Lately – ok for a little while now – I have just been obsessed with certain urban sketchers. And guess what, ok you probably guessed from the title of this post – but they are ALL Spanish…
Is there just a certain style that comes with being Spanish? I don’t know. but I love it.
There is just something so wild and free, playful and child-like about the styles of urban sketching I am about to present to you.
It just makes me want to pull out a huge sketchbook and start scribbling in crayons using the whole of my arm – just like when we were kids.
Why am I so obsessed with these Spanish Urban Sketchers?! You MUST follow these 5 Spanish (ok, one is Colombian actually but lives in Spain…!) urban sketchers. Here they are in no particular order:
- Inma Serrano
- Santi Salles
- Maru Godas
- Nathalia Velásquez
Has anyone else noticed the joyous playfulness of these artists’ styles; alight with colour and whimsy and well…child-like glee?
I mean this in the nicest way possible and Spanish urban sketcher and illustrator Maru Godas, who I shall be referencing later on too, even holds workshops called “Gouache like a child”.
And when I refer to sketches being child-like – I mean filled with magic, wonder and little worry or anxiety for trifling matters like perspective. I am in love with this style.
I think the following quotes from Picasso some up this sensibility perfectly.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”Picasso
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”Picasso
This post is going to make you want to sketch in your sketchbook immediately…I’m just warning you…so if you’re at work right now, sorry.
Before we get into things, if you would prefer to watch this post in video format, then check out my youtube video below:
I am going to start this list with one of my urban sketching idols: Inma Serrano.
Before I get into telling you how much I LOVE Inma’s work, I have something exciting to share with you. Inma – FINALLY – has a Domestika class!! I have been anticipating this moment for a long time now and I am so so happy she has finally joined the ranks of incredible urban sketchers who have Domestika classes – if you want a rundown of them, you can check out my youtube video here. Although there are even more great ones to choose from now too!
You can check out Inma’s Domestika class here.
I’ll be honest when I first got into urban sketching I didn’t “get” Inma’s style. Or the style in general that we are looking at today. And I think some of you reading this post may also not get it. And that’s ok. You like what you like and you don’t like what you don’t like – and sometimes it’s hard to even express why. However, I can see my tastes have evolved over the years. Don’t be scared of that. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.
I can’t remember when it was that I fell in love with Inma’s work but I have a guilty secret. I have watched her section of the Sketchbook Skool Watercolour Rules course at least 20 times. I just love leafing through her sketchbooks with her and then watching her demos.
I think it’s because I just can’t get enough of her process – or lack thereof. It’s difficult to work out what or how someone does something when they don’t really follow a structure. But then Inma’s work wouldn’t be so magical if there was a structure. She just responds to her surroundings…including the energy of a place. I don’t think Inma’s style would translate so well if she was sketching from photos – you can tell her work is on location because it just oozes with energy and movement.
She actually mentions in her Domestika class that it was interesting for her to think about her way of sketching and try to distil it into a process for the means of teaching in the class. I think she draws and paints so intuitively, it’s difficult for her to slow down and break it down for others to understand.
Something she says – which is something I have been exploring with my Patreons this month – is the pressure we feel to try and represent what’s in front of us. Inma tells us that whether the drawing represents what we see is not important but sketching with strength and personality is key. This is the essence of what I am personally trying to work towards at the moment.
I really am trying to let go of my attempts to draw precise renditions of what I see and flow with the energy of the place – these are my latest attempts.
I am enjoying this process of sketching on top of pre-painted backgrounds. It’s really helping me to loosen up as well as play with different materials which is also a key part of Inma’s style. She plays with watercolour, colour pencils and even crayons – picking up whichever she feels like using at the time.
The other awesome thing I learnt from watching her in the sketchbook skool course is that even though she works in large A4 sketchbooks, she just uses a brush with water in the handle. It’s amazing to see her paint with it. She loves to use bigger format sketchbooks as she feels freer and has space to be very expressive and loose. She is not too concerned with the quality of the paper either. It’s thinner and buckles but she doesn’t care. Like many of us, she said that if it’s a bit cheaper then she is less intimidated and can go for it rather than worrying about using expensive watercolour paper.
By the way, if you’re interested in taking a closer look at this style of sketching check out my Patreon channel. I create weekly tutorials and inspiration centred around a theme for the month. In one of the months past, we looked at sketching with freedom. We checked out the work of sketchers such as those mentioned in this post and did some exercises to try and break down how they achieve their whimsical loose styles. You have access to all past content as well as all forthcoming content when you join.
I love how Santi composes sketchbook spreads. His way of constructing and sketching inside boxes across the page reminds me of a comic or graphic novel layout. You can watch him doing this in a couple of his youtube videos. I also love the way he puts swatches of colours in his sketches. He does it in such an organic way, like he is simply testing his colours – but I do suspect its there for design purposes. Santi is both a professional illustrator and graphic designer and has worked for some big clients including Vanity Fair. You can certainly see a graphic design influence in his sketching.
Santi has a great illustrative style and I love how a lot of his drawings lean to the side. He is fairly nonchalant about perspective and this lends his work a child-like beauty.
Similar to Inma, he also uses a water brush and colour pencils in conjunction with watercolour.
