La Sagada Familia: Sans Pens, Pencils, and Paints

On Friday morning I showed up on the Nativity Facade of the church to take a tour of the inside of the most visited site in all of Barcelona. By selecting an early tour, I was hoping to avoid the crowds. No such luck. It seems to be tourist season all year round, even in the “shoulder” season of April.

Because I had pre-booked my ticket, the line was short and I had to go through a security check point that was up to the standards of any worthy international airport. All of my belongings went through the x-ray machine, the guard at the other end was only interested in my sketching bag. He took my sling pack and opened it and examined my pencil bag. I showed him my collection of pens and pencils. He was really interested in the small leather case that carried three sizes of tubes. These puzzled the security agent and I had to pull the tubes apart to show him that they were merely travel watercolor brushes. This didn’t seem to impress him. So I told him that they were Escoda brushes that were made in Barcelona. This seemed to impress him even less! To think that you couldn’t smuggle three Catalonian brushes into Barcelona’s most famous church!

He took away my pens, pencils, brushes, and paints meaning that I had no way to sketch within the glorious church. I am not a religion person but this seems like sacrilege!

So I had to settle for taking photos (iPhones and not sketchbooks seems to be the common currency here in this unfinished masterpiece). So all of my sketches of the statues on the Passion Facade where done from photos. Blasphemy!

2019-04-05 09.10.21Well maybe having my sketching kit wasn’t such a bad thing. How on earth could I capture this in a sketch?!

Later in the day I did a few sketches of what I have seen and photographed. I would have preferred to have used pencils, pens, and paper to sketch in real time but the security guard left this sketching bird flightless.

While I would have preferred to sketch “from life” even taking the time to sketch from a photograph helps me the “see” and understand Gaudi’s masterpiece.


Red-eyed Sketcher

Travel can be such a discombobulating experience. Your body doesn’t seem to recognize the passage across many timezones. When really it wants to take a nap on Pacific Coast Time.

Jet lag is the necessary evil we all must endure if we want to explore our planet from west to east or north to south. It is a deal we make with our internal body clocks as we throw time up in the air like a handful of big leaf maple shimaras, not really knowing where they are going to fall.

As such we must almost write off the first few days in the new time zone as a wash. But I was determined to sketch through the weariness and mild hallucinations of jet- set time travel.

I started off right by not getting much sleep the night before my journey to Catalunya as my airport shuttle arrived at 4:45 AM. What’s the point of sleeping if your just going to get up anyway? I falsely reasoned.

My flight boarded at 6:30 AM but half way through boarding, they halted the process because, “ they were doing some maintenance at the back of the plane. “ I later found out that one of the three lavatories was out of order. The captain advised us not to drink much water!

I used this delay as an excuse to do a quick sketch of the chariot that would be taking me to Miami, a Boeing 737-800.

Indeed it was a quick sketch because my boarding group was called and I shuffled off, zombie-like, towards gate 56A. Oh well, I’d have to add a little color and text later.

After a few attempts at a catnap I was excited to find an expandable painting easel in the chair back in front of me right at eye level! And it perfectly fit my small landscape sketchbook! My only question was, “Now why isn’t everyone else sketching and painting in their sketchbooks?” Seemed like a perfectly rational inquiry to me.

After Miami I was to catch a redeye to Barcelona and after taking a taxi into the the Gracia neighborhood and checking into my terrace apartment, I planned to unpack my sketching bag and head out five blocks to the southeast and attempt the impossible: capturing Gaudí’s unfinished psychedelic masterwork, La Sagrada Familia into the pages of my watercolor sketchbook. And doing it all on a few hours of sleep.