The Lost Urban Sketches

A few years ago I was lucky enough to live in Spain, which has since become one of my most favourite places ever.

I lived and worked in Barcelona as an assistant English teacher, as part of a program assisting the English teachers, taking your own classes and in return living with a family for the year for free.

I did this for two years and the first year I lived with a lovely teacher called Ana in a small town near Montserrat called Abrera. I didn’t draw much in Abrera and wished now that I had.

Abrera Rooftops
Abrera Countryside

But the second year I stayed in a different town called La Garriga. I lived with a family from the school who were so kind and welcoming that I really enjoyed my time with them.

The town of La Garriga is about 40 minutes outside of Barcelona city and was filled with beautiful architecture. 

La Garriga House

It was in this village that I gained a love for urban sketching. I didn’t know it was called urban sketching at the time, I just knew I wanted to document the houses I saw in pen and paper. 

La Garriga House

I bought a cheap moleskin rip off, some coloured pens and then each lunch I would plonk myself in front of a house along El Passeig and draw away.

Last week I was spring cleaning my art desk and found these two unfinished sketchbooks. I come across them every now and then and flick thorough. Each page reminds me of a moment in time – sitting on a hard bench or dusty ground, the older school kids wondering back to school from the sweetshop, the speckled trees and trying my best to capture what I loved about these scenes in my sketchbook.

La Garriga House

There is block of houses in La Garriga: the Raspall block with 4 houses designed by the Modernist architect Raspall. These buildings have been names a National Cultural Heritage and they made beautiful subjects to sketch.

La Garriga House
La Garriga House
La Garriga House

I also loved the trees which held a special quality I haven’t found in England. There papery textured bark and bare cut limbs reaching to the always blue sky.

I played with texture and pattern and line. I hadn’t drawn for years at this point, but I didn’t care if the perspective was off or the lines were wonky. It was the finished drawing that was important, it was the act of drawing it.

La Garriga House

At the weekends I took the train to other towns. Sometimes Vic, Sometimes Girona.


But most weekend I took the train to Barcelona and without a map, wandered the streets till I knew them by sight. I bought pastry’s from panaderĂ­as and had picnics in the parks.

barcelona arc de triomf
barcelona arc de triomf CU

I walked all the way to Barceloneta, just to see the W building jutting up from the shoreline. I practised my Spanish with shopkeepers who didn’t have the patience for tourists. I took photos of graffiti and street signs and the tiled pavements. Barcelona is a creative feast for an artist.

barcelona parc de la ciutadella
Barcelona Cathedral

I don’t urban sketch anymore. After a year of sketching in and around Barcelona, the streets of my UK town seem plain and unappealing.

The buildings don’t tell me stories like they used to in Spain.

So I can’t bare to complete these half empty sketchbooks, maybe I’m secretly hoping to sit on the streets of Barcelona again, with a pen and a sketchbook, to create new moments and new memories. 

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