A mosaic of green, blue, and red emerges in my mind when I visualize Barcelona. A city of flat terracotta roofs, encircled with the olive green forests of the Colserolla 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, Gaudi, Dali 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 sketchpad and pencils, find a spot and record your surroundings.
The weather is usually on your side, and there are plenty of outdoor cafes 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 sketchpad comes to life as your pencil traces out your imagination, Barcelona is full of secret spots indoors too! It’s truly difficult to pin down favourites, but I’ll do my best!
If you enjoy drawing in nature, a walk through the cactus gardens on Montjuic 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 Montjuic 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 Citudella, and happy hours can be spent on the grassy knolls drawing weekender 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 Gracia, where the secret sculpture garden at the back of the Olokuti shop on calle Asturies 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 Gracia, and enjoy the last Sunday of the month vintage swing dancers bust out moves to lively jumping big band music in Plaza 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 plaza has it’s own unique visitors and flavour. From the quietness of plaza Neri to the unofficial skate park that makes up the plaza outside the MACBA.
Of course many of us enjoy sketching indoors, and there is no shortage of tearooms or cafes where you can sip on a cafe solo or linger over a chai tea. If you have lived here for sometime, 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 skrawl doodles to your hearts content. A great spot for drawing kids, or taking your own kids for a drawing session is La Nena. Just off Plaza Revolucion, 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 in the old Jewish quarter of the Gothic 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 Cosmo Caixa. 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.
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!
This post was originally written and featured on:
Homage to BCN run by Rob Dobson.