Barcelona symposium workshops, Part 1


I attended five amazing workshops during the Urban sketchers symposium in Barcelona this July, and thought I´d show some (not so polished) sketchbook pages from them. I have to say I am amazed at the high quality of all the workshops I took, I have learned so much! A lot of the things I learned are still spinning around in my head, making me want to go out and try all these new strategies and ways to work, to really see what I can make of them.

The first workshop I took was Inma Serrano´s The Rhythm of the City, where Inma talked about and showed some of her tricks and techniques to capture people, architecture and whole scenes quickly and effectively. I shot a video of her drawing another participant (iPhone quality, but still), and have her permission to post on online, so you´ll find it as you scroll down in this post.

I knew this workshop was going to be a tough one, because Inma´s way of working is so different from mine – but then that´s what it´s all about, right? To try on someone else´s shoes for a while and work from their point of view. And I have so much to learn from this fast, expressive and imaginative sketcher.


I am not going to give away the whole workshop here, but I can say I was WAY out of my comfort zone here – which I love, but it does make for messy sketchbook pages. The symposium workshops are three hours long, which means you don´t have a lot of time to finish anything. So I tend to write, doodle and sketch all over the pages, try to get as much as I can down on the page, so I can go out and try everything on my own later on. I don´t care what the pages look like, or if the drawings cover the text or vice versa – will still remember what it means.


What I immediately took with me from this workshop was Inma´s way of working so quickly by simply not drawing it all. She captures some of what she sees with a pen, some with a paintbrush, some with a crayon, constantly swithching between her tools (you´ll see it in the video below). In combination, it says so much more about a place than a line drawing. She quickly gets athmosphere, rhythm, sound and colour onto her sketchbook pages without overworking anything.

(If you are on an iDevice, follow this link to the Youtube clip.)

This workshop is something that will follow me for a long time, there is so much in Inma´s methods and ways of seeing things that appeals to me and that I need to work on. Thanks Inma for a fantastic and inspiring three hours!

10 Responses to “Barcelona symposium workshops, Part 1”

  1. Stacy Egan says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences at the workshop, Nina. I have lately been thinking about the wonderful sketchers whose work I’ve admired online, and I feel like I can categorize my favorites into the “neat and tidy” sketchers (comprising of yourself, Don Gore, and Jorge Royan), and the “loose and splashy” sketchers (comprising most of the Singapore sketchers like Tia Boon Sim and Don Low, as well as others like Cathy Johnson, Brenda Swenson, and Jennifer Edwards). I love all their work, but appreciating both styles makes it a little difficult to find my own. I lean towards the “neat and tidy” naturally, but have lately been nudging myself to be more “loose and splashy”. It’s fun to explore both of the styles.

    • It IS fun to explore both the styles – or others! For me, that´s what taking workshops at the symposium is about. It is like trying on someone else´s shoes for a while, seeing things their way. It may not suit the way I work myself, but I still always learn something. And usually, even if I am not ready to adapt someone else´s methods completely, I can find some little thing that I´m able to work into my own routines, to let them evolve some.

  2. Thanks for sharing your views on Inma’s workshop, Nina! Of the five I took, Inma’s workshop was my favorite, for many of the qualities you point out. Also appreciate the link to the video — I hadn’t seen this one.

    - Tina

    • For me, Inma´s workshop was the toughest one – and for that reason, one of the most fun. I felt so stiff and rigid in comparison to what she was describing, and still I had a lot of aha-moments when working on the excercises. I took a whole lot of learning with me from that session, but I would like to find the time to practice for two whole days to find things that I can bring into my own way of working.

  3. isa says:

    Merci pour ce post intéressant Nina. Je pense qu’on a tous un style particulier.
    Vouloir en changer n’est pas facile même si on peut être inspiré par d’autres personnes.
    J’aimerais beaucoup te voir dessiner dans une petite vidéo comme tu l’as fait là avec Inma, il y aussi une autre personne dont j’aime assez le style ( rapide et coloré rendant bien l’ambiance d’un lieu ) c’est Suhita Shirodkar, peut être la connais-tu ?

    • J´espère que je peut trouver le temps pour faire plus de videos. Oui, j´ai rencontré Suhita à Barcelone, j´adore ses images, et c´était très intéressant de la voir dessiner.

  4. Melliott says:

    It looks (from your top page of notes) like she blocks in the color shapes first and then adds the line? Watching her work, going back and forth between instruments, is fascinating. Not sure my brain will work that way, but it will be fun to experiment! Thanks for sharing Nina.

    • Yes, Melliott, blocking in colour first was one of the exercises we did, for example to capture a whole crowd at once. Block in colour first, draw legs and heads and whatnot later. Then colour some more, and…

  5. Great post, Nina. I knew I would be missing an absolutely wonderful USK experience, but life doesn’t always allow us to do all that we want. Thanks for bring the workshop to us. Your drawings are great. It’s so good to get out of our comfort zones!

    • Thanks Jennifer! Yes, it IS good to get out of your comfort zone, my head is still full of ideas from the symposium workshops, just wish I had a year or so to really try everything out properly. ;)

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