WATERMARKS – Barcelona 2018

to book contact: isabel@pushingyoursketchingboundaries.com

La Barceloneta is one of the oldest and most traditional beaches in in Barcelona city, in the Old City quarter. It is a very modern sandy beach and collects many restaurants and nightclubs along the boardwalk. With its modernity, La Barceloneta continues to inhabit the scent of salt and marine life. For many, this is considered a luxury. La Barceloneta also attracts many cruise ships to dock. Amongst the attractions on Barceloneta’s beach are German artist Rebecca Horn’s “L’Estel ferit” monument (known as The Cubes), and, where the beach gives way to the Port Olímpic, Frank Gehry’s modern “Peix d’Or” sculpture.

From our centrally located base (La Barceloneta Civic Centre) we will explore the nearby beachfront in detail with six different locations for the 3 day workshop and you would be experiencing them all, mixing both urban views such as la Placa de la Barceloneta with markets (Mercat de la Barceloneta) with views the Paseo Maritimo (seafront) from L’Estel ferit to the Olympic Port. Map here

Join urban sketchers Nina Johansson, Marion Rivolier and Isabel Carmona for this 3 full days workshop. It will be fun but hard work, as you will be enjoying learning and experimenting all the time, trying out different ways of watercolour painting and mark making,using colour in all forms without fear, sharing the work we do and discussing our findings intensely.

Each of the instructors will explore different ways of using watercolours and Water Marks in the context of urban sketching.

Light and Shade in Watercolour (Isabel) 

We will explore Barcelona’s Poblenou and Ciutat Olimpica as a city in the sun, with strong light and shadow contrasts. These two areas also contrast the open views of the seaviews with urban architecture and street scenes.

Using watercolour as the main medium, we’ll explore the idea of colour and contrast as the starting point of a sketch. We will start by deciding where the lightest points of the sketch are, the paper, and where the deepest shadows will be, the strongest colours.

Seaview (Malaga) – Light and shadow with white paper indicating strongest light

We will learn to abstract what we see, using colour boldly and with strong contrast. Drawing can take place later either with more colour more linear marks or with pen if preferred.

This workshop will help people to simplify the complex architecture and not be shy about painting views that in the first instance might appear too difficult.

Starting with only with watercolour drawing with light and colour we will look for those elements of the view that interest us.
And slowly building up the watercolour layers to add complexity and depth to our work, adding a variety of marks to the sketch to increase its richness. We will practice and experiment mark making in watercolours and finally decide whether any additional marks are needed.

Newbury Roofscape – Abstracting building shapes and forms with colour, building up layers of color – sketching a complex view

Trust your watercolours (Nina)
For those of us who feel comfortable drawing, there is often a tendency to let the lines control everything in our sketches. It is easy to get caught up in detail, and keep drawing for much too long, when we could actually trust our watercolours to do most of the work for us when sketching.

In this workshop, we will start out with a few pencil or ink lines to capture perspective and proportions and the main elements, then let go of the drawing tool to let the watercolours do the rest.
With watercolours, we will work to find light and shadow, foreground and background – depth – and to let warm and cool colours help us create the atmosphere of the location we are drawing. Our aim is to not end up with coloured drawings, but find a way to let lines and colours work together in an efficient way.

In session one, we will work mainly with value sketches, to concentrate on looking for light and shade to convey depth and a sense of space in our sketches.

For this, we will do a quick and simple colour theory session, to help us find a few of those fabulously useful grey mixes that our watercolour palette will provide for us, if we let it. (We will not use black paints – mixed greys will give the value sketches more life.) Then we will take a closer look at how to use these greys, to give us light and shadow, warm and cool.


In the second session, we will keep looking for light and shade, but with the addition of full colour. We will take a look at how to mix bright vs subdued colours, and how to use these to their best in an urban setting. We will talk about aerial perspective, where the colours will help to add depth to the sketches. Also, through a line- and colour exercise, we will examine the balance between lines and paint – it is unnecessary to draw all the details in pen when the paintbrush can do much of the work faster and is just as convincing to the eye!


Watercolour is always a question of choices! (Marion) 
One day, I made the greatest choice of my life as a painter: Sixteen years ago, I was in Venice in Italy, I drew in lines which I filled afterwards with watercolors. Of course, my drawings were empty, without sense and interest. I understood that I will never be able to capture the power and poetry of Venice if I continue to color the shapes drawn by contours… so I abandoned the initial drawing and started new works directly with the brush.

It took me months and years of work to express the world through forms, values and colors. But when I came back to Venice ten years later, I think I succeeded to catch a little bit of the incredible atmosphere of this city!

Some views of Venice from 2001 to 2011, watercolor. How to forgot the preliminary drawing.

