, likes, pets, cellphones, music, books, photos and stories into the stage. The show is, according to its director, A. Branco, a play about the making of the play. It exhales more process than plot, and the scenes build up to become a cadavre exquis, in that each individual scene becomes interesting to watch by itself and by how it connects to the next one.

tertulia, FC-Acto, FATAL, Lisboa, theater, academic theater, cantina, faculty of sciences, Portugal

As part of the FATAL program, the actors and the director held a tertulia in the aftermath of the play. While the structure and scenic quality was under debate and mostly admired, the true elephant in the living room was the final scene of the play, where a lone actor read a few lines from a notebook into a microphone, which stood unused throughout the entire play. The lines are excerpts from public statements issued by two other academic theater groups in 2009 and 2013, accusing FATAL’s organizers of being borderline arrogant and/or disorganized altogether, and pointing out murky, flexible and unclear criteria. Isabel Tadeu, the festival’s director, who watched the play, started the tertulia by classifying the play as inelegant and disrespectful to the festival. Whether these accusations, from both parts, are true or not is left to opinion. But the word is out on the street, thanks to Fc-Acto’s bold gesture of democratic and artistic creativity.

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