3.5.1 Sketchbook of townscapes

For this sketchbook of townscape drawings, I chose to come back to the Barrio Alto neighborhood in Lisbon where I did the first sketchbook walk for this chapter. It is a charming neighborhood with winding cobblestone alleys and crooked houses. It has many hills and stairs so many houses are on several levels and you can find yourself drawing at an eye level of the second or third floor.

I though I had gotten over my fright of sketching in public after the Marrakech sketch walk, but unfortunately discovered that I still felt so very awkward that I interrupted it yesterday. Today I had another go with new courage and found more quiet spots.

These are pencil sketches in my A4 book with written notes. I don’t usually use written notes this much, but tried as it was part of the exercise, and found it very interesting what stood out when I had to write it down.


I first got attracted to this little house in the Travessa das Portugueses because it has a small extra fairytale house on the roof. It is a very cute, cobblestoned alley , small house, small windows and doors. It is very loved because there are pots with flowers and herbs everywhere, and Tibetan flags. But at the same time it tells a tale of struggle because the paint is peeling and it is very humid with mold in many places. The small windows must let in very little light. There is such a forest of TV antennaes on the roof that it also tells a tale of many different people housing here in a small space. If I would chose to develop this into a bigger drawing , I would show the extra little room with balcony and flowers on the roof.


The second spot that attracted my attention was this corner of Rua da Almada and Travessa da Laranjera because of the orangetree with shining orange fruits on it against a yellow facade, painted in so many different times with different yellows that you could make a colorchart by looking at it 🙂 This house too has it fair share of green mold. This would be fun to draw in colour with the vibrant orange, various greens and the whole scale of yellows. Today is a sunny day though and this spot is entirely in the shade.


Lisbon is famous for it’s tiled house facades and it was the beautiful intricate blue tiles that attracted me to this building. It was also in a more open sunny place, so I had more play of light to draw. This house seems like a robust mansion compared to the last two smaller houses, and is in much better shape, but it too has numerous places where the tiles are missing and traces of green mold as well. I am also fascinated by the electric cables here, snaking everywhere around the house fronts and sometimes just bundled boldly crossing from house to house. I am used to this quite nonchalant way of dealing with cables in Asia, but find it quite fascinating here in this otherwise very orderly European city. Here my viewpoint is at the handlebar of the motorbike , which is the groundfloor to the right, but becomes the second floor to the left , as there is a steep drop there.

Here I developed a part of this building in two 10cm squares.


For a detailed study I chose to focus on the tiles and the corner with electric cables and part of a balcony with flowers. I think this piece gives a feel for the whole of the building. For the tonal study I chose the same viewpoint and cut, but left out detail to focus on the light.

As always I would like to develop at least these three studies, but will choose only one, as I am again spending so much time on the exercises that there will be no time left to develop an assignment piece….

I enjoyed the little 10 cm square drawings and will try out keeping the square format for a larger drawing in color.

I decided to return to the first house with the roofgarden again for another detailed and tone study (just can’t get enough of these exercises ):



And then develop this part in color:


I like that the flowers give the scene some more life and I think that I captured the different yellows of the wall as well as the general feel and state of the building.



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