A fab article from illustrator, Kat Cameron, on the delights of sketching in Barcelona (including some of her even fabber illustrations).
A mosaic of green, blue, and red emerges in my mind when I visualise Barcelona. A city of flat terracotta roofs, encircled with the olive-green forests of the Collserola rolling down to the aqua Mediterranean. From first touching down in the glass airport to a wander through the textured gothic alleyways or a glance at the modernista architecture, you know you have landed in a city of art. Miro, Gaudí, Dalí and Picasso all spent time here, and as you meet the locals you discover that Barcelona is filled with architects, designers, graphic artists and illustrators, so really it is the perfect city to go for a stroll with your sketch pad and pencils, find a spot and record your surroundings.
The weather is usually on your side, and there are plenty of outdoor cafés or gardens where you can draw on the go. If your preference for drawing is to cosy up on a couch, where you can seclude yourself while your sketch pad comes to life as your pencil traces out your imagination, Barcelona is full of secret spots indoors too!
If you enjoy drawing in nature, a walk through the cactus gardens on Montjuïc will no doubt inspire some organic doodles, and there are plenty of benches that you can perch on while you capture either the views of the Barcelona port through the sisal plants or scribble down details of the myriad cacti that are on display. A little further afield on the other side of Montjuïc you can find another oasis for drawing, namely the Botanical Gardens. Petite though it is, the light filtering through the branches overhead and the twittering birds, create a wonderfully peaceful environment in which to draw, and the perfect escape from city life. Pack your satchel with a few snacks and your favourite inks, ride a bike to Parc de la Ciutadella, and happy hours can be spent on the grassy knolls drawing weekend crowds. The Barcelona Zoo is next door, and although you won’t be able to sketch Snowflake, the famous albino gorilla, there are plenty of interesting animals that you can study.
Up the hill you find yourself in the artistic neighbourhood of Gràcia, where the secret sculpture garden at the back of the Olokuti on c/ Astúries is a great place to unwind, and draw. You can bring your own little picnic but they do have beverages for sale in the shop. Here you can experience one of the hidden courtyards of Barcelona. There are plenty others secreted about, and locals will tell you their favourites.
Stay in Gràcia, and enjoy the last Sunday of the month vintage swing dancers bust out moves to lively jumping big band music in Plaça de la Virreina. The dynamic, colourful dancers full of laughter are fantastic for working on sketches of people. The sandwiches at the Terra Bar are a delectable snack to go along with chewing on your pencil for hours! In fact if you have time, sketching at any of Barcelona’s plentiful squares, in my opinion, is a great way to spend an afternoon. Not only can you immerse yourself in Catalan food, as your table is heaped with pan amb tomaquet and bravas, but each plaça has its own unique visitors and flavour. From the quietness of Plaça de Sant Felip Neri to the unofficial skate park that makes up the plaça outside the MACBA.
Of course many of us enjoy sketching indoors, and there is no shortage of tea rooms or cafés where you can sip on a cafe solo or linger over a chai tea. If you have lived here for some time, you will automatically have your own local spot. The barman knows your name, and what you like to drink, you feel at home, and after perusing the morning paper, you can sit back and scrawl doodles to your heart’s content. A great spot for drawing kids or taking your own kids for a drawing session is La Nena, (c/ Ramon y Cajal, 36). Just off Plaça de la Revolució, their speciality is hot chocolate, but they make a mean crepe and have numerous healthy snacks like mato and honey to keep you and the little folk happy. Caj Chai (c/ Sant Domènec del Call, 12) in the old Jewish quarter of the Gothic near the cathedral has a vast list of teas, and comfy couches where you can draw indoors in peace, zone in, and get into the zen of producing an original sketch.
For the science geek artist in all of us, I would highly recommend taking a trip up to the CosmoCaixa. Once ensconced in the beautiful building, you can travel down the spiral walkway and back through time. Seat yourself in front of their life-size Amazonian rainforest display and sketch museum goers, plants, fish, the odd caiman crocodile or electric ray. They have a fantastic array of bugs and other creatures on display. Enough to inspire a fantasyscape of doodling. If you are in need of some sunshine after all this time spent indoors, climb Tibidabo and sketch the panoramic views of Barcelona from one of the terrace bars next to the funicular. The iconic Sagrada Família towers above the city and the sea stretches away into the haze behind Montjuïc.
With a little research on the internet you can find groups that meet up for sketch crawls, or visit the various gallery openings that occur at art galleries scattered across the city. You can meet artists and other sketchers; find out what their favourite spots are for drawing. From the beaches to hills, you will find the red, green and blue of Barcelona emerging in pencils, watercolour or ink in your sketchbook, happy doodling!
Do you have any favourite spots for sketching in Barcelona? Share them by commenting below.
Kathleen Cameron loves to draw, in fact she would be perfectly happy living on pencils and pens and floating on oceans of ink in her paper boat. Kat specializes in fantastical, custom tailored, concept driven illustration and graphic design. She uses acrylic paint, pencil, pen, mixed media collage, and Adobe Photoshop to produce her illustrations.
Kat is a South African artist, living and working in Barcelona. Often her travels inspire her drawings, and she enjoys exploring new places. You can see more of her work on her website, katcameron.com or read about her adventures in illustration on her blog, katcameronillustration.com.