Santi’s style is so distinctive, that I can immediately tell a sketch is by him. His style is somewhat more controlled than Inma’s but it has the special x-factor that seems to radiate from this bunch of Spanish sketchers we are checking out today.
I really enjoy Santi’s sketches of condiments and also of people. He does some wonderful sketches of dinners, including who he is sitting with along with some handwritten notations. His work is such an antidote to the very precise curated beauty of other sketchers’ work. I see his work and I feel I can breathe – I think that goes for everyone I mention in this video. I don’t know if it makes sense but it’s how I feel…
Santi’s book (which you can find on Amazon here) is about depicting the colour green in nature. I think the book is only available in Spanish and French, I can’t see an English version. But there is a kindle edition. I wish Inma’s book was available as a kindle book. Looking at these books on a colour tablet screen is perfect. I wouldn’t recommend it for the black and white e-readers for obvious reasons. Now I have an iPad I can actually buy some art ebooks that I otherwise would not have been able to enjoy as they are unavailable down here in South Africa!
Swasky is also a professional illustrator and is from Barcelona. He is another who has worked with some big clients in the field. But seeing his urban sketches you can tell it’s his place to relax and let loose.
I don’t know a great deal about Swasky but I have seen his name come up again and again in association with “Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries” – I think he is a regular teacher in their workshops. He also helped organise the Urban Sketching Symposium in Barcelona back in 2013 and I believe he also teaches art at university level too.
What I love about his work is that he usually picks an unusual angle or perspective, which makes the sketch super dynamic. He also likes to flatten things like some of the other sketchers I am mentioning here – he is not too bothered about formal perspective but uses colour and line to infer depth in his sketch.
I think he mainly uses ink and watercolour but also colour pencils and in this final sketch, Posca markers too.
You’ll find pretty much everyone on this list uses mixed media. I think this also helps to bring a fresh vibrant yet loose and energetic spirit to all of their sketches.
I think you have heard me talk about Maru before – she was such a gem of a discovery. I can’t believe that I only discovered her relatively recently, in the last couple of years. She is a mainstay on the urban sketching circuit having offered workshops at some of the previous USK symposiums.
I encourage you to follow her on Instagram if you don’t already her. Her Reels are next-level good. I think they are the only ones I really enjoy watching. Otherwise, I actively avoid them.
Maru is also a professional illustrator and has again worked with many big clients including magazines and book publishers.
Maru also has 2 Domestika classes, the first, Pictorial Sketchbook, is excellent. I have watched it several times. She teaches her specific way of sketching as well as her use of gouache. Her second class is about acrylic painting, I haven’t seen this one as I don’t have any acrylic and don’t intend to go down that particular rabbit hole but if you like Maru’s style and you are into acrylic, I am sure the class will be excellent so check it out. All the links to things I mention in this video are in the description below.
Maru has a fantastic way of flattening scenes, yet layering colours to still create depth. As mentioned before she had taught a workshop called “gouache like a child”. Her style is child-like yet breathtaking at the same time. How does she do it? I challenge you to try and paint like Maru – it may look easy but it’s not. Her sense of design is clear and her bold choice of colours is sublime.
Maru also enjoys using huge sketchbooks…bigger than A4…you’ll see if you take her gouache Domestika course. She also tends to make her own sketchbooks and does a bit of a design on the front cover to differentiate them.
I love everything about Maru’s work and attitude to art-making.
I highly recommend her Domestika class and I highly recommend binge-scrolling her Instagram feed – you can’t not come away feeling inspired!
Nathalia is my wild card for today’s video. I discovered her by chance on Instagram and lo and behold, guess what, she is from Spain!! So obviously I knew I had to mention her in this video. She entirely embodies everything I am talking about in this video today.
Nathalia is both an illustrator and an interior designer. Ok, so she is actually Colombian…BUT she lives in Barcelona so that’s good enough for me.
She has a great quote on her About page on her website:
“My artistic process is based on observation and mixed media. To achieve an illustration rich in textures, with vibrant colours that evoke freshness and freedom is my goal. Creating is always better when it’s fun.”
The words freedom and fun really stick out to me in that statement.
I love that she unashamedly draws like a child. Her colour palette is gorgeous – so bright and primary. Some of her work, such as her use of black pencil lines and the slant to her buildings really reminds me of Santi Salles – I spied a similar use of swatches in the corner. I really love this. I would love to know if Santi is one of her inspirations.
I think you just can’t help but smile when you see Nathalia’s work. It’s just so full of joy and energy.
Ok so I haven’t mentioned notable Spanish urban sketchers who also blow my socks off, like Alicia Aradilla, Lapin, Miguel Herranz etc – I’m sure there are plenty more that are escaping my brain right now – I haven’t mentioned them because they didn’t fit with the particular style I am highlighting here. I really wanted to focus on this wild, free, child-like style of illustration that abandons most formal art rules and just makes you want to play in your sketchbook immediately.
I have a bit of a series now where I highlight the work of some of my favourite urban sketchers, so if you want to see more check out this playlist of videos.
For weekly tutorials and inspiration please do consider joining Patreon – we are looking at sketching with freedom this month – and diving a bit deeper into exactly the style we have been talking about here today.