04. Sketching Venice with John Ruskin


January 24, 2021 – “Sketching Venice with John Ruskin”

Mário Linhares

Mário Linhares
image credit: Arthur de Paiva e Pona

For our fourth episode we were joined by Mário Linhares from Lisbon, Portugal. Mário is a Phd Drawing Researcher, and former USk Education Director, and shares “sketcher history” with us so we can apply it to our own work right now.
Last season he told us all about 19th century artist Eugène Delacroix’s trip to Morocco and the sketches he made. Mário joined us today to talk about 19th century British artist, writer, art critic, and educator John Ruskin and the drawings he made in Venice throughout his life.

In 2018, the Doge’s Palace organized the first big exhibition about John Ruskin’s work in Venice, which inspired Mário to conduct a workshop there, and in the process he learned more about Ruskin and his work in Venice. He shared the strong connections of Ruskin and his work to what we do now as Urban Sketchers.

Ruskin practiced on-location drawing. Even though daguerreotype, the first publicly available photographic process, was available at the time that Ruskin was working, he preferred sketching on location.

As he returned to Venice over and over (a total of 11 times), he could see changes being made to restore buildings and worried about the changing character of the city, so he began sketching the older, Gothic features before they were changed. His drawings seem incomplete because he focuses only on the older, untouched parts and does not include any areas being worked on in his sketches.

The changes he could see also caused him to reflect on the connection between the changes to the appearance of the city with the changing values of the city and the times. It inspired him to research the history of Venice and the history of certain buildings. Often he could not find information about the history, so he sketched the details of those buildings and recorded them himself.

Mário organized a USk Workshop in Venice in 2018 to coincide with the exhibit, working directly with the Education Department of the Doge’s Palace. The exhibit’s educational materials included a map that identified locations that Ruskin sketched, and workshop participants were able to find these locations and sketch in the footsteps of John Ruskin.

Book Recommendations and Advice

Mário recommends these books by and about John Ruskin:

  • The Elements of Drawing by John Ruskin — This is available free online but can also be ordered through your favorite local bookseller.
  • Ruskin in Venice by Robert Hewison
  • John Ruskin, Le Pietre di Venezia/The Stones of Venice — The exhibit catalog from the Doge’s Palace is available in both Italian and English.

Rob asked Mário what advice he would give about learning from the masters, and Mário suggested picking one thing to focus on — an image, a trip (in the case of Ruskin or Delacroix, for example), a subject that interested them — and study that one thing as much as you can.

Challenge: Map your Sketches

Image credit: Filipe Pinto @filipe_nok_pinto

Draw a map of your city to show the spots you have sketched. You may start to see a pattern around what you’ve concentrated on most or you may see that you are missing important places. You can sketch from your original sketches as you make your map. There is a lot to learn from our own sketches, and this challenge can give you insight into what you’re sketching.Don’t forget to share your USK Talks Challenge sketches on Instagram using the hashtags  #USKTalks and #USKTalksChallenge. You can follow Mário on Instagram at  @linhares.mr

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