Iglesia de San Juan Bautista


Not far from Las Palmas, there is a small town called Arucas, where there is this huge black church, looming high over the rest of the buildings – quite a sight. There are big churches all over Europe, but to me, this one is really special, because it is so fantastically big in comparison to the surrounding buildings. It´s as if it was built to the wrong scale!

I had to draw it, of course, and sat for about an hour and a half trying to do something to convey the feeling of standing in front of it, but honestly – this church is too much to fit on a sketchbook page.

(Click image for bigger view.)

21,5 x 14,5 cm, UniPin fineliner and watercolours on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook spread.

5 Responses to “Iglesia de San Juan Bautista”

  1. Russell Parry says:

    I know just what you mean about the ’scale’ effect with churches. Some just seem to loom over everything, much more than their simple dimensions would seem to justify. Albi and Beauvais cathedrals come instantly to mind. Other churches just have tremendous ‘presence’ regardless of their size. I’ve never really worked out any consistent reason for it, and it seldom if ever comes across in a photo. I think perhaps there is more chance of catching it in a drawing… but it really is difficult, and perhaps different people respond differently to the same building anyway.
    From your sketches the style seems to be more like late French Gothic than distinctly Spanish; shades of Strasbourg? I have never heard of the church at Arucas, but I will add it to my ever growing list of churches to visit if I’m in the vicinity. I love the little architectural detail sketches. It’s hard to capture such details quickly and artistically, yet have enough information to be able to carve the details from the drawing. Any tips?

    • I am not an expert on churches, Russell, but I love drawing them. :) I am glad Ale filled in below with some details. And he should know, I have seldom learned so much from a tour around a city as when I rode around Las Palmas in his car. ;)
      But for the church in Arucas – do a google search on images, it is quite stunning how dark and tall it is, compared to the rest of the town. Very clear in some images I saw online before I went there.
      About drawing the details to get as much information as possible – I never really thought about what you need to sketch to be able to actually carve them from the sketches. But I tried to keep the lines simple, and then convey the 3D-feel (i.e. shadows) in watercolour.
      I was actually surprised that when I had drawn a few of these, I didn´t find many more to sketch – they repeat all around the church, and are not too complicated. This was what made me realise that this is not an old church, it´s more modern in how it´s decorated.

  2. Ale says:

    This is a modern historicist building.
    Its construction began in 1909 with a project of the Catalan architect Manuel Vega i March, following catalonian gothic models, but its final completion was not until 1977.
    It is very remarkable the work of these modern craftsmen stonemasons.

    Gothic invite us to look up.
    Thank you Nina for this beautiful look

    • Thanks for the info on the church, Ale! Wow, 1977! I had read that this church was built in the 1900s, but I didn´t know it was finished so late. Unfortunately I didn´t get the chance to go inside, it was closed when I was there. So I am still curious about the inside… :)

    • Russell Parry says:

      Thanks Ale; that explains a lot! It is indeed a remarkable example by the look of it, of what we would tend to call ‘neo-Gothic’ in English (the term ‘historicist’ is less often used in an architectural context, but all these terms vary from language to language in a most exasperating way! When in Lisbon recently I asked if they had any other ‘modernist/modernista’ work in the Gulbenkian Museum, and was pointed to the Museum of Modern Art. By modernist I meant about 1880-1930, and in English the Museum of Modern art would be said to show ‘Contemporary Art’. All very confusing.)
      Nina, it is also my experience that after about the 13th century the repetition of motifs in ‘marginal/decorative’ sculpture seems to increase. There are of course exceptions, but that seems to be the trend with both stone and wood.

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