I’ve just come back from a 2/3 day sketching trip to Naples.
My mum’s friend visited Naples and described it as ‘a shit hole’. I can see her point. Naples is busy, polluted, dirty and smelly. Yet – there’s something incredible about it. It feels very foreign for a European city. It’s not particularly touristy. It’s really ancient; it feels as if time has simply passed here, that so much has changed and yet nothing at all.
My main aim was just to draw. I am writing a picture book story that is loosely set in Naples. It’s not essential to the story but Naples will be threaded through it. So I went to spend a few days just observing (and walking lots too). I did one or two touristy things, not a lot – and I tried to capture something of the enormous complexity and manic busy-ness of Naples. I was utterly convinced I had failed, and today, scanning the drawings I mellowed a little and thought some of my drawings might actually be OK…
I learnt some things that could be useful about travel-drawing/urban-sketching:
- Take only one type of sketchbook, whichever is best for you. (An A5 Moleskine will be my choice from now on – God only knows why I didn’t do that on this trip).
- Use a very limited range of materials – whatever you like, but don’t try endless combinations.
- In the case of massively complex views (such as you might encounter in, oh – I don’t know, a city such as Naples)… decide your method of attack beforehand. For example I was poncing about with washes and graphite powder and white Poscas for a while – before realising (on my last day) that I just needed to focus on line drawing.
- Lastly – practice before you go away to some strange land. Draw regularly near and about your home area. It’ll help you work these kinds of things out.
Now my challenge is to keep on drawing – urban sketching – as a regular practice. There’s nothing like a few intense days of work to get you focused – and that’s something that I very, very rarely get. I’m going to do my best to devote some regular time to this (albeit in quieter spots, without noisy Italians, mad motorbikes, fab coffee and huge croissants literally stuffed to bursting with Nutella) . Sketches of areas near me (probably whilst drinking Nescafé) coming soon…
NB. Most drawings were done on location – but a few were worked-up after (using iPhone pictures for ref) in my AirBnB room after it had got too dark & cold to draw outside!