The Sketching School 2011, San Juan, PR

This weekend I’ve was “kind of” invited to participate in a class called Sketching School. It is a class taught by Prof. Tom Leytham at Norwich University in Vermont, in which he travels with a group of architecture students for 9 intensive days devoted to sketching and watercolors. Prof. Manuel García Fonteboa told me that they were going to be in San Juan this week and he wanted me to meet Prof. Leytham, and that I may go ahead and sketch with them. To make a long story short, my wife and I ended going with them.

Prof. Leytham was so kind as working with us as if we were part of the class, and was I impressed. His method of teaching was very refreshing, as he let the students discover the results by themselves rather than instructing how it is “supposed to be done”. He says that there is no right or wrong way to do things, but whatever works. So I felt like I was searching inside myself rather than following a recipe that has worked for someone else. On Saturday morning we took the ferry to Old San Juan. The first exercise was drawing from the ferry.

He calls it a stretching exercise. It is a warm-up that loosens your hand, since for the first few minutes all you see around you is water and the mangrove swamps. We did 60 second sketches with a non-permanent ink flair he handed every one of us. I honestly didn’t think I was going to be sketching that much and that fast; it was an awesome exercise I will try with my students.

He talked about the energy those fast sketches had, and I think that I finally found what I’ve been searching for years. When you’re sketching, it only matters that you capture the vibrancy and energy of the places and spaces. Why worry about it being a perfect perspective, when all you need is to capture the feel of the space. We went today again to Old San Juan, starting with the same exercise but incorporating this time a water brush.

On Saturday we visited Castillo San Cristóbal and today Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I can’t believe I did sixty-four sketches in less than eight hours. I’m dead tired, but very pleased with an awesome experience. Here are some of the sketches done during the weekend, including one I did with my right hand (I’m a lefty…). I definitely had a blast.

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