Spain: Part one

pen and w/c in Arches Travel Book

I arrived home last night after two weeks in Europe.  The laundry can wait.  I pull out my much battered and revered spiral bound sketchbook which has been a constant companion and promise to share as much of it here as I dare.  It lived in the same bag with those utter necessities of travel life (camera, money, cell phone, water bottle, emergency food snacks, art supplies, maps, chewing gum, etc) which I took everywhere, all the time and was glad for it.  The rain jacket got tied around the shoulder strap and used frequently,  daily, I’m afraid to say.  This was not a trip for easels and palettes and sun umbrellas and certainly not chairs.  My comfortable walking sandals put on many miles and doubled as puddle hoppers.  Most of the sketching was done rapidly, in brief pauses and often without the benefit of a place to sit down.  Sounds tiring, you say.  Oh, but quite glorious.  The things I got to see. . . and do. . .

I’ll start with the above little painting sketch I did from memory after visiting the Dali museum in Figueres, because it speaks to the sort of art awakening I experienced on this trip.  Pictured are many of Salvador Dali’s motifs, (put together by me).  I was traveling with my friend Shambhavi, also an ardent sketchbooker, and we both bought red lip  zip cases in the museum store which, with typical Dali panache, housed our pens, glue stick and Niji water brush.  The building with the eggs on top is actually one corner of the Dali museum-theater which he designed.

pen and w/c

The sketchbook I finally decided to carry in my purse was a Pentalic Nature Sketch spiral bound book with 50 sheets, which I am proud to say I entirely filled, both sides, on this trip!  Although it isn’t watercolor paper, it handles watercolor nicely and I prefer spiral to the Moleskine books.

The airport lobby is the most fantastic place to sketch people because everyone is in “anonymous” mode and tries not to make eye contact, so they don’t notice what you’re doing.

About 15 hours into my journey (middle of the night by now) I find myself with a loooong wait at Heathrow airport in an area that feels more like an international shopping mall than an airport.  I watch as a United Nations passes by – monks wrapped in white gause, entirely veiled Islamic women, Chinese youth in some strange punk-ish style which I’ve never seen, white turbaned Sikhs, and sari-ed Hindus.  I sip my Starbucks latte and listen to repeated terrorist warnings to watch my bags – for hours – dozing and sketching.

And eventually after another flight, arrive in Barcelona, find our apartment to join Shambhavi and to get some blessed SLEEP!  I have 3 full days in Barcelona, so the next morning we hit the espresso cafe for two cups each before we’re ready to roll.

By lunch we’ve packed in Las Ramblas and the Cathedral and gotten acquainted with the rain, which comes and goes, and find a restaurant for lunch and a dry place to sketch.

We take a walk through a the Roman city of Barcino Nova (early Barcelona preserved underground in a history museum with its laundry, baths, winery, cloth dying, fish factory and church!) walk a few more miles through the city to the harbor and to Parc del la Ciutadella with its marvelous fountains and sculptures.  Finally we sit on benches, rub our sore feet and sketch.

We are now ravenous and walk down to the beach to find some fish to eat and have the good fortune to find Marina Moncho’s.

Menu:  salad, mussels, calamari, paella, bread coated with olive oil and fresh tomatoes, crem caramel.  This is not the whole menu.  This is what comes with the special.   It’s all so delicious and as they keep bringing the food out, great quantities of it, we are too full and too tired to do more than take pictures and sketch it.  So ends my first day in Spain.  It’s midnight and the subway trains are still running every five minutes.  What a city!

Tomorrow:  day two

Friday I leave to teach a weekend Travel Sketchbooking workshop in Gualala, California, but I’ll be back after that to continue with the Europe sketches.



  1. Hi Susan!
    So wonderful to see all these sketches from Europe and to read about your trip! And I am so thankful that you share all that we us.
    Sorry to hear that you had a lot of rain… well, the weather in Spain and South of Franc is no more what it was really… in May, on the way back from France, somewhere in Aragon in Spain, we awoke with snow on the motorhome!
    I have been to Dali Museum, too, and it touches me deeply to image YOU being there, just some years later. I bought myself things there… an ashtray in form of his clock (no, I don’t smoke!), a little elephant… It is such a fantastic place! One likes Dali or one does not, but when one is there, one cannot deny the genius of that guy!
    And Barcelona… so wonderful all these sketches!
    It will be wonderful to follow you everyday!!1


    1. Remember our Fantascapes series Miki? We were so Dali-esque and I didn’t even know it at the time. No wonder we have such an affinity for his art. I think he tapped into the same sort of rule-bending consciousness-altering source that we do. How fun to paint big feet on your ceiling!!


      1. And how I remember the Fantascapes!! One of them has become one my my best-selling pieces and been printed in many places!
        I ddin;t know it either that we were Dali-esque!!!


  2. Welcome home, Susan! 🙂 More of these sketches pleeeeeeeze! In a not dissimilar way to Miki, I find it touching to see you travelling through these places where I have walked so often, and already it is bringing back moments from my life. I used to visit Barcelona every two weeks when I had my solo show on the ship, and regularly wandered Las Ramblas, visited the simply glorious Sagrada Familia (I just love Gaudi). It was strange to think of you in the harbour where we docked. I’ve spent hours dozing in Heathrow Starbucks many times! I also think most airports now are little more than glorified shopping malls. My last time in Barcelona was with Corey when we had a ‘boys trip’ – he wanted to jump the ‘Macba 4’ on his skateboard, quite a feat – four huge steps by the University. He did it, and got a round of spontaneous applause from the watching boarders. (I was just grateful he didn’t end up in the hospital!) Tell me, what do you think of the cafe con leche here? (I prefer a manchada – more milk, less strong)


  3. Hey Susan!
    Lovin’ your sketches- so personal and intimate..
    sharing your connection with how you experience your life through this medium is just so brilliant! It really is a gift to extend this connection to your world.

    Glad you had fun- and hope to see more of this fascinating journey you are on..


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