Last Days in Lisbon

Arriving back in Lisbon after a day in Sintra we wandered the busy streets looking for a good restaurant for dinner. When the sun set and darkness descended we had just trudged up yet another steep street when we arrived at Largo do Carmo, a small square where people were dining under the night sky while watching a fire juggler.


We ordered an assortment of small plates and wine and the fire juggler was replaced by Bossa Lounge, a group performing Brazilian style music, Girl from Ipanema, smooth jazzy and romantic.


I needed a day off from wandering and the Museum of Marionettes in our neighborhood was the perfect break! An opportunity to sketch stationary objects up close. There were few tourists and even chairs you could pull up to sit on.


The puppets/marionettes represented cultures and their stories from all over the world. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed copying the art of others so much. The artists’ names are on the sketches.


Lisbon17 The final day in Lisbon was a real work out in Mario Linhares’ (almost 10 hour long) workshop, “Warm Up for Porto in Lisbon”, which started at the top of the city, worked its way down and then up along the river. He delivered on all his promises to get us ready for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto, including teaching us some Portugese which would come in handy!


The workshop started at the Miradouro. That blue line you see is the wide river beyond. We stood or perched on the wall for the first exercise of sketching the entire cityscape below.


First we used directional lines to just sketch the roofs. . .


then added color, and soon dashed for cover as the sky opened up for a good drenching, after which the sun returned and we added a title and story text to finish the piece.


In the next exercise we were to use four different media for four different five-minute sketches in different locations as we descended the steep steps into the Alfama area AND the sketches were to be connected into one piece on the page. Got that? As we were digging in our bags for pencils and stools and watching our step, I was thinking “this is impossible” but actually it was quite fun.

And the reward was lunch at Santo Antonio de Alfama with endless servings of tapas.

Lisbon39And time to get to know the international group of fellow sketchers!

Lisbon19from the U.K., South Korea, Hong Kong, France, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, and of course Portugal.

There was more to the day, but I’ll never make it to Porto unless I stop there, with a big thank you to Mario for a great day to wrap up my stay in Lisbon.

Next: Arrival Porto

Lisbon Cont.

Next morning it was time to wander the city and tackle sketching one of those iconic narrow cobblestone streets on the hill. Everything is on a hill in Lisbon and Porto. And just as you are lulled into thinking it must be a pedestrian only street, a car comes along and you must plaster yourself against the wall to avoid blocking them.


Here I am trying to figure out how to do this scene. A tourist came along and figured I needed a picture of my efforts.


So here you see me in the gutter where I moved after the car came by practically nicking my shoulder. Those of you who are gear-heads like me can also see my set up.


Before this trip I decided I wanted “good” watercolor paper in my sketchbooks but they had to be light weight. So I made corroplast sketchbook “bodies” to clip my paper, sewed into signatures. The signatures will then be made into permanent bound sketchbooks by my talented husband who is good at that sort of thing.

There are two sizes, 7.5″X9.5″ and 5.5″X7.5″. The paper is Fluid 100 made by Global Arts, 100% cotton rag 140 lb CP paper which I like because it is relatively smooth and so more receptive to ink pens than other brands, and so friendly to wet watercolor.


I open up the book and clip it onto another piece of corroplast which has magnets to hold my palette and a sponge and water holder. I got the general idea for this from another urban sketcher, Anne-Laure Jacquart, who has lots of video on youtube to get you started making your own sketchbooks.


Back to the story of the day, we took the tram and then climbed up to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia which affords the most enchanting view of the city from a brilliantly bougainvillea-d overlook where musicians were playing and people were sitting on the white walls basking in the sun. Somewhere along the way the tourist hoards descended and soon my tranquil spot was invaded. Big time. The sketch (on the left) got very forced and I stopped enjoying myself.

Lisbon12 Later I found a calmer spot on the wall and thought I’d try a very modest direct watercolor sketch of one of the myriad of buildings below. An eight year old Polish girl sat beside me, watching every brushstroke with total absorption. Amazingly I calmed down and the joy of the day returned!


There was a lot going on in the plaza next to the Miradoura as well. Live music and an African dancer/performer and crowds and the omnipresent stone statue overseeing it all.


Next day we took a one hour train ride to Sintra, a town with such visual appeal that it is on every must-see tour guide list. Our late start meant that we had to start with lunch, and we found a restaurant that made us forget all other reasons for the trip. We were at one of four tables occupied, enjoying a meal that was as much high art as high cuisine.


I think people should go to Portugal just to have the experience of eating at this restaurant, A Reposa Sintra. And we met the chef of course, who had kitchen utensils tatooed on his forearms.


But back to the sights in Sintra. We walked to the Palacio Nacional de Sintra and toured the interior. From the garden there I sketched the Castle of the Moors and another grand estate on the hillside.


Wandering down one of those vertiginous narrow streets I positioned myself behind a potted plant by the roadside to feel safe enough to do this one. While sitting there I was suddenly mobbed by a group of day campers who were on their way back from an outing. Like a flock of hungry birds they surrounded me, ogling my sketch and paints. When I encouraged them, they tried their English out on me, and were happy to pose for a picture taken by their counselor.


That big grin stayed on my face all the rest of the day.

Sketching in Portugal: Arrival Lisbon

Back now from two weeks in Portugal, sightseeing and sketching and participating in the annual International Symposium of Urban Sketchers in Porto. Carole and I arrived in Lisbon after 15 hours of travel with a whole day ahead of us to try and stay awake so that we could go to sleep at the “right” time. Since we couldn’t get into our AirBnB apartment yet, we had the taxi drop us off at a cafe.


A lucky break for us, the waiter was a friendly young man who enthusiastically started our education right away, with a focus on food and drink. Another barrista suggested I try a mouth watering pastry made by his mother.


He handed me a gift of a chocolate truffle, also mother-made as we left to trudge up the street with our luggage and drop it off while the apartment was being cleaned.


And then more wandering in our zombied state. The sketching seemed to help to keep the eyes open!


And later, after we’d moved into our lovely apartment we discovered that the street behind ours was lined with intriguing tiny restaurants and shops such as this and even


a Museum of Marionettes, which we vowed to visit. (more on this later)


We chose this restaurant and were unfashionably early at 7pm, so once again we had three young waiters all to ourselves, and a fabulous dinner served with flair. This vacation was after all not just about sketching.


Next morning we took the bus to an area along the river called Belem.


The Museum of Arts, Architecture and Technology is an architectural wonder that we explored, on the outside at any rate, since we were anxious to start sketching while also seeing as much as possible.


We had not really done our homework of reading the guidebooks in any detail and I assumed I’d found the famed Tower of Belem, only to have sketched a more modern monument to the Explorers, which I loved for its simplicity.

Lisbon23I just couldn’t bring myself to tackle sketching the infinitely intricate Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, also in Belem!

Well, that’s day one and two. Jet lag has set in at the moment, but please stay with me. There’s lot more coming up!