Wednesday 7 September 2016

urban sketch spain - step by step

Bestue, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, near the national park of Ordesa & Monte Perdido had the following description on the tourist map we have ... "one of the villages in Sobrarbe that has most successfully preserved its traditional architecture".  By now you know my love of little villages with old buildings, so, of course, that description meant I had to visit.

David and I took a little walk through town.
After a little while he said "See anything you'd like to sketch?"
Me ... "A lifetime's worth!"
I asked "Did anything catch your eye?"
"The arch we walked through just there."
Well, we were in total agreement about that.

Here is the scene.

In Bestue, Sobrarbe, Aragon, Spain

Pencil Sketch

As usual I start with a rough pencil sketch, blocking in the main shapes and getting the perspective correct. The arch was important, so I started with that, positioning it on the page first, then adding the rest of the sketch around it.

Pencil sketch blocking in the main shapes and perspective lines

Ink Drawing

With a fine nib I ink in the drawing. I had lots of time on this day, so that meant lots of detail. I had hoped that someone would walk through the arch so that I could include some people, but the town was deserted, so the sketch tells it like it was.

Inking in the drawing with a fine nib

Changing to a broad nib, I darken shadow areas

Darkening shadow areas with a broad nib

And here is the finished ink sketch. Ready for some colour.

Finished pen and ink sketch

Watercolour - First wash

Using a big brush I lay in the first wash. The sky is a flat wash of Cobalt Blue, but all other areas I paint wet-in-wet letting the colours mix on the paper. For the stonework I use pretty much the same colours for all the buildings, but vary them according to local colour and shadow areas.

Watercolour first wash, wet-in-wet

For example, the building in the centre and the area under the arch are almost the same colours - raw sienna, raw umber, dragons blood and paynes grey. But under the arch there is very little of the raw sienna, and the mix is darker. On the building on the right I added a touch of cadmium yellow, keeping the mix lighter and more watery.

Watercolour - Details

Changing to a tiny brush I add all the details and the shadows.

Painting in the tiny details with a small brush


Using a white gel pen I add a few highlights. These are mostly random squiggles and lines to add a bit of sparkle. I don't follow my original line work - I just use expressive marks where I feel they are needed.

Adding a touch of white with expressive mark making

Then using my broad nib again I strengthen many of the shadow lines.

Strengthening shadow lines with broad nib

The almost finished sketch.

Almost finished sketch

After taking the above photo I noticed that the shadows had changed while I was sketching. The sun had come out and the shadows had become much deeper. In the final sketch I decided to add a second wash over the shadows to make them much richer and added some shadows to the stonework with more pen work.

Finished sketch

Just as I was finishing up, a grumpy old man and his even grumpier Daschund walked through the arch. They would have been a perfect addition to the sketch!


See the list in my Italy step by step.
With the addition of a Sigma Uniball white gel pen.
And this time in a Fabriano watercolour sketchbook.


Just drop me a comment below.

Until next time, adios amigos!

I have over 50 watercolour tutorials (videos and step-by-steps) on Patreon and Renee’s Studio. Find them here …

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