Working with watercolour is always a question of choice.
You have to choose to see the world in shapes rather in lines. The world is not made with little objects side by side but by large shapes. By seeing the world in this way, you will be able to analyze the urban place in successive planes. By expressing these different planes, you accentuate the depth of the space.

The Bean, Chicago, watercolour – 2017: People and the Bean of the foreground are more detailed and stronger than buildings of the background.

Another way to express the depth and the relief of a place with watercolor is made by contrasts, different types of contrasts ( values contrasts, colored values contrasts, colored (temperature and complementary) contrasts) which we will experiment together.

We will work together step by step to try these different choices and to understand what can happen in your painting. In this workshop, we will make together several quick exercises to experiment a lot of thing. We won’t care about the result of each drawing, we won’t care of the beauty of a drawing. The only interesting thing for us is to discover, experiment and learn!

Of course, we won’t make any preliminary drawing before painting, we will work directly with the brush!

First, we will learn to know our colors by trying our brushes and mixing colors together.

Then, we will focus on values and try to understand how colored values can create depth and volume.

Bassin de la Villette, watercolor – 2017: I chose to express the huge sculpture in the foreground only with cool values

After, we will experiment different types of colored contrasts to express the depth of the place.

Trouville’s beach, watercolor – 2017: very quickly, I played only with cool and warm colored contrasts to express the beauty of the beauty of the repetition of tents.

At the end of the workshop, in a last bigger painting, we will be able to make the good choices to express our own story!

Deauville’’s beach, watercolor – 2017: as I wanted to focus on the cloudy sky, I started with blue and gray brushstrokes.

Learning goals 

  • Pushing participants out of their comfort zone, at their own level. From beginners starting to sketch to more confident participants, we aim to teach you something new and push you outside your boundaries, helping you experiment.
  • Observation and sorting out what we see – don’t draw or express everything – make choices. Observe well and paint quickly because we have understood the space before us.
  • Feel the space, decipher its parts (foreground/background…) and reveal them
  • Working with large shapes of value and confidence of your own marks; don’t be afraid of making a mistake.
  • Feeling the joy of colour.
  • Experiment with different water mark and drawing techniques and ways of approaching a live sketch situation, helping you find your own self expression.
  • Using and trying different watercolour approaches – painting with watercolours and line drawing with brushes, additional marks with watercolour pencils, using textures, light and shade, understanding colour.
  • Using more colour and texture and making you think about how do you represent what you see and to develop your own way of representing what you see in colour with confidence
  • Improving brushstrokes and brushmark making abilities
  • Sketching the city, its buildings, the people and their stories.

Workshop schedule

Wednesday 25 April
5pm Welcome at our base in the Barceloneta Civic Centre
Thursday 26 April
10am -11am Welcome and get together at our base.
11am-2pm Morning workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
2pm – 3:30pm Lunch
3:30 – 6:30pm Afternoon workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
6:30 – 7.00pm Evening all groups meet up
Friday 27 April
10am -11am Welcome and get together at our base.
11am-2pm  Morning workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
2pm – 3:30pm Lunch
3:30 – 6:30pm Afternoon workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
6:30 – 7.00pm  Evening all groups meet up
Saturday 28 April
10am -11am Welcome and get together at our base.
11am-2pm Morning workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
2pm – 3:30pm Lunch
3:30 – 6:30pm Afternoon workshops with Marion, Nina and Isabel
6:30 – 7.00pm  Evening all groups meet up
Sunday 29 April
10.00am Meet at our base to share sketchbooks and meet BCN USK sketchers and start open sketch meet up at 11 am with this local group:  route to be confirmed


30 attendees maximum, 18 minimum. Any level of drawing experience is welcome.

Travel and Accommodation 

You need to arrange your own travel and accommodation.
Check the map of the workshop here
Suggested websites to look up:
various types and prices can be found in booking.com, or airbnb.com

Supply list
A list will be provided for participants – generally bring what you normally draw with.

Registration fee

£ 250 – (£200 concessions – 20% discount for students or unwaged (with proof of concession status)) or if paying in Euros 275 (220 Euros concessions).

To book, email Isabel – isabel@pushingyoursketchingboundaries.com for registration form.
Cancellation policy: All fees are refundable if cancelled more than 6 weeks prior to commencement of course (up to 14th March 2018). Bank charges will be deducted for the refund in the case of an attendee cancellation. If cancelled after the 14th March up to to one week before the start of the course, a cancellation fee of £50 (60 Euros) will be retained.
No refund will be possible one week before the course.
In the event of too few registrants, all monies will be refunded.

Workshop location

Watermarks Barcelona 2018 workshop map is here

About the instructors

This workshop combines the abilities of

Isabel Carmona, Nina Johansson and Marion Rivolier


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