Ready, set, go! Our Riga adventure begins! At 16:30 on the 18th January, me and my family board the AirBaltic flight from Lisbon to Riga in Latvia, for a two-day sketching course with Pedro Loureiro on an invitation by Urban Sketchers Riga. Pedro L. was already in town and we were on our way to meet our friends there. My 6 year old daughter Lia was most excited for being on a plane on her way to a land covered in snow!
...and snow we had! Riga was colder than what we were used to in Portugal, but it was a good to endure and the white landscape with blue and violet shadows were totally worth it. The canal separating old town from the most recent part, was completely frozen, something I've never seen before.
Later in the evening, time to start the workshops with our usual Night Sketching. We had to improvise a bit because the extreme cold had us doing most of the activities indoors. We had an art gallery just for us, with hot coffee and tea to counter the -5º outside. Here, I was showing a bit of our work, to explain that with time and practice, these are the results everyone can accomplish. I took a bit of my hometown Torres Vedras with me, while explaining the importance of lighting on these situations.
After that, everyone grabbed their coats and scarfs and went outside because it wouldn't be urban sketching if we were only sketching indoors. Pedro Loureiro usually is the only active "Pedro" at this stage, but (once again we had to improvise) not enough for 30 people to watch, so I had to interviene and by splitting the group in two, it was much easier for everyone to get what we were teaching. We were able to endure about 15 minutes in the cold sketching without gloves... after that we went inside once again to restore our heat levels.
We presented two options afterwards: Complete all exercises indoors or make the main sketch in a different point of view outside. I stood outdoors a while longer to assist the brave ones that chose option 2. But since water can't resist the extreme cold as well, we wrapped up the workshop session inside, with tea, chocolate and sandwiches and lots of heaters :)
Since we had two sketches from the previous demo, we improvised once more and we exchanged sketches for the color stage. Pedro L. (in the picture) painted my sketch and vice versa. We chose to take much more time in this part to address the beginner sketchers in the class. We took a photo and used it as a reference for our work and explained the this is a common practice when dealing with extreme weather and time shortage, the main constraints of a consistent dose of daily sketching.
Soon after, the session was over and everyone seemed very happy, and so did we. the results were fantastic and to celebrate, we went for a beer in a pub nearby.
...and a HUGE thanks for the duo that make all this possible. Our gratitude to Masha and Agnese for the invitation and all the support we had. We felt at home, away from our home! I'm waiting to sketch with you here in Portugal!
Meanwhile, we had some free time to explore the city and what it had to offer. It's not a big city like other Metropolis I've been, and I was glad about it. Since I live in a small city as well, Riga seemed quite familiar sometimes, mainly due to the short walking distance between places to visit. The park near the canal acts like a frontier between old and "not so old" Riga, and all covered in snow, is truly wonderful, especially for 6-year old kids dreaming on making snowmen.
It took a bit of courage from me to get to the top of St. Peters basilica and sketch. Fear of heights, extreme cold, wind all contributed to the constant fear that I could fall down in any minute... Still, some of the best views of the city are here. The contrast New-Old is astonishing and the sleek design bridge over a frozen Daugava river fits perfectly on the landscape.
The Livu square is one of the most iconic in this World Heritage city centre by UNESCO. The snow covered floor and rooftops turned this bit of city very appealing. Riga was cozy, picturesque and as soon as we walked into the old quarter, I felt I was truly in the presence of a multicultural European capital.
The Riga Dom, city's main church was being repaired at the time, but it's "verticality" and it's interiors were no less than impressive.
To end this Latvian adventure, the crown jewel of Riga's historical centre, The house of the Blackheads, and old guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners and foreigners. The original building was almost razed to the ground by the Germans in WWII and was completely rebuilt in the end of 20th century to it's former glory. It's a wonder and a challenge to sketch this masterpiece of Baltic architecture.