Category Archives: Sketching Urban Place

USK Barcelona DAY 2 Richard Alomar

I have written about my other Barcelona Urban Sketching workshops  . Barry Jackson Marc Taro Holmes Luis Ruiz
 and I have one more workshop to write up –

All of my Barcelona sketches are on flickr

This one is Sketching Urban Place: People, Space and Street (Workshop G)  with Richard Alomar – It was very entertaining and very educational too !

Instructor: Richard Alomar (New York, USA)
Location: Plaça Reial

Workshop description

Urban spaces are designed by architects, landscape architects and engineers and, for the most part, used and experienced by non-designers. These manmade spaces have been conceived as “Places”. More than walls, streets and trees, they are outdoor rooms for people to move, talk, see and experience: They are the “Place” where life happens.

Sketches and sketchbooks can be used as a way to record these “Places”, beyond the traditional perspective cityscape or ornamental object drawing. Regardless of skill level (something that may take a while to develop) a sketcher can begin to experience “Place” and compose richer, more personally meaningful drawings by understanding the role of spatial structure, personal recollection and observation in the sketching process.

The workshop is structured around 3 activities:

  • Connect: Walk around the space. Understand the patterns, forms and urban elements, including people, void space and structures. 
  • Collect: Record your impressions of the space informally through words, mental mapping, thumbnail sketching, sequence sketching or other “reportage” formats.
  • Compose: Soak it all in. Talk it over with another sketcher. Start to sketch the space as a “Place”: A record of your experience of it. (This can be done in groups of 2 or 3 if needed).
  • Learning goals

    Student will:

  • Learn the spatial components of urban space.
  • Learn various sketching techniques to record initial impressions of “Place”.
  • Understand how to frame and compose a sketch to reflect their individual impressions.
  • Share with others their impressions and techniques.
  • Strengthen the importance of individual expression in sketching

“quick!  quick! quick ! ” (it was a fast paced workshop)
“1 pencil , 1 sketch book – what‘s that in your hand ?–a second pencil – put it away!” 

We walked along the street  and told to stop, draw a Thumbnail square in sketchbook . then have 30 seconds to draw the streetscene  we are looking down
wow !  But after a few of these, my mind started to get into thinking  and seeing in that mode. So instead of spending the first precious 15 of the 30 seconds in a “mind freeze” when we stopped, I could look up and see the street scenes as major shapes and lines and shadows. I started to learn to see what is important. We also added notes around the thumbnail sketch – street names, feelings, colours of buildings etc
We repeated this with two minute sketches 
We then looked at the difference between two  sketches how much difference between the 30 sec and the two minute sketch? how much more or less was capture the second time ?  


By the end of our walk we had captured some spaces and views of our journey in a series of quick sketches. Amazing


Things got interesting as we turned into La Rambla, a  tree-lined pedestrian mall stretching for 1.2 kilometers . It is crowded, busy and tourist packed
I promptly got separated from the rest of the group, with one of the other participants (and also instructor) Fred Lynch. We did have a map of the proposed route of the day,  and we walked up and down through the crowds and after 20 mins decided to write off the rest  of the  workshop and head back to the start. At the moment we looked up and there they were !!!

The group were working on a session on interpreting La Rambla in words and sketches 

This was easy as we just been discussing our thoughts of La Rambla ( they were not good thoughts )
The last part of the day . In the square – an urban space 







My takeaways – (these may not necessarily have been Richard’s aims of the day!)

  • The amount of information that you can capture in a sketch on a page in two minutes –

  • There is always something to draw (I am a great believer in this )

  • Thumbnails- love this idea but always forget to do it, I should prepare a page