Q&A: Luís Simões

Almost two years ago Portuguese graphic designer Luís Simões began preparing a five year long World Sketching Tour (WST). What at first was planned as a personal dream, Luís soon decided to share with an ever larger group of friends, sketchers and people from all over the world. One year since he first left Lisbon, Luís is about to finish his Europe tour and is preparing to step into Asia.

During his time in Europe he compiled a large collection of sketches of different people, cultures and the continent’s centuries-old and contemporary architecture. While making his way through Italy drawing the Colosseum and the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, among many other things, he told Frameweb a bit more about his architecture sketches and his experiences.

How has your sketching evolved since the first weeks of your WST in Spain?
LUIS SIMOES: If I look back to my first sketchbooks I see a very unconfident line and colour. I was too focused on controlling my sketches and killed all the spontaneous lines and moments. Sketching everyday for many hours is for sure the main reason for getting better and better, but sharing techniques with other urban sketchers was incredibly important for my evolution as well. I will always remember the day I went to Barcelona and met the sketcher Sagar Fornies. He showed me his free and easy way of drawing, gave me a new pen and told me ‘I don't think you realize that you will change so much in the next five years, that you must sketch as much as you can without thinking about final results.’ After that moment my delight in sketching changed in the direction I wanted.

You don’t just sketch landmarks. Architecture-wise, what are the features that catch your eye and make you want to draw a specific building, structure or a street?
LS: Anything that could give a good perspective, that has different levels of interest, colours or a unique architecture. It's clear for me that flat buildings or skyscrapers are most of the time boring to sketch if I just draw the lines. Normally I use colours for emphasis and search for things in the foreground and background to get depth. In Uvdal, Norway I made a one hour sketch of a wood church. The wood work was extremely beautiful and it was nice to understand the story behind it.

When you set out to sketch the world, is it more important for you to catch the fleeting moments of life or the long-lasting architecture?
LS: Both. It's important for who is seeing the sketch to understand the message, and buildings can give an immediate location of the drawing, for example. On the other hand, drawing people is very important to understand a country’s lifestyle and culture. So what I do is a mix. I try to grab the ambience of the city with all that is happening.

When we travel, distances seem to shrink, how big is Europe for you now?
LS: Europe became the size of my country, Portugal. It’s a free highway where you can easily go anywhere.

What are your expectations for the next four years and four continents?
I'm very excited with the idea of finishing the Europe tour in three months and finally start my adventure towards Asia. I'm ready to go on the new journey far away from European culture.

If you had to choose...

The building that gave you the most pleasure to draw so far.
LS: It's difficult to say one, because my sketches are most of all about emotion, rather than a simple representation of buildings. But I would say the street market in Tallinn's square, Estonia. It's a panorama (a two hour sketch in A3 paper) divided by two stories: in the top you can see the buildings and in the bottom people’s interactions in the market. This sketch gave me a lot of joy while I was doing because I could see the market in more detail. In the end, it’s a memorable sketch for me and it really shows my time in this city.

The city and building that you look forward to sketching the most.
LS: Right now it is Istanbul! It will be the last city in Europe and will mark the start of the Middle East tour – Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. Also I'm super curious to get into the culture and paint the mosques, people and all that happens during the journey.


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